“Wonder Woman 1984” is the best superhero film I’ve ever seen. Call it hyperbole. Accuse me of recency bias.
But wrap the golden lasso of truth around my fist and I’ll swear the same: “WW84” is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.
And I’ve seen most of them, even “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.”
I admit to being biased in favor of Wonder Woman, a character who first caught my interest when the 1970s show starring Lynda Carter played in reruns at the childcare I periodically attended in order to get what the guidance counselors said was “much-needed socialization with peers.”
I read her comic books written by George Pérez, perhaps my favorite graphic artist, as a boy. I felt slight trepidation buying a comic about a female hero, but nobody said anything – especially not my dad, so I assumed it was OK.
It’s good for a boy to root for a girl. That’s the message I took from my dad not being unnerved by the title in my collection of books bought at Montross Pharmacy. A boy needs that kind of reinforcement from his father.
But this Wonder Woman, as played by Gal Gadot and rendered by director Patty Jenkins, is the best I’ve ever seen the character. It improves on the terrific original from 2017.
“WW84” is a movie about wishes. Jenkins tells the story loud, bold and colorful, but at its heart, this is a children’s story. Wishes can be sweet whispers into Santa Claus’ ear for a new toy or they can be desperate pleas by the jealous and embittered. Wishes can break your heart as easily as they slake your desire.
Wonder Woman, who is called only Diana in these films, reunites with long-dead lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in a lovely, tragic way. Scheming businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal of “The Mandalorian” fame) tries to rule the world by preying on the weaknesses of others.
Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is a bright-but-overlooked scientist who struggles with toxic male aggression and her own insecurities. She sees Diana’s poise and grace and covets it. She uses magic to gain Wonder Woman’s powers but skips the steps of practice that earns poise. This ends badly.
“WW84” is imperfect in spots. There’s a silly, “She’s All That” quality in attempting to make Wiig seem dumpy and ignorable, but even beautiful people are treated poorly and feel badly about themselves.
And her ultimate form as the monster Cheetah only reinforces the lessons the horrific uncanny valley of “Cats” taught us in 2019 – you just can’t CGI a person into a cat. It will always be too silly.
There are obvious present-day political allegories in the movie, right down to Maxwell Lord’s uncontrollable hair. And the way both Diana and Barbara must brush off unwanted attention feels like an “I see you” moment for the #metoo movement.
But I choose not to mingle with the angels and devils in political statements no matter how important or well-intentioned.
Instead, I look at the film as a whole and see a lot of joy. Most of the movie takes place in the bright, beautiful daylight. The Fourth of July fireworks scene is very sweet.
There is plenty of action and battle, but the day is not won by Diana punching the last monster to dust. Instead, her victory is convincing humanity to give up their greed, to let loose their pettiness and forgive themselves and everyone else – embrace life and love.
The moment is beautiful, complex and powerful – and for me, quite personal.
I mention my father’s support of me as I read comic books and watched sci-fi shows while his other sons excelled in Boy Scouts, hunting and fishing. I did not have such a close relationship with my mother, whose undiagnosed mental illness and prescription drug addictions made her cruel and erratic.
Many paragraphs will be stacked about how important it is for girls to see a hero like Wonder Woman on screen, to believe in.
But as someone who has carried the scars of a bad relationship with his mother well into middle age, I argue that “WW84” is something that’s very good for little boys – and grown men – to believe in, too.
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