Tuesday, December 29, 2020

TV: WONDER WOMAN 1984 is an awful film

 Watching WONDER WOMAN 1984 on HBO MAX reminded us that we're feminists.  A lot of things remind of us that because, let's be honest, being a feminist means you get asked a lot of questions -- a number of them stupid questions.



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Take Mary Travers.  She died September 16, 2009.  We never noted it.  'Why, oh, why,' some bemoaned in e-mails, 'won't you note Mary's passing?'  Or 'When are you going to get around to noting Mary's passing?'  Eleven years later good enough for you?

We didn't note Mary's passing because she meant nothing to us.  She spent her life ensuring that she meant nothing to us.  She was a token who was happy to be a token.  She did nothing to lift other women up.  She's a woman who died, yes.  Her death didn't make her better person any more than being a woman made her a feminist.  

In 1975, she hosted a syndicated radio show MARY TRAVERS & FRIENDS.  As a non-feminist, it was more than 'natural' for Mary to use this time to do nothing for women.  Women didn't even make up one third of her guests.  Her show didn't last long -- she was a lousy interviewer -- but she could have used her brief time to have made a difference and she didn't.  It was pitched to AOR -- Album Oriented Rock radio stations -- at a time when Joni Mitchell had just begun her long banishment from the radio airwaves.  You could basically hear Ann Wilson, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks and that was it when it came to women on AOR that year.  Mary could have used the show to have made a difference and to influence.  She didn't.  She was always happy to be the token female in the room.  

Before we go further, so you can grasp how awful she was conducting an interview, when not offering 'insight' like time killed off the dinosaurs, she was bemoaning to Bob Dylan that she'd never been able to write or co-write a song or turn her poetry into music lyrics.  This was in April of 1975.  

Explain to us please how 1971's MARY (her first solo album) saw her receiving songwriting credits for "The Song Is Love" (she took credit for it on PETER, PAUL and Mary's ALBUM 1700, as well) and "Erika With The Windy Yellow Hair"? She also took songwriting credits on "I Have A Song To Sing, O" and "All Through The Night" on PETER, PAUL AND MOMMY (1969) and on the group's LATE AGAIN (1969) she took songwriting credit on "Yesterday's Tomorrow" and "She Dreams." on 1966's THE PETER, PAUL AND MARY album, she took songwriting credit for "Mon Vrai Destin."  We could go on forever.  But the point is, she took songwriting credit over and over for over a decade before she complained on air to Bob Dylan in 1975 that she'd never been able to write a song.

We get it.  We do.  John Phillips stole credit for Hedy West's "500 Miles" for years before he got honest.  Sonny Bono never got honest about stealing "Chastity's Song (Band of Thieves)" from Elyse J. Weinberg. The credits on CHASTITY, the film he made, still read "Music by Sonny Bono."  So, yeah, we get it.  We get that Pete Seeger -- 'god' to so many -- is always going to be, for us, the man who stole credit for "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and lived off the money from that song he didn't write -- lived it off it for years and years and never made any effort, when exposed, to return the money to the family of the actual composer Solomon Linda.  

We get it and we can name many more examples but, thing is, the many, many examples we can think of mainly involve men -- plus Barbra Streisand.  At any rate, Mary, 'feminist' that she is, makes it clear that a woman can steal credit just as easily as a man.  

That's not feminism.

Like Mary, WONDER WOMAN 1984 reminds of things that aren't feminism.  It even reminds us of things that are just flat our ridiculous.  Like the first act party that Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) attends wearing a ridiculous, long, white dress -- did we mention that it's slit up to the crotch.  If they needed to show off her legs, wasn't the short skirt she wears as Wonder Woman throughout the film enough?  And are we the only ones marveling over her walking through the streets with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in that dress after the party -- and how it drags on the ground and how he repeatedly almost steps on it -- because it's so long and trailing?

We noticed other things too.  Like how, setting Chris Pine aside, all the men in the film are physically repulsive.  That includes the chubby Pedro Pascal.  It also includes 43-yearold Kristoffer Polaha -- he's boxy and unattractive and why is he cast to begin with at the age of 43?  Gal Gadot is 35 and Chris Pine is 40.  Why is the body that Steve Trevor inhabits cast with an older actor -- one who shows up at the end for a scene with Diana that doesn't work because he's no longer Steve and he's also not attractive. In what has to be the funniest joke in the film, the credits list Polaha as "Handsome Man."  The ugly men on parade also include Oliver Cotton, Stuart Milligan, Kevin Wallace . . . 

Strangely though, the women have to look good whether they're extras or playing Pedro Pascal's assistants.  Even stranger for us, the film includes a mall scene where a group of women are working out and they are being leered at  by men.  What was the 'feminist' message there?  What was the point of that scene at all?  Exercise and fitness actually empowers women -- at least until Patty Jenkins starts directing.

The bad guys?  Supposedly Pascal's Max Lord.  But it's really just the Egyptians.  The film tries to have it both ways by making up a nation ("Bialya") and by casting a famous Egyptian actor, Amr Waked, as the leader of the country.  When the lead of your film served in the Israel Defense Forces, we're not sure how the 'olive branch' is casting an Egyptian to play the corrupt leader of an Arab country.  We're especially confused since Egypt wasn't on the list of rogue states the US kept in 1984.  Starting at the end of 1979, the US government considered Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, Syria, Cuba and (January 19, 1984) Iran to be rogue/terrorist states and listed them as such.  So why Egypt in a film that's events are set in 1984?  Was Patty trying to please Israeli Gal by falling back to The Six-Day War of 1967?

We don't know who she was trying to please with the disaster of a script.

This is a super hero film, after all.  Patty has taken to whining a lot in the last weeks.  Ben Pearson (SLASH FILM) explains:


Patty Jenkins‘ 2017 blockbuster Wonder Woman is a terrific film that suffers from a climactic battle that sticks out like a sore thumb. While the rest of the movie’s fight scenes felt tactile and personal, the final battle devolved into a CGI-heavy slog which left a bad taste in some viewers’ mouths. Turns out that wasn’t the original plan: Jenkins says the studio forced her to change the ending at the last minute, and says her original ending was on a smaller scale.

With Wonder Woman 1984 arriving in theaters and on HBO Max this week, director Patty Jenkins was asked about the difference between the endings of the new sequel and her 2017 original movie, with an IGN interviewer wondering if the choice to tone things down slightly in the sequel was a purposeful one. “The original end of the first movie was also smaller, but the studio made me change it at the last minute,” Jenkins revealed. “So that’s always been a little bit of a bummer that [the ending is] the one thing people talk about because I agreed. And I told the studio we didn’t have time to do it, but it was what it was. I ended up loving it, but that was not the original ending of the movie.”

Without that ending, WONDER WOMAN isn't a superhero film.  But the reality is, WONDER WOMAN wasn't much of a film at all.  Directing MONSTER, a character study film, did not mean Patty could handle an action film and WONDER WOMAN 1984 makes that even more clear.

Whether it's Batman, Batgirl, Storm or Spider-Man, we expect them to save the day.  They are comic book creations, after all.  So WONDER WOMAN 1984 and its limp ending make it clear that the smartest thing WARNER BROTHERS did in 2020 was decide to release this film on HBO MAX for 30 days.  It is not a film that would have held up at theaters.  It's a huge disappointment in every manner including in the basic premise.

Max Lord is the villain but he and Wonder Woman never engage in physical combat.  He's got no physicality and he's also wounding himself through the use of his power (granting wishes).  The dippy climatic moment of their 'battle' is when he's able to see that his son Alistair is alone and scared.  Now this might have worked on some level if Max hadn't spent the whole film avoiding and abandoning his son.  Equally true, to get to that moment, Diana has to first force, via her magic lasso, Max to relive his childhood -- is this the end of a comic book movie or an Erhard Seminars Training self-actualization exercise?


It's a lousy film.  In the big moment where Diana and Steve are reunited?  Patty cuts to soon.  And she cuts to an establishing shot of the city.  In the next scene, Steve is wearing sneakers (and about to step on Diana's long dress, remember?) which is strange when later on in the film, the same Steve will marvel over . . . sneakers as he sees them for the first time ("have you seen these shoes!").  So much doesn't fit.  During the day, Max Lord almost ends the world, but right before Diana confronts him, we're suddenly outside the building he's in but it's nighttime and will remain nighttime while she battles Cheetah only to again be daylight once Diana's confronting Max.  No, it doesn't make sense but none of the film makes sense.    


It doesn't make sense, for example, that Patty keeps bragging in interviews that she told Pascal that his inspiration for the character is Michael Douglas' Gordon Gekko.  When you can't share real life inspiration, maybe that's how you get Pascal's bad performance that doesn't recall Michael Douglas' Academy Award winning turn but does remind you of Bill Pullman in the box office disaster MR. WRONG.

It's a dull, soggy mess and one that lets Max walk away free despite the fact that he nearly brought the world to an end and has left numerous people injured.  No one dies in the film, insists Patty Jenkins: 



"Nobody dies. No one dies in the whole movie. It's so exciting to not kill people. That's my message."

Well enthusiasm dies, that's for sure.  Equally true, Cheetah may die (Patty claims it's "ambiguous" as to Cheetah's fate).  Cheetah is Kristen Wiig's character.  She starts out as Barbara, a new co-worker with Diana.  She ends up a nightmare.  We're talking visually.  We think Wiig has wasted every chance she's been given since BRIDESMAIDS so we were surprised to find her giving a strong performance in this film.  But she does.  She's appealing and holds your attention.  Until the big battle scene where she looks like something out of CATS.  It has to be the worst CGI since I AM LEGEND and 2003's THE HULK combined.  

It didn't have to be that way.  Wiig had made Barbara a believable character -- so much so that we overlooked that this was yet another rip-off of Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman origin from BATMAN RETURNS -- an origin story that they've been ripping off since Riddler in BATMAN FOREVER.  But Wiig made it fresh.  And, in a White House battle scene with Diana, she held her own.  She used her wish from Max to become as powerful as Diana.  Now she gets to have a second wish for saving Max and she wants to be a predator.  She could have been that in a cat costume.  She didn't have to become part animal.  But that's the Patty Jenkins way, whenever something does work, mess with it so it doesn't.

Cheetah and Wonder Woman?  It's the big battle in the movie.  


Cheetah's a secondary character in this film and she's defeated as Max is about to destroy the world.  She's a diversion to the plot -- can you imagine a director doing that with the Joker?  We can't either.  It's an insult to all the character stood for -- a character who's been around since 1943.  

Equally true, she's the only other woman -- who's not an Amazon -- who gets more than ten lines of dialogue in the film besides Gal.  Why is that?  There are so many speaking parts for male actors and so many male characters -- even two homeless men who have more dialogue than the other women in the film.  How is this a feminist film?  How is this even a film by a feminist?

Well it's not.  It's a film that director Patty wrote with two men.

Really?  That's what we're going to get?  We scream and yell  for women to have the chance to direct and they choose to do a superhero movie about a woman and they choose to hire two men to help them write the script?  One of the men who came to Hollywood as a result of his reading of PENTHOUSE?

This isn't feminism.

And when you watch the sloppy and stupid WONDER WOMAN 1984, you grasp that it's not feminism either.




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