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Wonder Woman

Unearthed: Wonder Woman 1984, Part 9

WW 1984 continues to delight in ways it probably never intended.

Here’s Barbara, looking like some kind of bird, which I guess is meant to impress us with her continuing evolution to be “like Diana”. Apparently good taste isn’t part of the wish.

Diana and Steve show up right on time, even though no one mentioned what time Barbara was going to be there. Also, Barbara goes “That was fast,” which… how are we supposed to accept that?

Is this the movie telling us that they got back from Egypt earlier than expected? Or that Barbara doesn’t know where the hell Egypt even is?

Also, what’s Diana wearing? She wasn’t wearing that when she first got into the jet, nor was she wearing it in the car in Egypt. It looks like a flightsuit. So is this from some deleted scene that the Continuity Department failed to catch?

So anyway, Barbara tracked this guy down by finding a flyer of his somewhere. Tenuous movie logic at best, but as it turns out he’s the PERFECT person to tell them exactly what they need to know.

He’s reading this awesome-looking Mayan document, saying that his ancestors buried the Dreamstone, “… never to be exhumed under any circumstances.” And there’s a picture that alarms Diana.

But also, notice the 3.5″ floppy sleeve he’s using as a bookmark. That’s a weird background detail to put in, but I appreciated it. There’s a percentage of people reading that last sentence who have no idea what I’m talking about.

Steve asks what’s wrong, seeing Diana react with horror. She says the picture is of… someone’s name that she mumbles. Impossible to tell what she’s saying here.

Anyway, this is apparently the God of Lies of the Mayan mythology. According to the Internet, his name is Dolos. Best of all, Diana refers to him as “A very bad god.”

This bit of dialogue cements my belief that this movie was written for children. Really? That’s as eloquent as you want to be, Diana? “Yes he’s bad, he’s very bad.”

Barbara: “What do lies have to do with granting wishes? Seems like a dreamstone to me.” You know, this movie goes out of its way to paint Barbara as some kind of loser or nerd. Yet she doesn’t see anything wrong with the idea that a God of Lies is granting wishes? Fortunately, Steve explains it for us:

“The Monkey’s Paw”, he says, referencing the classic short story by W. W. Jacobs, in which a magical artifact grants a wish, only to also impose some kind of tragedy.

Now, again, this is the kind of revelation that should have been made plain a LOT earlier in the movie. Just to give the viewing audience an idea of the stakes involved. Because without that knowledge, we watch things happen seemingly without reason, and I guarantee you the aim of Wonder Woman 1984 is NOT to examine the complexities of moral relativism.

“It grants your wish but takes your most valued possession.” And then Steve goes “Diana… your powers.” He says this OUT LOUD. Yet no one reacts! Nobody even questions it. In fact, everything Barbara says in this scene is utterly ignored, as though she isn’t even there. Seriously, it’s kinda weird.

Also, is he saying Diana’s most valued possession is her power? I’m pretty sure if you asked her, she’d say it was Steve. I know he’s not a possession, but I can easily imagine this movie making that kind of point.

Barbara: “That doesn’t make any sense. What’s more precious than what you wish for?”

First, nobody said “precious”. Second, this scientist nerd doesn’t know the Monkey’s Paw story? Third, what the hell is she talking about? Nobody has EVER said “Oh, my precious WISH!” Barbara isn’t just stupid in this moment, she’s making the audience even more confused by introducing a weird false-reasoning tangent, when all she should be doing is listening to the plot point being introduced. But it doesn’t matter because again she’s ignored completely.

Diana asks this random dude how the Dreamstone can be stopped. According to him, “It can only be stopped by destroying the stone or give back what you wish for.”

I’m sorry, but as a novice grammarian, I’m bristling at “give back” when it should be “giving back”. I don’t know what rule of speech he’s violating, but it’s irritating.

So here’s the crux of it: WW 1984 would have you believe that all the lost civilizations of the world were destroyed by this Dreamstone. Rulers made wishes that granted them power, and somehow, this resulted in ruin. Every single time.

See, these are the kinds of stakes we needed at the BEGINNING of the movie! That way, every time you see Maxwell Lord casually abusing this power, you feel the knife twist in even deeper! Think about the great tension this would have caused! Instead of a useless, overlong opening action sequence in which a young Diana is chastised about the value of truth, we could have had a parable of the abuse of ultimate power, which would lead to a confrontation of literal Epic Greek proportion.

But nope. Instead, this is what the movie wants us to know: Truth is Good. Lies are Bad. Thanks, overpaid scriptwriters!

Anyway, it becomes apparent that Maxwell Lord must be stopped somehow. They can’t kill him, because that would make the wishes go away. Barbara wants no part of this so she takes off while the others are talking. No one notices.

This shot is Diana staring at the space where Barbara once stood, going “Barbara? Barbara?” WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AROUND FOR HER. She’s just staring at the empty space where she was. Is she expecting Barbara to jump up from hiding?

Meanwhile, here’s Lord looking pretty disheveled and bad. His left eye is weirdly bloodshot. One of his assistants tells him his son is there and Lord says “Alistair again? How many weekends do I have?!”

Unfortunately, Alistair is on the other side of the glass wall, and he’s heard every word. This kid is given such a raw deal in this movie, he’s the only character I care about.

Anyway, Lord is shown meeting with all kinds of people, getting them to wish for all kinds of things. Apparently this constant wishing is what’s ruining his health. Somehow. Because let’s take it apart:

The Dreamstone gives you what you want, but takes what you value the most. Right? First, this is in direct opposition to the way we’ve been seeing Lord use it, where he grants the wish, then DECIDES what to take away. That’s not at ALL the same thing.

Second, what exactly is Lord DOING with this power? Why is he granting wishes to everyone? What’s the POINT of that? It’s completely confusing. Clearly it’s tearing him apart, and for what?

In meeting with yet another stooge, he says “I need to find a way to touch a lot of people at the same time.” Ew. But he seems to have some kind of endgame in mind. It would be really nice if we, the audience, knew it too. When he finally does say what his ultimate goal is — if he does — it’s not going to be some amazing moment in the film. I’m calling it now: it will probably be confusing and not even something a normal person would dream up.

Alistair shows up at last, and Lord continues making him promises about how his dad’s going to be famous and powerful. Really, the kid just wants a father. Lord says “I know what you wish and I wish it too.” Alistair starts to say “I just wish I could be with you”, but Lord interrupts, saying he can’t use up his one wish that way. This is the FIRST TIME we hear that you only get ONE WISH. The way this movie deals out information is criminal.

This announcement from Alistair is truly heartbreaking, especially with what happens next:

Lord says “You wish for greatness, for success. My greatness is your greatness.”

Alistair, with his hand on Lord’s knee, says “Then I wish for your greatness.” The wish is granted, but we don’t know what it means yet. Lord freaks out, so maybe he has some idea.

But what is Alistair’s most valued possession? What is he about to lose? Doesn’t Lord get to decide this? We don’t see him do it.

He runs out of the room on his way to… somewhere. We see that the area around his business is in complete chaos, people everywhere, everything’s a mess.

This guy says “I told a man I wanted a farm… I didn’t mean here.” Haha, movie! Hilarious scene! Hijinks!

Back at her apartment, Diana has a bit of a disagreement with Steve. He knows that to save civilization, the Dreamstone/Maxwell Lord needs to be destroyed. He also knows that means he’ll go back to being dead.

Diana’s not having that. “You’re the only joy I’ve had or even asked for.” Now, if this had been the entire focal point of the movie, it could have been really interesting. How a woman who we assume is essentially ageless and powerful cannot feel fulfilled without her man by her side could have made some kind of interesting story. But whatever gravitas this idea might otherwise have had will just get shunted aside in favor of the combat action we know is coming.

Anyway, here we see some kind of media room Diana’s put together, presumably to keep her apprised of trouble spots around the city. How’s she doing this? Is she some kind of IT genius, able to tap into news feeds? Or are these TVs just all tuned to local stations?

Steve spots this and asks what it is. “From my culture… the armor of an ancient amazon warrior,” replies Diana. Pay attention to this story.

Diana, roping Steve: “The lasso does more than make you tell the truth; it can make you see it too.” Steve gets a mind’s-eye movie of the story of Asteria, this ancient warrior Diana’s talking about. Apparently all the Amazons were forced to flee to Themiscyra at some point, running from men. Diana doesn’t make it clear when this was, or where, or over what period of time.

And how does this work, anyway? Does the lasso show you whatever story is being currently told? From whose vantage point do you see the images? Is it a magical video tape?

So, this Asteria volunteers to hold the men off to allow her Amazonian sisters to escape to Themiscyra. “My people gave up all their armor to make one suit strong enough to take on the whole world.”

That’s not how armor works. If you tried to weld together ALL the armor of every Amazon, you’d get something several feet thick at least. Armor doesn’t get STRONGER by your adding MORE ARMOR to it.

Also, here we see Asteria surrounded on all sides by men attacking her. How is this helping the Amazons escape? Shouldn’t we see her guarding a doorway or something?

“Asteria sacrificed herself for a better day for others.” Aside from the awkwardness of this line, so… the armor WASN’T strong enough to to take on the whole world. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been defeated.

“When I came here all I could find was her armor.” Here? You mean to Washington DC? Or to America? Asteria held off the hordes of men in America? And how were you expecting to find anything at all, Diana? You have a map?

How did you even find the armor? What, the hordes of men killed Asteria but left her magical armor behind?

Damn, Wonder Woman 1984, I wanted to like you so badly, but at every turn, you confounded me. Join me on Friday for Part 10!

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