Seriously, this post has big spoilers so if you care about that, don’t read.
With that out of the way, I wanted to write a few small things about Wonder Woman 84 that occurred to me while watching the film over the holidays. Some of it is just about the storytelling but there was at least one aspect of the movie that left me deeply unsettled and I’ve heard no discussion of it whatsoever.
The story of WW84 is both quite simple and quite convoluted. This version of Max Lord is some sort of 1980’s failed “greed is good” businessman/con man who finds out about a wish-granting-stone. He makes a meta-wish, which destroys the stone by integrating its power into the man himself.
This is problem one. The movie references “The Monkey’s Paw” issue with regard to the stone. You make a wish and it gets granted but there is a negative side effect on the wisher. Exactly what the rules for how this side effect works seems hazy but it is stated to revolve around something important/integral to the wisher.
When Max takes on the power of the stone though, he becomes able to pick and choose what he takes from the person making the wish. This isn’t well explained and generated a little confusion for me at first because the first few times he does it, the movie hadn’t even explained the devil’s bargain aspect of the wishes yet. Nonetheless, the whole thing feels really half thought out and without actual consequences.
This wish granting and wish bargaining results in most of the conflicts of the film, both internal and external. Wonder Woman gets her wish but begins to lose her powers. I’d argue those aren’t the most important part of who she is but we’ll get back to her wish in a moment. The absurd “more more more” aspect of the wish granting scenario results in a nuclear launch by the Soviet Union with missiles literally dropping on Washington D.C. when Wonder Woman (possibly) compels the world to retract their wishes. There are a lot of unanswered questions about the retracted wishes but it remains clear that while the wishes themselves were undone, the indirect consequences of those wishes remain in the world. Maybe. Some of them. When convenient.
Because the nukes never hit. We get one strange, chaotic shot of something happening to the missiles in the air that I assume was meant to make us understand why they don’t hit but… the Soviet missiles had nothing to do with a wish. They were launched and the U.S.A. should have been devastated wish or no wish.
There are a lot of sloppy storytelling choices floating around the wishing and the coincidences of the film but I don’t want to put off exploring my main issue any longer. Ask me about the movie some time and I’ll get into some of the other issues but for now, let’s talk about Wonder Woman’s wish.
Wonder Woman wants Steve Trevor back. Diana – an immortal demi-god – who came to “man’s world” as a fairly naïve character in 1918. Since then, she’s apparently not grown much as a person – isolating herself in a social bubble for over 100 years and not loving again, or getting involved in much of anything except for some occasional, off-the-book, small scale heroics. This is a fairly bleak picture of Wonder Woman to begin with but if you accept it as the backdrop of the movie then her wish to have Steve back makes sense.
And she gets him back. Sorta. See, instead of Steve actually coming back, Steve’s mind/soul/consciousness (?) takes over the body of an unnamed man living in D.C. We know nothing about this man save that he’s possibly an engineer, he likes Easy Cheese (who doesn’t), and he’s a bit fashion-forward. We assume he’s single because of the state of his apartment and that’s it.
But really, this plot point is a huge problem for me. Because Diana says she “see’s only you (Steve)” and the audience sees Chris Pine’s face but the whole 2 or three days that make up the movie, Steve has just taken over this guy’s life and body. He skips work, steals a plane from the Smithsonian (so many questions about that) and has sex with Diana.
Does no one miss him for those lost days? Does he wonder about them? Why is he not arrested for stealing a plane from the Smithsonian? Why did they need to steal the plane in the first place? Diana mentions that Steve wouldn’t have a passport but unnamed engineer guy might. He presumably has a whole life off screen. And why is no one upset that he wasn’t even in his body to give consent to Diana to have sex with him?
Seriously, when she has a moment with the guy at the end, and we think about Steve telling her to love again, I can’t be the only one who was like, “well, I’ve already had this guy inside me…” Maybe that’s a little crude but I was so upset by this. Wonder Woman 84’s entire meta-theme is about acknowledging and accepting the truth but the truth is, for completely pointless plot reasons – because it didn’t have to be written this way at all – Diana and Steve basically eliminate a man for several days and use his body however they want and nobody is upset about this. At all.
There are lots of other problems with the movie. The wish-power didn’t make sense, it screws up the continuity of the other, existing DC movies, there are almost constant examples of bad decisions, there is an actual superhero fight in the White House which also involves the “body of unnamed engineer” assaulting members of the Secret Service, there’s the fact that in 1984 Wonder Woman learns to cast magic invisibility spells and fly but she can’t do either of those things in the “modern” films in which she plays a part (BvS and Justice League). Just so many problems.
But at the end of the film, I was left holding the bag for this poor sap who had all kinds of things happen to him with no consent whatsoever. And we’re all just supposed to be okay with it. Even with the smirking Diana fashion convo at the end. And it didn’t have to be that way. Making Steve occupy another body was entirely a writing choice that didn’t have to happen. There is no reason why the wish had to be realized in that way. None. Just having Steve come back and show up at Diana’s doorstep would have changed nothing in the movie – except making it far less icky.
Anyway, that’s a bit of my feelings about WW84. It’s a movie that the more I think about it, the less I like it. And I don’t know that a Wonder Woman movie should leave me feeling so conflicted about consent. But that’s where we are in 2021.
As always, thanks for reading.