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AV Brew: ‘WW84’ Deep Dive

Pete and Belle discuss #WW84, and how a 2 1/2 hour movie somehow came up short delivering on the story and relationships it deserved.

Pete: So what did you think, Belle?

Belle: It wasn’t half bad but it wasn’t half good either. Which is the most damning thing I could say. 

Pete: I wish it felt like a movie about Diana. We’ve had more than 50 years pass since the last film, but I have no idea where the time went as far as her growth. What we are left with is a lot of Steve, a long, repetitive and slow Maxwell story, and not nearly enough Cheetah. 

Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord
Belle: Here’s the thing, I do appreciate that they didn’t make Maxwell the raging monster he is in the comics and gave him more depth because it’s so easy to make a bad guy with no layers; but I wish we’d gotten the same for Barbara Ann who is one of my favorite characters because she is so layered.
Plus Kristen Wiig was so good and I feel like we could’ve cut 15% of the Steve shite and gotten a more balanced Barbara Ann and Maxwell storyline. I would’ve loved to see Maxwell and Barbara Ann actually fall in love. That would’ve made their storyline 10x more interesting because it would’ve made their connection more profound. If we’d got to watch them genuinely hit it off and Barbara Ann fall in love with his son? Can you imagine how much more upsetting their respective falls from grace would’ve been? 

Pete: I think you’re right that it was good to give him more gray area and therefore more intensity, but other than just him emoting a lot, I don’t get him being torn between the relationship with his son, or his own abuse? Is that what we see in a flashback?

Belle: Yes, but honestly I feel like the entire flashback could’ve been interspersed throughout the movie instead of so tacked on or just cut completely. It felt like they didn’t trust Pedro enough to sell the character and he’d already done the work: a man struggling to be a hero to his son, while not realizing that all his child wanted was him, not money, not fame, just him.

Pete: I feel bad, but I just didn’t care about that relationship. They tried to sell us a dad that was too ambitious to be present, but it just came across as a dad whose kid was a bother to him – and showed up at random times. 

Belle: The worst part is Pedro sold all his pain and ambition without that. It was unnecessary but they could’ve at least weaved it in so much less hamfistedly. Pedro does so much with so few lines week to week on The Mandalorian we know he would’ve nailed it.

Pete: There was also such little interaction between him and his son (I don’t even remember his name!) I originally thought he was nonverbal, which could have had something meaningful to it, but nope! They just didn’t bother to give him many lines. 

Kristin Wiig as Barbara Ann Minerva (aka Cheetah)
Pete: In two and a half hours, to have this little connection between Diana and Barbara Ann seems just … impossible.

Belle: I can name on my hand the few people who know all facets of Diana, and Barbara Ann is one of them, which is why her becoming Cheetah and their complicated AF relationship is one of my favorite ones to explore.

Pete: That was the biggest flaw for me: Too much unnecessary Steve, instead of having Diana and Barbara Ann’s relationship as the focus. The two of them partnering more on unearthing the secrets of the stone would play into Barbara Ann’s legitimacy as a scientist and researcher, and also make us feel like this was a real friendship, something that then makes it hard when they split factions. It means her betrayal would feel more painful – harder for Diana. 

Belle:  Exactly, Barbara Ann is basically one of Diana’s best friends outside of the military/superhero world which is what makes her fall so upsetting. I was really expecting to see more research. As my mom said as we watched, ‘Steve showing just derailed everything,’ and that’s my biggest takeaway. They could’ve given us the complexities of that relationship on screen with Diana and Barbara Ann and didn’t.

Pete: And you know, I am not always much of a Kristen Wiig fan, but she nailed that character and deserved way more time. Her casting was perfect, and yet we spent so little time with her. 

Belle: I effing loved her as Barbara. She was the perfect mix of pretty, awkward and smart that IRL would have made here a weirdo, because let’s be real: a girl that smart, despite how pretty she is, would’ve been rejected due to being smarter than everyone else.
I almost wish they’d gone with the storyline from the Rucka run where Diana wanted to be able to go home so badly that she basically wished it into existence and it turned out to be a lie. That would’ve made more sense, played into a storyline that directly impacted Barbara Ann, as the fallout from that lie was Barbara Ann ending up with the Cheetah curse and it would’ve played into the Maxwell Lord thing.

Pete: Now that would have brought us back to some great Themyscira scenes. 

Pete: Now, beyond the humor and the few moments we got with Barbara Ann, I also loved everything about Themyscira; I loved bringing back baby Diana, she was such a believably fearless and funny kid…

Lilly Aspell as Princess Diana
Belle: Same actress [as the first movie] by the way and she’s awesome, she’s going to have a big career ahead of her.

Pete: I still laugh in the first one when Diana gets caught falling and is like, ‘Hello mother! How are you today?’

Belle: I legit cackle at that scene every time because…it’s me.

Pete: I also loved seeing Patty Jenkins’ Amazons vs Whedon and Snyder’s.

Belle: You mean dressed? 

Pete: …Yes.
However, outside those action sequences, none of the other action/ fight scenes had the weight or impact I was hoping for. I’m not even sure why. All the wire work? In the first movie she is beating tanks apart and it all feels so weighty, especially the No Man’s Land scene. Not all the swinging on magic lassos and conveniently placed cables and wires. Here, her lasso started to be more like Doctor Strange’s cape. It was just overused a lot. Diana can do some amazing and visually believable things without it. It became a crutch, in my opinion.

Belle: Oh, I did not like the last fight between Barbara and Diana at all. It looked so fake the same way that the fight between Erik and T’Challa looked fake in BP. How come the Arrowverse/Netflix MCU can give us believable fight scenes with superpowers involved but the movies can’t figure it out?

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Pete: My biggest worry when I saw the trailer for this movie was how are they going to make this work, without pissing everyone off that we are resurrecting Steve. My original guess was that the trailer was there to make us feel like he was a bigger part than he was, and that Barbara was going to be the focus. Wrong! In WW84, we get this fish out of water side-story that completely takes over, even though we know it won’t last.
Steve was originally the character who understands the world, and in the first WW that was needed.
One of the best things about Diana in her best written stories is that she is flawed. Batman is the world’s biggest Mary Sue and Superman is literally just a Swiss Army knife of powers with this unwavering moral compass and is often less exciting as a result. Diana has all these powers, but then all of these other human traits. And she has sometimes an irrationality that we can all relate to. She’s human. 
Having Steve in the first movie allowed her to feel despair, and for us to see her almost ready to give up. He’s able to teach her what little she needs, to learn and understand the new world, and his reward is a heroic and useful death. 

Belle: Despite Steve’s appearance overtaking everything I will say one thing I did love was that Diana still doesn’t know all that she can do. She’s still learning. She’s not Clark, who when written right is amazing but, as you said, can be really boring. Diana was super sheltered because Hippolyta knew the minute she started using her full abilities it would be a giant signal to Ares so I like that she still doesn’t realize she can do magic and fly.
We’re learning with her which means she’s going to get her ass handed to her when Circe shows up. I also liked that Barbara Ann was the first time she went toe-to-toe with someone just as physically strong as her and it showed: Diana got the brakes beat off her.

Pete: I do feel like she could have, in 50 years have tried to make more things turn invisible than a coffee cup, but there was some thought and logic to why she had that power.
Plus, dammit, I so understand the temptation to use Steve, because the two of them together are so funny.

Belle: Well, the reason she stopped trying to make things invisible was that she kept losing things. Which tickled me beyond the telling of it for some reason. And I agree, I get why they wanted to tap the well of the Steve/Diana dynamic as this was honestly my favorite exchange in the whole film: 
“I forgot about radar.”
Well Shite Diana!”
Everyone in this house started laughing so hard we had to stop the movie.

The Really Bad
Belle: Okay, we need to talk about the consent issues in this movie. Diana basically raping that poor dude then, the next day, going, “We should find out how you’re back Steve.”
I mean, they make it clear that she saw the ‘Handsome Man’ and not Steve initially so it was a choice to ignore that afterwards.

Pete: Yeah, and to not wonder what happened to the guy who used to be in that body.

Belle: Exactly. If it was Clark Kent banging some poor woman because Lois Lane’s spirit had taken over her body everyone would lose their effing minds, and rightfully so.
This is something we’ve talked about before: Having a female character do the same problematic shite as a male character isn’t feminism. It’s just gross.
It’s weird they softened Maxwell Lord and Cheetah’s backstory, but then made Diana just ignore problematic shite until it was almost too late.
I guess that was the point? We see both Antiope and Hippolyta tell her repeatedly that shortcuts don’t work and it goes in one ear and out the other until it almost ends the damn world. That’s how I interpreted it anyway.

Pete: The fact that we’re not sure is the problem. There were a million little things that just didn’t make sense to me or were just dropped. I didn’t like that at no point did anyone act surprised that wishes were being granted.

Belle: I think people weren’t realizing it until they got what they wanted and it went horribly wrong. 

Pete: Point, but still with Diana, no one seemed surprised by her – existing. Not Barbara Ann, not Maxwell. We go through the trouble of having her operate “secretly” – at least knocking out cameras and then no follow through. There’s a lot of dropped points in this movie. 

Speaking of which, how are there no iconic 80s songs in this film. You could have gone straight New Wave (even round it out with music by modern synthwave artists), 80’s college radio, or even the Reaganomics pop we’ve heard a million times over. Yet the music was so absent in this film. They even seemed embarrassed to use her own established theme! What the hell?

Final Thoughts
Belle:  I don’t know man. The third movie has already been announced and I’m not feeling it. This was their opportunity to give us Loki (Barbara Ann) and Zemo (Maxwell): the breakout villain who is just so badass and funny yet genuinely in pain that you’re actually rooting for them or the one whose motivations are so rooted in loss and heartbreak that we fully understand. Instead we’ve wasted two amazing actors, who gave fantastic performances but were undercut by bad writing and pacing. It does not leave me feeling hope for what’s to come. 

Pete: I think even Patty Jenkins herself said that a female superhero movie has far more people expecting it to fail, so that people have an excuse to discount the whole genre. The success of the first film shut a lot of people’s mouths. That’s why this one is just a bummer. There’s a good story here and it somehow didn’t get told. Still, I was here for Thor: Ragnarok after The Dark World, and kept coming back for every Iron Man movie. It would take a lot for me to be checked out for a third Wonder Woman; I’m just hoping we get an actual  Wonder Woman movie with Diana at the center next time.

3.5 Cheetahs out of 5

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