Wonder Woman 84

Spoiler- This is a discussion about a movie. If you want to see that move, maybe wait to read this “review.”

Full-Disclosure- I’m a Marvel guy. I prefer Marvel characters to DC characters and Marvel movies to DC movies. However, the first Wonder Woman movie was amazing and the best DC movie by far and as good as any Marvel movie. My goal is to tell you what I thought and perhaps have a discussion about super-heroes. If you liked it, that’s great. I’m happy you enjoyed it. I was very excited about seeing the Wonder Woman sequel. So excited that I subscribed to HBO Max. I suspect many will be dumping that subscription. Not me. At least not until I finish Friends.

Scene One- A young Diana participates and wins a tournament that looks like American Ninja Warrior on steroids. But she took a shortcut and was disqualified even though she was about to win. What’s the point of this scene except that, even at a young age, she’s physically superior to the best of the best on the island? She should have been disqualified for being a creation of Zeus (see the first movie). The missed opportunity was the chance to feature a lesson or even a test of morality. Maybe she spares an enemy and suffers because of it. We see Diana is a just and merciful superhero later in the movie, and it would have been an essential scene if we saw those early lessons first-hand. Or better yet, the opening scene could have shown us the origin of the wish-stone that drives the movie’s story later on.

Love Story- It’s been forty years since Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) died saving lives. Wonder Woman (Gadot) still loves him, but this seems a tad overdone. She didn’t know him for very long in the war, and she’s been pining (no pun intended) over him for four decades? 

The Antagonists- I won’t say they’re bad-guys or villains. The movie goes out of its way to show the two primary opponents as people with backstories and hopes and dreams and not just people to fight. However, we don’t see Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) become the full-Cheetah until the movie’s last few minutes. Maxwell Lord is a failed businessman played by Pedro Pascal. Instead of wishing for infinite wishes, he wishes to become the wishing stone, which I guess is a surprise and somewhat clever assuming he knows what kind of power he’s dealing with.

The Eighties- I grew up in the eighties. Like every decade, it has its plusses and minuses.  When this decade is depicted in the movies and television, it’s done to exaggerate the fashion and culture until the show is even more eighties than the actual eighties. Everyone didn’t wear parachute pants and have Flock of Seagulls’ haircuts. The missed opportunity here was not having a fantastic 80s soundtrack. 

Superpowers- Wonder Woman is as strong as Superman and has a magic lasso and bullet-deflecting bracelets, she’s the best combatant in the Justice League, and she can fly! The final scene in the first movie implies that she is flying away and not jumping. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps she didn’t fly. But in forty years, she doesn’t figure out how to fly? Because she does in the movie, but not until the end. Up until then, she jumps around and uses her lasso to swing like Spider-Man. Also, there’s a cute joke involves a reference to the original invisible jet from the show. They need to avoid detection in a stolen jet, and Diana busts out this new ability to make stuff invisible, i.e., the plane. Isn’t that funny and clever?

Humanity and Heroism- WW84 does something other superhero movies fail to do. Diana shows mercy and restraint to her enemies, specifically the non-powered ones. Hulk must have killed hundreds or thousands of people with his rage, but we don’t see people dying onscreen. Batman blows up cop cars, and it looks cool, but I say to myself, “Best case scenario, that cop in that car flying into a brick wall never walks again.” Hellboy punches a cab and flips it into the air onto its roof. Captain America beats the hell out of people doing their job. No one talks about not hurting the people who are shooting at them, but Diana does. Even when she’s at half-power, she’s a real hero.

I didn’t like this movie. I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t enjoy it. Maybe you did. I’m not trying to convince you to dislike it. I wanted it to be as good as the first, but it wasn’t even close. I’ll see the next movie, but I hope it takes place in the modern world and features villains worthy of a super-heroine of Wonder Woman’s power and star level. 

Some other stuff I couldn’t fit in:

An impenetrable suit of armor is mentioned, and of course, later, Diana must wear it. 

Maxwell Lord is using his wish power on the President while there’s a presentation about a new satellite that he can use to broadcast his wish power to the whole world. This will be used as an example of lazy writing that in future Screenwriting 101 classes.  

The end credits appearance was misplaced. If they wanted to use Linda Carter, they could have used her earlier to set up the whole wish stone thingee.

Andy and I meet Neil Gaiman

In which we learn just how dry British humor can be when coming from a master

Writer’s note; this story took place more than ten years ago, so many of the details have faded. However, you will get the gist of the story and the punchline is accurate to the last detail.

My roommate Andy, I, and our gaming pal, Rich had acquired tickets to see the premiere of the television adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel; Neverwhere. We traveled to Boston, where Gaiman himself would introduce the show and we would watch several episodes.

Mr. Gaiman told the sold-out venue that after the intermission he would be hoisting a few at a nearby pub and signing autographs. Andy and I agreed that this was more interesting than watching a show we would no doubt be able to see at some point in the future, but drinking with Neil Gaiman probably wouldn’t happen again. So, we left Rich (who wanted to watch the second half) and went to the pub.

After we cozied up to the bar, we talked to his agent (or US representative) and he showed us his newest novel (whose title escapes me) and he was excited that it came in a variety of limited-edition covers. Andy scoffed full of derision and exclaimed, “That’s just a marketing ploy to make extra sales. Stupid fanboys will collect every cover!” He thought he was particularly insightful. Or clever. Or smart. He certainly thought he was smart.

I agreed and filled with self-righteous indignation; we turned back to the bar and found Neil Gaiman standing there with a very smug British smile on his face. Andy removed a book from his coat and after some small-talk (Did we like the show, how did he like America? etc.) presented it to Gaiman to have signed. Neil courteously signed Andy’s book and bid us farewell as he turned to the other fans demanding his attention.

“What did he write?” I asked, craning my neck to see the autograph.

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Andy’s lips were squeezed together tightly and he had a look like he was going to sneeze. He opened the title page of the book and there it was- Neil Gaiman’s personal message to Andy.

Mind the gags.

“I guess he heard you,” I said.

A History of Violence

I never knew my father. Alone, my mother raised me, but I lacked a male role model; a man who would teach me about girls, fishing and fighting. I had four older brothers who did have a father, but most of them had a penchant for violence that often got them into trouble. This violent history even got my oldest brother killed, so maybe it was best that I didn’t know my father. I believe violence has its place in the world, but there is a time and a place for fighting and there is a skill in knowing when and where.

My earliest role-models were the super heroes of four-color comic books. The modern age of comic books is filled with strong men and women who do not avoid the dangerous world of vigilante violence, but most avoid killing at all costs. Pop culture is filled with admirable, powerful heroes who punch first and ask questions later. However, super heroes do not actually risk much. Despite the risk to their social lives, the heroes usually win, and even when they die, they come back after a short hiatus.

“C’mon, kick his ass!” I was in a foster home at age seven and one of the first things my foster brothers and sisters wanted me to do was to beat up a local kid who was about my age. For some reason, they thought he deserved to be beaten up, but he was younger than them, so, by schoolyard rules was untouchable. I didn’t want to fight him, so I walked away. Perhaps I had failed an initiation test, but I didn’t care. That kid had done nothing to me, and I wasn’t going to fight someone else’s battle.

“I’m going to beat the shit out of you!” Nate Mason, a much bigger kid whispered to me in fifth grade math class. He was so much bigger than me that I didn’t doubt he had been held back once or twice.

I didn’t know what I did to warrant his aggression. I was quiet, but did well in math class and participated often. Only now do I realize how that might make a slender kid with glasses and a girl’s name the target of bullying, a term often used today, but hardly ever at the time.

All day he threatened me as we moved from class to class. “Jan, I’m gonna kick your ass after school!” I was terrified. I could have gone to the teacher, but that may have made things worse. In my frightened twelve-year old brain, the thought just didn’t occur to me.

The final school bell rang and I rushed out the front doors of the school. The door’s hadn’t closed behind me when I heard a familiar voice from behind me say, “Jan!”

Batman never called his mommy.

I spun and he was there- leaning against the brick wall next to the double-doors was Nate Mason, a full foot taller than me. Before he could say anything, I attacked him. With the strength of the Incredible Hulk and the rage of Wolverine I grabbed him by his heavy winter jacket and shoved him against the wall. Lke the Flash, I began to pummel him with a million punches. Only the shouts of the bus ladies brought me to my senses and I threw his broken body to the ground.

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Perhaps that story is dramatized, but the details are true. What I learned from that incident and from the one before it was when to walk away from a fight and when to stand up for myself. The knowledge that it is sometimes important to fight my own battles is valuable. Over the years, I have been involved in figurative fights and literal ones. I have fought solo and alongside allies. And for every battle I won, I lost two. And every time I lost a fight, I learned much more than from the ones I won.