So here’s Diana having dinner at a nice restaurant by herself. This whole sequence is to remind us that she’s just not happy without Trevor. Not even just unhappy without a MAN; specifically because she doesn’t have TREVOR.
She sees a jet fly by and thinks of him. Does she do this every single time she sees a plane? Surely after 40 YEARS she knows to move the hell ON? Speaking of that, where was she during the Korean Conflict? Or Vietnam? Not important enough, I guess.
I mean, LOOK at this face. This is the face of a woman with no coping skills to manage her loneliness. See, if the entire movie had been about THIS, we’d see her going back to Themiscyra to commune with her sister Amazons. Or going on a string of dates. Or taking on the task of saving the world from dictators and evil militias. But no. A being of her power and for 40 years she’s just been moping about.
By contrast, here’s Barbara Minerva, a ridiculous name straight out of the comics, power walking to her new job at the… museum? Or something? Wherever it is Diana works?
‘Cause look, oh no, she’s spilled the contents of her briefcase on the ground. Haha, she’s a dorky, klutzy character, get it? And the sight of her like this makes Jake do this:
But here’s Diana to the rescue. They chat briefly, Kristen Wiig tries to do awkward small talk because she’s an awkward character, but really it just comes across as poor acting choices.
She makes some stupid joke about how scientists shouldn’t wear high heels, then notices that Diana wears them. Leopard print, in fact, which causes Barbara to go “rawr” above. It falls flat, both in the movie and with the audience, because it’s the most obvious acting choice to make. Or writing choice, who knows.
See, if you want the audience to feel sorry for a character, you have to give us something to sympathize with, other than “Look at her being awkward”. She has to have some endearing traits too, so we know there’s more to her than just social ineptitude.
I mean, holy cats, even DIANA can’t wait to get away from her, saying “Have a nice day” to Barbara the second she’s distracted by her boss asking her a question. So there you have it. If Wonder Woman doesn’t even seem to care, why should we?
Okay, now, pay attention: this thing is the macguffin of the movie. It’s a stone that grants the bearer’s wishes. That’s all we get, the instructions written on its base in Latin, but with no other warnings about proper usage.
So we the audience know nothing about the stakes involved. You just get your wish granted and that’s it? No poetic reversal of fortune or anything? Where does this thing come from? How exactly does the wishing work?
Then this other scientist wanders by, overhearing Diana talk about it, puts his hand on it and says, quote: “I really wish I had a coffee”. The three chuckle. Workplace hilarity.
Then this guy walks in saying he got a coffee for someone who’s out sick, does anyone want it? And the coffee scientist is amazed! His wish came TRUE!
Nevermind that as scientists, everyone involved in this scene should KNOW that one instance is the WORST sample size. BUT:
Diana’s totally going for it. Shouldn’t she know better? Setting aside her scientific credentials, as a being of MAGIC, she should know that wishes come with a price, right? Nope. She misses Trevor THAT MUCH.
Here’s a nice bit of terrible dialogue for you:
Diana finally recognizes that Barbara’s just lonely, so she says “Y’know, we could go and grab early dinner, and talk about exactly how lame that stone is.”
Diana: “Yeah, I mean, citrine? Who are they kidding?”
Barbara: “So lame.”
Barbara: “Lame, it’s like the lamest… lame.”
AND THESE ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS. Folks, the writers of this movie got paid a TON of money, and this is what they settled on for this scene. Think about that as we move forward.
At dinner, quote from Diana: “Wow, you’re so funny!”
You know what makes great writing? Having a character tell the audience what we’re supposed to think about another character like this. Instead of, y’know, WRITING ACTUALLY FUNNY LINES FOR THE CHARACTER TO SAY.
Here’s an example of how WOW YOU’RE SO FUNNY Barbara is:
Expressing astonishment when Diana says she doesn’t get out much socially, quote: “You just seem like the kinda person who’s, like, always out. Like, people are asking you to go out all the time, you live out, you’re… out, you never get in.”
Yeah. She’s HILARIOUS.
And now it’s Diana’s turn to express surprise at how nobody wants to hang out with Barbara. Quote: “You’re so personable.”
JUST SHOW US HOW PERSONABLE SHE IS. Don’t TELL US. So far we haven’t seen her being personable at ALL. Again: people got paid WELL to write this script.
“People think I’m weird. They avoid me, talk behind my back, they don’t think I can hear them, but, guys, I can hear you.”
There are ways to write dialogue that 1) reveal what a character is really like without stating it outright, and 2) sounds more natural than what’s happening here. Why write like that? Because it’s how people actually talk. And in a movie with so many other fantastical elements, it’s a way to ground characters, so that the whole thing doesn’t just feel like a baseless fantasy. You want to have something to latch onto and care about.
Oh, and then THIS:
Diana, talking about how the one person she ever loved died (because THAT’S a topic that you naturally discuss with an extremely awkward co-worker you’ve just met), quote:
“I still think sometimes that I see him up there in the sky.”
“He was a pilot!”
Was this meant… to be funny? Because it’s not clear. There’s a way to shoot a scene like this to evoke either sadness or comedy, and this scene does neither.
After dinner, Barbara is walking home through the park, and she gives her leftovers to Leon, a homeless man she calls by name. There we go, finally: something that shows us a bit of her true character so we can LIKE her. It’s a little late for this kind of reveal, but it’s good that it’s in there at all, I suppose.
Barbara is accosted by some weird guy in the park, and Diana throws him across the road into some trash cans. Why was she there? If she was watching Barbara to make sure she got home safely, why not just walk with her until she got there? Secretly spying on her is creepy.
But Barbara hasn’t gone home. She’s gone back to work. She’s going to make a wish on the lame citrine stone. Quote: “I do know what I wish for: to be like Diana. Strong, sexy, cool… special.”
So… Barbara hasn’t actually SEEN Diana use any powers. But it seems the STONE interprets “special” as having to do with her Wonder Woman abilities. How does it know that’s what Barbara meant? Because that’s what starts happening.
The lack of clearly-defined rules to this wishing stone is really a big knock against the writers. This plot feels like it should belong to a kid’s half-hour superhero show, where a child learns about how special she is because she’s unique in her OWN way, etc.
Anyway, she’s fallen asleep at her desk. It’s the next morning and she needs to get ready for work, oh no! What’ll she do?
Well, the first thing she does is take off her frumpy skirt. Why? She thought it was good enough to wear to work in the first place, why take it off now? Because she already knows that no one pays attention to her, so what does it matter if she’s wearing the same thing two days in a row?
And when she removes it, she’s revealed as having on tights beneath. So in her mind, without the skirt, isn’t she now walking around work in underwear?
As she leaves her office, a janitor spills the contents of his bucket and Barbara jumps up onto a stool to avoid getting splashed.
Are we to assume that this move is some indicator of super reflexes? It’s really not that spectacular, but we get this close-up that would seem to say that it’s important.
Oh, and here’s Jake, who seems suddenly impressed with Barbara’s new look. ALL SHE DID WAS TAKE OFF HER SKIRT. She’s still wearing that shapeless top, her hair’s all over the place, her glasses are still oversized… the script is really pushing this point, but it’s completely unwarranted.
And there’s much more to come, my pretties. Join me on Wednesday for Unearthed: Wonder Woman 1984 Part 3!