Scott Ellington's Blog

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One too many Ws and a few too many stars. Steve Trevor, who died in 1919, returns to the life of Diana Prince in 1984, as the fulfillment of her dearest wish. He’s played by Chris Pine in a charming way that reminded me of the interesting anachronisms in Kate and Leopold. Kirsten Wiig plays Barbara Minerva as an overachieving academic nerd who can’t catch a romantic break until Pablo Pascal’s Max Lord seduces her in order to steal a powerful artifact that grants wishes and destroys cultures. That’s already a lot of movie stars to cover with story canvas.

Gal Gadot plays the title character. The artifact latches on to Diana’s long lost lust for Steve and brings him back to life in time to fly a modern jet with Wonder Woman from Washington, D.C. to Egypt although his last scheduled flight was in a gigantic German bomber, which stretched credibility to the breaking point near the end of the first film. Now Steve somehow knows his way around a modern cockpit and whisks his sweetie into the evening fireworks displays that make the night of 04JUL1984 memorable as a photographic/cinematic opportunity for Patty Jenkins to wax poetic in ways that, for my money, look better on paper than they did onscreen. And my ship of confidence in the director ran ruinously aground retroactively eroding my confidence in the preceding Wonder Woman film and in the Hollywood establishment that is presently investigating Joss Whedon, who didn’t get to make his Wonder Woman film 10-20 years ago and is presently largely unemployable because of allegations of his racism and abuse of power leveled by Ray Fisher, while Patty Jenkins holds that Whedon’s version of Wonder Woman (appearing in his late 2017 Justice League theatrical cut) contradicted her 2017 interpretation of the same character that she and Zack Snyder, the original director of Justice League, called away from the project due to personal tragedy, had meticulously worked out. I sense a dogpile scapegoating Whedon while the opportunity exists to draw attention away from the earnest, overworked mediocrity that is WW1984. The great critical, cultural and commercial success of Wonder Woman was not a fluke, it was a very long time coming and very very welcome, but Wonder Woman clearly isn’t lightning in a bottle, despite a lot of wishful thinking to the contrary.

I remember noting, way back just before the first Avengers film, that Joss Whedon and movie stars were not a compatible recipe for success. Whedon cites Donald Sutherland (a reasonable facsimile for a movie star) and Sutherland’s hat as a primary cause of the abomination Hollywood made of his Buffy, the Vampire Slayer movie before it became a television show. Jury’s out on Joss, but he’s in an eminently-suitable frame for dogpiling presently.

So Max Lord is the television demagogue (A Face in the Crowd) who flatters and cajoles Barbara Minerva, pre-makeover (Pretty Woman) into lending him the wish-granting artifact (Aladdin) which he wishes to absorb into himself (pretty damned clever) — and then becomes the artifact, granting greedy wishes and exacting precious sacrifices from one and all with the aid of a Reagan era bunkerbusting sidebar to the militarizaion of space, StarWars defense project involving technology that erodes broadcast barriers and enables a single messenger to invade all airwaves everywhere at once — not unlike the WWW pun in the title of this post.

It’s the 80s, so Greed is Good! and yet we’re looking back from the third decade of the 21st Century, so that probably means Greed is Bad! and that’s already a lot of story without even getting to Steve Trevor’s wish to fly a jet he’s profoundly unqualified to ride in (having been dead for 65 years), let alone pilot while sitting beside Wonder Woman who conveniently remembers her father’s spell that made her island home invisible to the rest of the world for several centuries. So she makes the jet they’re flying in invisible as it takes off, much to the astonishment of the outraged officials and security officers charging the field on which the plane becomes invisible, inaudible and lost to radar. And that’s exactly where I lost my shit.

It’s an interesting, ambitious film that isn’t Wonder Woman (2017). The most valuable statement WW1984 articulated succinctly and repeatedly is, “You can’t have it all.” Which flies in the face of a ton of 1980s wishful thinking and propaganda. Power corrupts and our choices necessarily involve sacrifices. So I choose Joss Whedon over Patty Jenkins & Ray Fisher until I see fit to change my mind.

WW1984 is a chatty, sometimes charming, pulse-poundingly improbable CGI adventure with too much story and too many A-/B+ stars … and yet the further adventures of Gal Gadot, makes it worth seeing not only because she believes in Wonder Woman but because we do, and she obviously believes in us, which is a precious thing I wouldn’t sacrifice for an invisible jet and the chance to snicker while Diana Prince gets some.

02 Jan 21 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments