I do not like to spoil endings or plotlines for folks. I give it time. If eighteen days is not enough for you to catch up on Wonder Woman 84, then perhaps you should stop reading. Even with that caveat, I will give the obligatory heads up with a
Let us begin with the previous slate of DCEU movies. For me, very little since the Nolan Batman films have landed well. In Man of Steel, they went out of their way to portray Superman as a murderer. In Justice League and Aquaman, they portrayed Aquaman as a motorcycle tough guy. Batman has no qualms about using bullets. And Lex Luthor is a mess.
Most of these characters have been around for eighty-plus years. Some reinvention is necessary. The same plots with the same characters and the same results cannot be reproduced over and over. Most of the DC characters have endured for this long because they can survive different interpretations. 40’s Superman spanked Lois. 40’s Wonder Woman got tied up in every issue. 30’s Batman wore purple gloves and carried a gun. Different times, different personality traits. Let us take them one by one.
Yes, Superman has killed before. He even killed a Kryptonian before. (Three of them.) However, there was not a build up to this act. It was one his first acts right out of the gate. Couple it with his not saving his father? C’mon. Justice League almost makes it worse. It makes the audience think that the DC Universe cannot possibly survive without Superman. That by sacrificing his life to save the world, he left it without any great heroes at all. Superman inspires hope in others. Yes, the world is a better place with him in it, but the sun will still shine without him.
Lex… poor Lex. Lex Luthor is the most confident man in any room. He scares presidents, bullies businessmen, and charms supermodels. He stares Superman in the face and does not blink. BvS was ridiculous. Lex should have spoken calmly and threateningly. Lex should control any room that he is in. This was possibly the worst portrayal of a DC character (up until WW84; but we will get there.)
If you want a tough, angry, violence-is-fun, let-us-use-chains-to-beat-up-thugs -character? Pick Lobo. Draw upon the Green Lantern Corps and use Guy Gardner. If you really, really, stretch it, you can play up the rebel aspect of Green Arrow. But Aquaman? No.
Aquaman is royalty. If he is in the mood to socialize with land walkers, he is standing off to the sides, rarely talking, and possibly responding with a smirk. If it is angry Aquaman, then he is spouting off about how his dominion is being polluted, how he has greater matters to attend to, and how anything less than an invasion is beneath him. Dude-Bro Aquaman? Frat-Boy Aquaman? Medieval Aquaman? Those do not exist. I roll my eyes at him, even if I appreciate that they pulled off the orange armor.
Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered by a gun. His goal is to make sure that no one else loses their parents. Injuring criminals, putting them in jail; those are his methods. Creating more orphans is not what he is after. He is capable of using guns and knows them well, but he should not be using the Batmobile as a weapon of bullet-dispensing death.
Two movies stood out for me as fun in the last eight years. I liked Shazam! It embraced the history of the character while utilizing the most recent additions to the canon. There was a scary threat, but there were plenty of heroics as well. It knew not to take itself too seriously.
Then there was Wonder Woman. She was capable, driven, and out to make the world a better place. No Man’s Land was a terrific scene. The back and forth scenes between her and Steve Trevor were fantastic. The end battle was a bit much, but the movie as a whole was quite enjoyable. There are some that feel Diana being the child of Ares is a betrayal to her roots, but her sensibilities and persona are the same in either version.
Along came WW84 and the train wreck began.
Maxwell Lord gains control of an artifact that grants wishes. At the same time, Diana has been missing her deceased ex for over sixty years (and I thought I pined the longest). She wishes for his return. And the way they bring him back is horrific. They find a random guy, take Steve’s soul, and join the two.
The body is still the guy’s. (We will call him Marty for simplicity sake.) Marty’s reflection is seen in the mirror. The clothes from Marty’s closet fit Steve because Steve is inhabiting Marty’s body. When the movie wraps up, Marty is walking around like nothing happened. The problem is that Steve and Diana have sex. While Steve is in Marty’s body.
One friend tried to talk me out of that. “Well, what if they were just cuddling? You don’t see anything.” That excuse is what fourteen-year-old me would have bought. In Wonder Woman they clearly had sex. And Diana has been missing Steve and thinking about him for all those years. When they cut back to the bedroom, Diana is wearing different clothes. We get it; they had sex.
“Rape: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person’s will or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception.” –Merriam Webster
You can choose which of the highlighted sections you wish to focus on. The point is, Marty was not capable of declining. If Diana became pregnant, it would have been Marty’s DNA and Marty’s kid. Marty had no say in what his body was doing. What if Marty was a priest who had taken a vow of celibacy? What if Marty was in a committed relationship with someone else? If given the choice to have sex with a beautiful woman, many men would say yes. Yet Marty had no choice at all It was forced upon him.
There were plenty of other methods that could have gotten Steve and Diana back together. My personal favorite is that Ares, while fighting Diana, steals Steve from the plane as it is crashing and imprisons him to use against Diana later. Nothing motivates a hero like a good hostage. There was no reason why Marty was chosen to host Steve. None.
They could have chosen to implant his soul into a body that had recently deceased. Or, simplest of all, they could have brought back Steve’s body out of thin air. They were dealing with wishes, not science. Bringing a body back is no more ridiculous than bringing the soul back. Putting Steve in Marty makes no sense.
When Marty makes his mandatory appearance at the end, it becomes quite clear that his soul is still capable of expressing interest and preferences. His soul was in tact the whole time. (Hopefully he remembers none of it. That sort of helplessness is best left unexplored for the poor guy.)
There are many other problems with the film. Maxwell Lord is a charming speaker with a magic rock. Yet to defeat him, Diana needs her Kingdom Come golden armor? Recall that Ares, the god that defeated all other gods, was beaten by just Diana and her sword. A guy with a spiffy trinket apparently requires pulling out all the resources. But with six less decades of experience, Diana was able to kill the mightiest of all gods. That makes no sense.
Also, Diana can apparently make any plane invisible. Sigh. No, Diana’s plane is supposed to be created from her homeland’s technology. She cannot turn things invisible by touch anymore than Superman can make people forget things by kissing. (Okay, yes. It did happen once in comics. But it was the ’60’s. A lot of silly things happened in those days.)
Let us throw them a rope (lasso?) and say Diana needs a new power. Fine. Diana can turn things invisible by touch even though that has never happened before. Great. Why not use it against the two villains she fights at the end? If I could turn invisible and I was fighting a cheetah-person, I would use that advantage. She has the power or she does not; make a choice.
I believe that Diana could convince a group of people to renounce their wishes. I do not buy that she could convince five billion people. Not all at once. You ask too much. And she does not renounce her wish out of a desire to do better. If she could, she would keep walking around with Steve in Marty’s body. She does it to beat the villain. At no point does she acknowledge that it was wrong to be raping Marty simply for her own emotional and physical satisfaction.
Diana is better than that. Diana fights for women and men. She is tired of women suffering. She is not going to do the same to men. She should not want anyone to be raped, abused, or made into a sexual object. As the sometimes god of truth, she should not be perpetuating the lie to herself that what she is doing is okay.
Diana’s choice, and her complete lack of regret regarding it, made the rest of the movie a chore. I waited out the clock, anxious for it to end. There was no attempt at redeeming the awful choice. It was one more in a series of disappointments from the DCEU.
Happily, I still have Shazam! I can watch Wonder Woman to my heart’s content. But Wonder Woman 84 was an infuriating movie. Anytime that an inspirational figure becomes a deplorable one, I am disappointed. Heroes, and movies, should make us find the best in ourselves. WW84 did the opposite.