Synopsis: Ageless Wonder Woman aims to save the world in the 80’s. (Streaming on HBO Max.)
Wonder Woman 1984 is tucked safely away in the Before Times, decades before universal mask wearing, shut downs and toilet paper shortages. Of course one had to have a certain resilience to weather the big hair and Duran Duran pop songs.
I was stoked about WW 1984 after seeing the first trailer which features WW executing a mall rescue to the beat of New Order’s Blue Monday. Alas the movie doesn’t rise above a jumble of 80’s references. A different, better movie could’ve deconstructed Reaganomics and 80s-style consumerism. When Chris Pine shows back up in WW/Diana Prince’s life, forced to wear parachute pants, I wished he had landed in a better decade. Still, he seemed to enjoy his girlfriend-led tour around DC that included breakdancing kids and a Metro ride.
WW 1984 begins with a flashback to Diana’s youth on the island of Themyscira. Child Diana is competing in an American Ninja Warriors-esque competition that also involves archery and horse racing. Little Diana is the only child competitor, which seems unfair until you see how jacked up she is to win at all costs. Her mentor Antiope (Robin Wright) counsels her that truth is all there is. Remember this because later WW will advise another character that nothing good is born of lies. After taking on honesty in this movie maybe WW can tackle another virtue in the next WW flick, like fairness. Various villains cause chaos by cutting in line at theme parks and bus queues. (Ahem, amigos de Brasil 😉
WW 1984 features two villains, greedy megalomaniac Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) whose aim is to do whatever she damn well pleases. Basically, she wants to be sexy, strong and cool like our movie’s heroine. Understandable. Wiig’s character starts out as Barbara Minerva, a frumpy and awkward colleague of Diana’s at the Smithsonian. Together they will try to understand the origins and powers of a citrine that was recovered from mall jewelry store thieves. Guess who thwarted the thieves? That’s right, WW!
Mall nostalgia is alive and well in my head. Malls were struggling before the pandemic, but now they are virtual ghost towns. But in 1984 they were in their glory days: full of people packing food courts and browsing clothing stores (blazers with big shoulder pads!) accessory shops (scrunchies!) and –be still my heart– perusing book stores. If Diana weren’t so busy gliding around the multi levels of the mall lassoing perps, she could grab two great books from that year: Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (made into a movie starring Daniel Day Lewis!) and Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street (in series development).
But WW is too busy saving the world from Maxwell Lord who wants to get his hands on the powerful crystal. Max is a man on the cusp of great success or great failure. He’s so busy trying to keep his oil business afloat that he routinely forgets which weekend he is supposed to watch his son. Some unseen nanny dumps the poor kid off at his dad’s office where he sits forlornly while his dad frantically works the phones. I guess it’s better than the single dads who bring their kids to the OTB. But at least those kids can get a soda at the snack bar.
So….Chris Pine as Steve Trevor…how does he return from being blown up in the 1940’s? I wish I could report that it was some cool place time continuum shift, but I guess the filmmakers didn’t have time to research the physics of that so he just sort of shows up. Diana: What are you doing here?! Steve: I don’t know!
No matter, it was nice to have him along for the ride. He mostly marvels over the 80’s while WW puzzles over the stone’s powers while they stroll around D.C. Meanwhile Kristen Wiig’s Barbara is getting stronger and better dressed. And Pedro Pascal (thank god he isn’t covered by a Mandolorian mask) is getting more and more frenzied as he works a certain sort of spell over power brokers. Why, he even has an audience with a Reagan-esque president. The world soon gets dangerously out of whack and WW has to take a leave of absence from her job (or at least a long weekend) to settle peace in the Middle East. Good luck making that stick.
Eighties DC was feeling a little staid so I was onboard when WW jumped in her invisible jet and donned shiny new golden WW armor to head overseas. And yes, the whole plot is still just about the dumb stone. Somehow the movie’s theme is Honesty.
Because the script is not that great, I found myself pondering Wonder Woman & Gal Gadot. I’m glad that kids can go see a movie where the hero doesn’t have a gun, but a lasso of truth and bracelets that can deflect bullets. And good for Gal, a Middle Eastern woman who is getting a piece of the Hollywood pie without having to play a seductress or sexy assassin. Hopefully WW’s next outing will be more engaging and involve a piece of omniscient petrified wood.