One of the most expensive Hollywood blockbusters of 2020 is likely to be “Wonder Woman 1984”, the lavish, two-and-a-half hour continuation of the superhero story about an Amazon from the DC comic universe who lived in the 20th century, including Batman and Superman, but they do not appear here. The estimated $ 200 million film was due to hit theaters last spring. The start was postponed several times due to the corona. There is a clear allusion to Donald Trump in the film. Because the villain in the story called Maxwell Lord, a rather unsuccessful entrepreneur and blender with a strange yellowish hairstyle, who cleverly portrayed himself as a TV celebrity in the 1980s, tries to conquer the world and uses it at some point in the course of the film including the White House media outlets. In this respect, “Wonder Woman 1984” could actually have been broad-based support against Donald Trump in the run-up to the US presidential election. In the USA, the film was finally released at Christmas time and was shown at the same time by the streaming provider HBO Max, which has not yet had a branch in this country.
Since the cinemas in Germany are still closed – and the box office results of the expensive film are still well below its production costs – it will be shown here as a stream on Sky Ticket from today before the planned cinema release. “Wonder Woman 1984” is a good example of the fact that superhero stories are currently booming and the studios are investing huge sums in these films, but that it is no longer enough to simply play down another adventure from this genre. Of course, “Wonder Woman 1984” also has the usual superhero business with burglar and robber hunts in the sense of a rather flat law-and-order logic. But what defines the sought-after cult character of the film is the Trump criticism as well as the film’s 1980s vintage retro style, including the associated pop music, such as the songs by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. In contrast, the comic book competition Marvel shows off in the Avengers film series with a sprawling staff of the best-known and most expensive Hollywood actors.
Of course, “Wonder Woman 1984” with Gal Gadot in the lead role is also cast, Chris Pine plays a pilot and lover of the superhero who has risen from the dead after 70 years, while Rosamund Pike only plays a supporting role for a few minutes Wonder Woman’s mother to see. The villain is very convincingly announced by Pedro Pascal, many from the Netflix series »Narcos« and the Star Wars offshoot »Mandalorian«. Like the previous film, “Wonder Woman 1984” moves on an idiosyncratic genre boundary between superhero history, science fiction and fantasy. On the one hand, there is an artifact, a so-called wish stone, as it would fit in a fairy tale, made thousands of years ago by some nasty prehistoric god who – once touched – fulfills wishes. The wish stone offers the possibility of realizing all material desires, but above all power-political goals. But of course there is a catch. Because with every wish fulfilled, something else is lost.
On the other hand, there is the desire of the characters to want to change something in their life. The film narrative, which is rather conservative at this point, prefers to stage the danger of egotistical abuse of change than to ask about emancipatory possibilities. It’s about the villain Maxwell Lord, who snatches this artifact and from now on not only boosts his business, which is about to go bankrupt, but also causes political chaos on earth, so that at some point even a nuclear war threatens. To prevent this, of course, is the task of the cool superheroine, whose armbands ricochet projectiles, who are not as strong as Superman, but still have enormous powers and even learn to fly in the course of the film. When she’s not saving the world, Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince works in normal life as a senior archaeologist at the renowned Washington Smithsonian Institute. The life of her work colleague, the clumsy Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), like that of Wonder Woman itself, changes with the wishing stone. The otherwise overlooked Barbara can suddenly not only inspire colleagues and friends with her sense of humor, but can also defend herself against intrusive men. Because “Wonder Woman 1984” is also a mainstream film that stages strong female characters in a genre that is mostly still reserved for men.
Even if the current Wonder Woman films convey a rather simple pop-cultural feminism, the emergence of the superhero figure in the 1940s was definitely a minor gender-political revolution. Because there were no female superheroes in the then growing comic industry. With Wonder Woman, the psychologist William Moulton Marston, who taught at the American University in Washington and is the inventor of the lie detector, wanted to develop a strong female figure. Marston saw above all educational potential in the comics and the opportunity to question gender roles for a mass audience and to portray them differently. The fact that the adventures of Wonder Woman, which came from his pen in the first few years, were also linked to SM and bondage fantasies (sadomasochism and bondage) had something to do with Marston’s private life. He had a polyamorous SM relationship with his wife and a student who contributed significantly to the development of the fictional material. The golden lasso of truth, which can also be seen in the current film, one of Wonder Woman’s weapons, is a reference to the lie detector developed by Marston and an expression of bondage practices.
In the current blockbuster, which led to an unprecedented record of illegal downloads shortly after Christmas in the USA, hardly anything can be suspected of this background. “Wonder Woman 1984” is above all mainstream entertainment, but within the superhero genre it clearly stands out from the bellicose and frumpy sexist films by comic book competitor Marvel with its Avengers mega blockbusters. Here, the action is also driven forward by people talking or the everyday culture of the 1980s being staged quite ironically. The Bechdel test, which is supposed to make sexist gender clichés verifiable in films and which asks whether there are two independent female characters who are talking and not talking about a man, does not turn out negative in “Wonder Woman 1984”. Nonetheless, the staged femininity of the title character is above all a projection surface for completely flat male desire. In this respect, “Wonder Woman 1984” is not really a feminist film.
“Wonder Woman 1984”: USA 2020. Director: Patty Jenkins, Script: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham. With Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen. 151 min. First broadcast on February 18. at 8.15 p.m. on Sky Cinema and for streaming on Sky Ticket from 18.2.