Wonder Woman 1984: Cheetahs Never Prosper

This movie is Wonder Woman 84, meaning I skipped the intervening eighty-two sequels since the original. In a controversial move, WB finally opted to simultaneously release it to cinemas & HBO Max (at no additional charge, unlike Mulan on Disney+) on Christmas day. At least its release wasn’t as postponed as The New Mutants. I watched it a movie theater because I believe the safety precautions taken by the cinema & myself are sufficient to outweigh the risk. If you think otherwise, Gal Gadon’t go because you can watch it from the safety of your home. So is Wonder Woman 1984 doubleplusgood or thoughtcrime? The Lasso of Truth compels me to unspool its SPOILERS in this collaboreview with The Wages of Cinema, reunited for the first time since Plan 9 From Star Wars!

I love all the vibrant neon colors in the marketing! Why isn’t the epic remix of “Blue Monday” in the movie itself? It filmed for eight months in five locales to minimize green screen. I saw it in IMAX Lord, but it didn’t seem like there’d be much difference at a normal screening. Despite the extra time it received from being pushed back even before the pandemic, Cheetah’s CGI still looks less than ideal.

My preferred version of Wonder Woman flies by herself & is at least as strong as Superman. The movies tamped her way down to Captain America level to focus on Xena-style action. This arguably works to add tension to fights, but it’s inequitable that her male peers didn’t get similar power downgrades. Write enemies up to her level, not the reverse! She’s strong enough to kick around armored trucks yet oddly not bulletproof. (Wonder Woman’s bracelets are the opposite of Black Widow’s. Instead of shooting projectiles, they deflect them.) These power levels are undermined by her ability to intuitively annihilate an Olympian God with ease, which is beyond her typical comic book prowess.

Gal Gadot’s performance is very earnest. This can make her seem more boring than the rest of the cast who’re able to inject more comedy into their roles. (She had more fun between takes.) Diana does get an unexpected flaw in her selfish desire to keep Steve alive. Diana has to temporarily lose her powers as is second solo movie law! At least there’s better justification for it here than Spider-Man 2. Her willfully believing the lie of Steve’s return undermined her divine Divine Truth on a metaphorical level, but it’s more directly an consequence of vague wishing.

Wonder Woman wears the same outfit she’s had for the last three movies, but this time it’s sufficiently bright & shiny! Despite saving people in this vibrant attire, she tries not to be noticed. She wantonly destroys mall security camera so she can showboat off the record. You could argue this is modesty, yet it seems more likely it’s trying to maintain the dubious notion that Diana kept a low profile from WWI until BVSDOJ. (A briefly glimpsed photograph implies she didn’t sit WWII out as I had feared.) After binging The Boys, it’s refreshing to see a superhuman safeguard civilians! She doesn’t even murder armed miscreants! She does drop a quartet onto a car though. Of course her learning how to fly is a new continuity error.

Steve Trevor gets resurrected but not Etta Candy? Much like Bucky in The Winter Soldier movie, we just saw Steve in her last movie so his return isn’t as momentous if it had really been decades like comics’ “The Winter Soldier.” Chris Pine’s lack of self-consciousness lets him be fish out of water comedy gold. 80’s clothes suit him. He’s aroused by modern aeroplanes.

Steve’s soul possessing some unnamed rando’s body is one of the film’s weirdest choices. Neither he nor nor Diana are concerned that this bodynapping is essentially rape. I thought this might’ve been an unpredictable side effect of her wish, but the tradeoff for her is revealed to be slowly losing her powers. (If the depowering was a direct result of Barbara’s wish, however, then what did Diana give up?) If the Materioptikon can instantly raise an enormous stone wall, why couldn’t it resurrect Steve in a unique body? It’s super creepy! Never trust a dude with two first names! At least they both eventually agree sending his spirit back is the right move.

Diana steals an F-111 Aardvark from The Smithsonian that’s conveniently fueled up. She turns it into the Invisible Jet using the same magic Zeus used to cloak Themyscira. How she learned this magic isn’t properly explained. Is it just something she can do because she’s a Demi-Goddess? Diana casting spells rather than just being made of magic feels odd. This vehicle serves less purpose than expected, but it does provide us some lovely fireworks photography.

Wonder Woman lasso-swinging from lighting bolts is so ludicrous it transcends into cool. I was pleasantly surprised this led up to her learning to fly. It’s about damn time! The scenes of her soaring have a beautiful serenity. It also symbolizes she’s no longer weighted down by fixating on the past. It makes me dislike Zack Snyder & Joss Whedon more for not having Diana fly in their movies!

Wonder Woman’s cinematic origin was missing her participating in a contest to decide which Amazon would escort Steve off Themyscira, so they added a flashback to her as a youngling competing in the Themysciran Olympics against a new bunch of Amazons. Where are all the Amazons from the first movie & Justice League though? They were already a diverse array of athletes whose names & unique exploits mostly wound up on the cutting room floor. Unless they do an Amazons spinoff, they’re running out of opportunities to flesh them out. Queen Hippolyta, General Antiope, & Venelia (still sans dialogue) reappear. As nice as this prologue was, it could’ve easily been cut were it not for imparting the film’s moral.

Cheetah_MaxLord

Plot device expansion would continue exponentially well beyond 1984.

When I saw the first trailer, I honestly thought Pedro Pascal was playing a version of Dr. Psycho minus the dwarfism. Maxwell Lord was originally the benefactor of the Justice League International. While his arc had previously been about a shady businessman growing a conscience during the lighthearted era of Keith Giffen & J. M. DeMatteis, DC had him board the supervillain train after their departure. This Diet Lex Luthor is now most famous for Wonder Woman twisting his head around to undo his telepathic control of Superman. My suspicion that Max Lord has the Materioptikon proved accurate.

The Beeboverse has Dr. Destiny without his Dreamstone whereas the movieverse has The Dreamstone minus Dr. Destiny! What a peculiar separation! Instead of being empowered by Morpheus, it’s the creation of obscure Golden Age foe The Duke of Deception. That was an even bigger surprise than Simon Stagg’s second live action appearance, again without Metamorpho. There’s also a Bialya reference but no Queen Bee. The main news company seen is named National after DC’s predecessor.

MaxLord

If Diana had a dollar for everyone she lassoed that told her this…

Max Lord is a surprisingly engaging antagonist. Rather than the character assassination of the comics, he doesn’t act maliciously or forfeit his charm. He’s not an exemplar of misogyny like you’d expect a typical enemy of a feminist icon. Pedro Pascal imbues him with corny charisma. (He was also in the failed Wonder Woman pilot.) It’s zany how his mixture of greed & altruism escalates once he makes himself a Djinn. It’s a unique power that Diana can’t overcome by strength alone. His health diminishes each time he uses the wish-granting power yet he can’t stop using it to increase his influence with the costs he exacts from the wishers. He can’t get no satisfaction!

I was hoping the trailers trailer showing Barbara Minerva as the comic relief & Max Lord as the main antagonist would be a misdirect. It’s not. This is a great Max Lord movie but a middling Cheetah movie. Since Cheetah is one of Wondie’s top three foes along with Ares & Circe, that’s a problem. She’s merely a catspaw that could’ve easily been another villainess like Giganta. Cheetah already has an uphill battle being a viable threat since many non-WW writers erroneously portray as a normal Furry (I’m looking at you, DCAU!) rather than a Demi-Goddess. (Priscilla Rich, the original Cheetah, was definitely just a Furry & a possible inspiration for Josie & The Pussycats.)

WonderWoman_Cheetah

This is my cat’s favorite game too.

My Barbara Minerva fancasting was more on the Kate Beckinsale/Charlize Theron/Famke Janssen spectrum, but Kristen Wiig proves herself an apex predator! On the other paw, I’m disappointed that Dr. Barbara Minerva starts off a meek wallflower who becomes a crazed supervillainess once she gets power. Not only is it a problematic trope, it’s very reminiscent of Catwoman’s Batman Returns arc. (Can I use the “Catwoman” tag since this contains Cheetah but no official Catwoman?) Rather than her being a dark mirror to Diana, she gets a magic personality change. Barbara’s heel turn comes from her inadvertently trading her kindness in exchange for becoming like Diana. (Her not realizing that includes Amazonian physical prowess is a cute gag.) They didn’t work together long enough for Minerva to develop a simmering resentment. Her losing her meekness isn’t even as horrific as it could be. She beats up a handy drunk who hassled her when she was powerless. The two scenes when she battles Diana are mostly about her not wanting to forgo her powers rather than something more fundamental to their personal philosophies. She doesn’t rise to the level of an archnemesis.

Especially since that’s the main design inspiration used for her furry form, I wanted something closer to George Perez’s initial version where she’s more of an immoral Lara Croft. (Wonder Woman x Lara Croft should be an actual thing! Does it make it weird that both were played by Lilly Aspell?) She loots other cultures for her private gain as the ultimate colonialist. Power didn’t corrupt her so much as expose her malevolence. How she & Diana use their privilege to change the world is an illuminating contrast.

In the comics, Barbara Minerva transforms into Cheetah by becoming the avatar of the bloodthirsty (fictional) African plant deity Urzkartaga. Seems like that should’ve given her Swamp Thing powers instead? (Is Urzkartaga part of The Parliament of Trees or its superior?) In the New 52, she more understandably becomes the avatar of the Cheetah Goddess after stabbing herself with the Godkiller sword while posing as Diana’s friend. (Or she’s imbued by the Goddess of the Hunt, whom isn’t specified as Artemis, by poking herself with a magic dagger because DC couldn’t even keep her new origin consistent for long.) Geoff Johns shoehorned that origin into her Justice League debut (because Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman wasn’t interested in rebooting one of her greatest foes), & they’re basically using that one because he’s got a screenplay credit (along with Jenkins & Dave Callaham). How come there’s never been an iteration of her origin linking her to Circe? Her whole deal is turning people in animals!

Minerva’s original Cheetah transformation (or rather her non-transformed state) was cursed because she was unchaste. That was a karmic punishment for being an unethical usurper. In the Greg Rucka’s Rebirth canon that reverts back to Urzkartaga, the reinterpretation of Minerva as a lesbian with a bum leg & a bad dad makes her more tragic. This may even make her too sympathetic. It feels like this iteration should be swiftly redeemed by Diana’s empathy into a heroine. While this fits Marston’s early vision for Wonder Woman’s successes, it would denude her rogue’s gallery of one of its brightest fixtures.

Ms. Minera goes from chic Textile to full Naturalist. (Cheetah once tricked everyone into thinking she wears chaps with no underoos! They’re really pants with her exact fur pattern to be unnecessarily confusing. If DC wanted people not to think about Cheetah’s pussy anymore, that sartorial choice failed.) Even her Xbox has a fur coat! (Now when’s Diana getting her own video game?) She doesn’t wear an animal print onesie before either. Since they’re already cribbing from Alex Ross, her grisly Justice outfit would’ve been another cool interstitial look. A movie committed to Cheetah could’ve worked in a variety of outfits to satisfy all factions of her fan fetishists.

Sadly Dr. Minerva (non-Kree edition) is only fully transformed into Cheetah for the climactic showdown. Instead of Stabby Babs, she becomes Slashy Babs. They went the Cats route of no kitty nose. She’d look better if she had brown or auburn hair to contrast with her pale body pelt. Her coat is rather thin. The no-mane Rebirth redesign would also look fierce. (Wiig showed a cropped coif also works for her as a human.) There’s no metamorphosis scene so it’s unclear how she becomes a legitimutant Cheetah anyway. Was Lord able to grant her a second wish since her first was before he’d merged with the Materioptikon? Are cheetah people the ultimate developmental phase of Themyscirans that Diana has yet to unlock? Did she renounce her first wish to get this this slightly better one? They didn’t show Minerva had any love for cheetahs beyond Diana’s shoes (yet their relationship isn’t overtly sapphic like Catradora) so there’s no explanation as why she chooses to become this. If she doesn’t become a literal crazy cat lady she wouldn’t be Cheetah though, which underscores how tacked on the choice of supervillainess was.

Wonder Woman dons her Golden Eagle armor from Kingdom Come, for which Alex Ross & Mark Waid didn’t receive a bonus. I wasn’t a fan of it in the comics. Since she could already fly, it was just less colorful & more cumbersome than her standard armor. The movie version is better because it’s more Saint Seiya. (Now how is Hawkgirl going to stand out in the DC movieverse? Maybe that’s why she didn’t make the JSA cut in Black Adam?) This looks like anti-Silver Swan armor. It’s also mostly practical.

I seem to have enjoyed the action sequences better than most viewers. The exception is the final Diana vs. Cheetah fight. For one thing, it’s too dark & CGI reliant. (This statue makes her design look better than the movie.) All the build-up & it’s way too brief. Whereas Max is undone in a creative way that that showcases Diana, she merely electrocutes Minerva underwater. Why does Diana even don Asteria’s armor when she’d recovered her powers, can fly without it, & doesn’t know Minerva monsterized herself? This is a shame because the White House battle with pre-transformation Babs was nicely staged & brutal. It also features Babs’s best outrageous 80’s look, which the Barbie doesn’t do justice.

Barbara survives so she could possibly return for the next movie, but she lacks the strong personality needed for a recurring supervillainess. They could use one of the other Cheetahs (Priscilla Rich, Debbie Domaine, Sebastian Ballesteros), yet I feel that Wiig deserves to show she can embody Cheetah in a movie that doesn’t sideline her. If you saw her in mother!, you know this Leo comedienne can be terrifying. Let her be bestial! (I did not spend an inordinate amount of time brainstorming how to improve Cheetah because it came flashed through my mind as swiftly as her namesake.)

Cheetah_WW84

Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva doesn’t know she’s beautiful; that’s what makes her beautiful. That & being a budding Furry juiced up on Amazonian superstrength.

Lord’s defeat is more satisfying than the climax of the first film because Wonder Woman doesn’t go Super Saiyan. It’s much more optimistic too. Despite damaging the satellite array, this has no deleterious effect upon Lord’s transmission. Diana uses the Lasso of Truth to make Lord see that his irresponsible wish granting will cause nuclear catastrophe for the world. He sees that his quest won’t solve his self-actualization issues & has caused him to neglect his loving son. The two pool their efforts to get the world to renounce their wishes. It’s very cheesy yet feels earned. Diana reforming a villain with psychology is perfect for how William Moulton Marston envisioned her. (He’d also be impressed by how it presented many once taboo kinks as wholesome.)

The thesis of this movie is that shortcuts lead to disaster. It’s a good lesson but I’m not sure how applicable it is to its antagonists. Barbara Minerva is never going to be Diana’s equal just through hard work. Diana has the whole Demi-Goddess raised as a warrior princess background that can’t be matched no matter how determined Babs is. Max Lord starts off as a con artist, but many real life tycoons began that way. The most successful typically already have a privileged background to leverage, which Max didn’t. People can rise from humble beginnings, but there’s probably higher percentage of folk that didn’t no matter how much effort they applied. Good luck is arguably as unearned as a magic wish. The wishes are transactional, so it’s not as if they’re freebies either.

While it does evoke the blockbusters made in this era, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for this to be set in 1984 aside from Jenkins making a better version of Supergirl’s movie. Diana wistfully stares at a red star balloon drifting away in the epilogue, which may be Soviet Union commentary. It’s sort of like a Silver Age story, so it slips in before the Crisis On Infinite Earths deadline. At least they put effort into superficial period piece details unlike Dark Phoenix. Can the third Wonder Woman movie please be set in modern times after Justice League? Or is Birds of Prey going to be the only superheroine-centric movie of either big movieverse set in the present? Can she punch out a hydra too?

Even though the runtime could’ve been trimmed, I didn’t mind spending it on WW84. Jenkins, Gadot, & Pine are still a winning combo. Its pros slightly outweigh its cons. Max Lord & the unexpected fan service were delightful. I was really excited, however, to finally see Wonder Woman square off against Cheetah. What I got was underwhelming. This seems like it could be a Materioptikon wish, but I’ve seen Wishmaster so I know the importance of incredibly specific phrasing.

~

I dreamt that Ferdinand the minotaur chef had a scene where he sang & fiddled.

The two movie figures for Diana, spoiled by inhumanly long & cylindrical thighs, are the only two McFarlane Toys have made for her that aren’t from an altverse Batman story. (Seriously, there isn’t a mainstream comics WW yet.) Sadly there’s no Cheetah to battle them. Japanese toy companies aren’t doing her yet either. Hopefully there’ll be one on the way instead of snubbed entirely. (In the meantime, this custom is purrfect.) Speaking of which, Todd really needs to pick up the non-non-Bat slack instead of a handful of random characters occasionally sprinkled in. Since he’s not averse to dead properties, there’s no excuse for him not to make Swamp Thing, Blue Devil, & the Floronic Man from the doomed series. Hyper-detailed monsters are his wheelhouse! Doom Patrol & more Beeboverse toys would be welcome too!

Would Jumpa be more popular if she were called Wonderoo? The Sky Kangas were brought to Earth by the Sky Riders of Nebulosa, whom were of course also transvestite Furries.

Gail Simone received lots of fan feedback for Wonder Woman.

Diana solves Clark’s problem.

The Beeboverse’s Cheetah was apparently so underwhelming she was defeated offscreen without superheroes!

Wonder Girl will be a new CW series except it won’t star Donna Troy or Cassie Sandsmark. It’ll headline Yara Flor the Wonder Woman of the Future (State). The previous Wonder Girls may fill out her supporting cast. Yara hasn’t even debuted in the comics yet so it’s a fool’s errand to predict what to expect from her series. Brazillians will riot if she doesn’t tangle with Cuca the alligator witch though.

~

Thank you very much for visiting my blog during this awful 2020. Come back for CAOS Part 4 review next? It’ll be a whole new year by then!

6 thoughts on “Wonder Woman 1984: Cheetahs Never Prosper

  1. Lord’s defeat is more satisfying than the climax of the first film because Wonder Woman doesn’t go Super Saiyan. It’s much more optimistic too.

    I nearly threw up, while listening to that speech. I thought it was so nauseatingly sweet.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s