We begin with this amazing colosseum. Every Amazon on the island of Themiscyra is in attendance to watch some sort of contest, the nature of which is never explained.
Note the robed attendees; these are, presumably, the non-warriors. In the aisles, stationed at regular intervals, the warriors. Are they there to be ushers? Security? Seems odd.
Into this walks young Diana, who, judging by the looks of the other contestants, is perhaps not meant to compete with the others. This makes sense; isn’t she the daughter of Zeus? Doesn’t that give her an unfair advantage? But maybe because she’s still young she’s ONLY as capable as the others?
The first problem with all this is that none of it is explained. What are the stakes here? Why is Diana competing, what does she hope to get out of it? We never find out.
Essentially, this is the Themiscyran version of a triathlon: running among obstacles, swimming a distance to shore, then archery on horseback. But along the way, Diana looks back to judge her progress, and she’s knocked off her horse by a tree branch, and her horse gallops off without her.
She knows this means she’s going to lose, so she takes a shortcut, which is against the rules, and manages to get back to the colosseum before the others.
However, Robin Wright’s character stops her just before she throws the final spear, and chastises her for cheating. Quote: “No true hero is born from lies.” Diana’s mother steps in and gives Diana a similar talking-to.
At this point in the film, they might as well have put up a huge glowing sign that read “MESSAGE”. This opening sequence goes on far too long to make the simple point that cheating is bad. They could have just shown Diana stealing something and getting caught. It would have been shorter and taught the lesson without all this other nonsense that raises more questions than it answers.
Then we get the title graphic, which honestly looks scratchy and terrible. And notice they couldn’t be bothered to spell it out, even. If you didn’t know you were watching the new Wonder Woman movie, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was World War 84.
And why does it look so bad? A recurring theme while watching this movie is: “Were they trying to make this movie look as though it were MADE in 1984?” Because at least I could understand and respect that choice. But it’s never clear.
At this point we’re shown what life in 1984 America looked like. Let me tell you: I grew up during the 80s, and it did NOT look like this. They WAY overdid it on the costuming and the visual cultural references. And yet they UNDERDID it on the soundtrack. Where are the 80s hits? Nowhere.
In the background, Pedro Pascal’s character does some kind of infomercial. More on that in a second.
Here’s the proprietor of some kind of tchotchke shop. Did they purposefully find the most Judge Reinhold-looking stooge to drive home the 80s-ness of it all?
Anyway, here’s Maxwell Lord, looking a lot like Donald Trump. In this infomercial (did they have infomercials then?) touting… something. Quote: “Everything we’ve dreamed of is right at our fingertips.”
Essentially, he’s asking people to buy into his… something… for a low monthly fee. But what the hell’s he talking about? Like so much in this movie it’s never explicitly stated.
Hey, look! An arcade! Remember those? On display are Rampage (okay, sure), Centipede (why not), and Operation Wolf, which didn’t come out until 1987. Cripes, this is the bare minimum you need to do, guys: research which coin-ops were available during the time of your film. It’s not DIFFICULT.
Here’s another example of 80s almost stunt casting: tell me the woman second from the left doesn’t remind you of Phoebe Cates. You can’t, ’cause that’s absolutely why she’s in this scene.
And now, some action: a small gang of robbers have broken into a jewelry shop and demanded to see the items in the back, which they’ve “heard” contains some items of antiquity, which it does. How do they know? We never find out.
Judging by this shot, can you tell which item we’re meant to be looking at? The camera rests on the box near the center of the frame, but it doesn’t zoom in enough to make it entirely clear that we’re supposed to be interested in it specifically. And that’s really the theme of this movie: not quite giving you enough to make intentions plain.
Hey, another ALMOST reference! This guy only has one line in this movie and we never see him again. We’re meant to make some kind of Freddie Mercury connection, but for what purpose?
He’s trying to talk down one of the robbers ’cause the guy messed up their escape and the mall cops are after them.
The guy’s REALLY lost it. Instead of just running away, he’s taken a little girl as a hostage. But then he dangles her over the railing, from the second floor. Within the space of 15 seconds, he escalates the situation SO QUICKLY it defies belief. It’s actually really stupid the way this happens. Even the other robbers can’t believe it. And there’s no prelude to this; no reason for us to believe that this guy is capable of something like this.
Here’s the lead robber shouting “NOOOOOOOOOOOO”, which just comes off as comical, rather than dramatic. Really all they had to do is just have the robber hold a gun to someone’s head, but they oversold ALL of this.
Also, the mall cops are seen pointing guns at the robbers. Mall cops don’t get guns! This is another pointless detail that doesn’t resolve into anything.
Diana swoops down out of nowhere. She looks around, showing her face, making sure everyone gets a clear look at her. And after about 10 seconds of this, she removes her tiara and uses it to take out the mall cameras. Presumably she’s keeping her identity a secret from the world, but in fact the cameras have ALREADY FILMED AT LEAST 10 SECONDS OF HER.
She moves so slowly and deliberately it really doesn’t seem like the actions of someone who wants nobody to know she exists. Hey, maybe don’t wear a flashy costume that doesn’t cover your face. That works pretty well. Just something you could have thought of yourself in the 40 years you’ve been in America.
Quote: “I hate guns.” What’s this line meant to do? It’s not thrilling, it’s not funny. It’s the kind of goody-two-shoes comment you’d hear Superman make… in the 80s. It’s little bits like this that support my theory that the filmmakers were trying to make this movie seem as though it were MADE in the 80s.
Here’s Diana using her magic lasso to swing around the mall for no good reason. The robbers aren’t THAT far away from her at any point, and they could have designed the scenes differently so there was no swinging. It doesn’t look impressive in the space and it takes long enough for her to swing that the robbers could have run off in completely different directions in the meantime.
A great deal of time is spent during this scene in which Diana has just saved a little girl and corrals this robber, where Diana both winks at the girl AND puts a finger to her lips, as though to say “Hey, don’t tell anyone that you saw me!”
Like the girl knows who she is. Like the entire mall hasn’t already seen her. Why the hell is she hiding at all? Wasn’t she Themiscyra’s ambassador to America in the first place?
Moments later, Diana drops these robbers from some height onto the hood of some random person’s car. She goes out of her way to disarm and capture them without serious injury, only to do this, which 1) wrecks some stranger’s car, and 2) MUST kill at least one of the robbers. Heroic.
This on-the-spot reporter is asking the tough questions. Quote: “… who exactly even stopped this crime?”
The “even” part of it bothers me. It’s a simple linguistic turn of phrase that not only isn’t necessary, but feels less than professional somehow. It feels like he should have followed it up with “y’know?”.
Diana’s returning home with the background soundtrack of the news report. Quote: “… more than a half dozen similar sightings across the DC area in the last year.” So she’s been at this for at least a year. Was she doing it before, and just never got caught? What changed? If not, what has she been doing all this time? Has she been similarly active in other cities and just moves around before people catch on?
Diana changes out of her superhero outfit, on her way out to have dinner somewhere. We’re shown a bunch of photos from the 40s: her with the gang from the first movie, one of Steve Trevor alone, one of Diana and presumably Etta Candy on what seems to be a boat going to America.
All she has is stuff from the 40s and one from a later time with her friend from the 40s. Has she been doing NOTHING since then? Made no new friends? She’s just pining for Steve this whole time? Didn’t go back to live in Themiscyra, broken-hearted? This makes no sense.
And why is it that “old” photos never look old? Why can’t Hollywood get this right? They can show us a woman swinging through the sky on a magical lasso that can latch onto lightning, but they can’t convincingly put a modern person into an old-time photo?
Anyway, join me on Monday for the next installment of Unearthed: Wonder Woman 1984!