Wonder Woman 1984 Commentary

DISCLAIMER: Contains spoiler contents. Read at your own risk.

After watching the sequel of Wonder Woman, it occurred to me that there may be a double meaning behind its release on Christmas day.

Christmas is known as the day where we receive the gifts we wish for.
Wonder Woman 1984 tells us, as its underlying theme, to be careful what we wish for.

A socially inept geologist and crypto-zoologist Dr. Barbara Minerva begins working at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. She then meets Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) at the Institute, and the two formed a friendship. Barbara Minerva’s character exemplifies someone who, though, accomplished, suffers from low-esteem and regard for one’s self. Minerva recognizes in Diana Prince a person who is highly respectable and has a balanced regard for one’s self. The friendship left Dr. Minerva admiring Diana Prince for those qualities, to the point of coveting to be like Diana Prince herself. The admiration came to a turn when Diana Prince rescues Dr. Minerva from an assault at a park late at night. The attack probably made Dr. Minerva feel that she could not even protect her own self, thus affirming her poor esteem of herself even more. It is in that tormenting low esteem that she wishes to be like Diana who is, “strong”, “bright”, and “powerful”. Slowly but surely, she discovers that her wish was granted.

Meanwhile, the plot of the movie unfolds through Maxwell Lorenzano (Max Lord), a failing entrepreneur, famous for TV infomercials across the city but desperate to save his company, Black Gold Cooperative. He plans on salvaging his company and perceived personal worth by pursuing to take a mystical artifact that Dr. Minerva and Diana Prince have discovered. Max Lord visited the Institute and found his way to snatch the artifact by manipulating Dr. Minerva. The artifact, it turns out, enables one’s wish to be granted. It granted Max Lord’s wish, which is to become the artifact himself. Soon enough, his wishes were granted, one after another. Soon enough, other people came to him with their wishes, which were all granted.

As Dr. Minerva begins to experience her own wish granted, we see in the movie that her character begins to change. She has slowly overcome her insecurities and low self-esteem, yet at a grim cost.

Max Lord destroyed people not by killing them, but by granting their wishes. It’s not that all wishes are bad; the movie showed that if our wishes were to be automatically granted, then we have to be really cautious about what they would be. People have come to see Max Lord to grant them their wish, and most of them asked for “peace”. Yet, they wanted peace by having certain people dead. Some wanted power to ruin other people.

Max Lord became a hideous villain in the movie. Yet, it’s interesting he never laid hands on others to kill them. He was a hideous villain simply by being a friend to them, granting them their wishes that will soon destroy them.

Yes, our wishes can possibly destroy us, and the worst part is that they do so without us even becoming aware of it.

Some people wish for self-significance. It is granted to them. Eventually, they become blinded by that wish and destroy themselves by being a prey to others.

Some people, as Dr. Minerva in the movie characterized, wished for power. It was granted to her and held on to it so desperately. She felt threatened by any possible way of her wish being undone, including the option of unmaking Max Lord who she believes became the source of her wish. She held on to that wish all the way to the end, even if it led her to her own ruin (it was left ambiguous whether she actually retracted her wish or not). The point of the matter is that sometimes we are not fully aware of what we wish for.

It’s more important to understand why wish for something than to know what we wish for. Understanding why we wish what we want to wish is a reflection of what is truly going on with ourselves. At some point in the movie, Wonder Woman came to an understanding of why she wanted to have Steve back. It wasn’t wrong to have Steve – the love of her life – back in her life, but she eventually realized that there are more important things than pursuing our wishes and holding on to them. The more important thing is striving to be our best which often involves letting go of something. The moment in the movie when she let go of Steve was when we first truly saw Wonder Woman in the movie.

Heroes understand that being a hero involves letting something go—perhaps a past, an insecurity, a resentment, or anything that can hold them back. The final battle scene was subtle in that Wonder Woman was, in fact, helping Dr. Minerva to let go rather than beating her. It was Dr. Minerva who beat herself to her own ruin. She held on to it because she was afraid of coming back to who she thinks she used to be. At the deepest level, she hates herself, particularly the way she thinks she is. It is precisely the loath to one’s self that makes people turn into villains.

There was no battle scene between Wonder Woman and Max Lord. Max Lord eventually had a change of heart, which actually made him a hero of his own self at the end.

The beauty of this movie is that it made an elegant contrast between the hero and the villain: the hero was Wonder Woman who decided to let go of her wish and the villain was Dr. Minerva who held on to her wish up until her ruin.

Wonder Woman 1984 illustrated that the best gift we give to ourselves is letting go, and it is by letting go that allows us to understand what we truly want to wish for.

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