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The One Scene that Breaks Wonder Woman 1984

It’s good that Wonder Woman 1984 premiered on streaming because it’s the type of movie you have to get up and walk around during.

At two and a half hours, any movie is bound to have a few contradictions and moments that strain logic. But Wonder Woman 1984 manages to cram an entire film’s worth of those problems into a single scene. And it’s enough to break the entire thing.

You’ve probably heard about some of Wonder Woman 1984’s larger issues. Our strong female protagonist spends the first part of the movie pining over the man she loved who’s been dead since World War I. The entire film is based around a magic stone that grants wishes. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) wishes to resurrect her one true love, pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), which results in him possessing the body of an innocent man.

All that is concerning enough. But then the film’s incongruities become too much to hand wave away. It’s a scene so full of logical and thematic missteps that the already bloated film collapses under its own weight. And for that reason it deserves analysis. Because damn is it effectively baffling.

Coming in around a third of the way through the movie, Wonder Woman and the newly reborn Trevor realize that antagonist Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) has gained control of the mystical, wish-granting stone and traveled to Cairo to continue carrying out his evil plot.

Sidenote: Pascal is incredible as the film’s villain. Taking an opportunity to go big after his understated performance in The Mandalorian, Pascal really plays to the folks in the cheap seats. For an overly long film that drags in many places, he always manages to hold your attention.

So Wonder Woman uses her museum credentials to break into an aviation exhibit where she and Trevor commandeer a fighter jet, which is inexplicably fueled and ready to go. That’s not believability shattering. And you can probably also look past the unlikelihood that a fighter jet can travel all the way from Washington, D.C. to Cairo. I’m not a pilot, so sure, I’m still on board.

Speaking of pilots, the next step of Wonder Woman’s plan is for Trevor to fly them to Egypt. This is a man who hasn’t even been alive since World War I, never mind flown an aircraft. But Trevor is confident in his abilities. After flipping a few switches, we have liftoff.

Trevor says there’s no way anyone will be able to follow after them, but then Wonder Woman remembers that radar tracking exists. Meanwhile, we see local airspace officials rushing to pursue the stolen jet.

Realizing they are short on time, Wonder Woman remembers that she once used her godlike powers to turn a coffee cup invisible. After a brief wave of the hand, Wonder Woman cloaks the entire jet in invisibility. The unseeable jet disappears from all radars, which isn’t how radars work.

Of course, this is a bit of fan service. We all know Wonder Woman famously flies an invisible aircraft. That character trait dates back to her earliest appearance. But as a function of the narrative, this new ability to make things invisible goes nowhere. It’s not set up beforehand and doesn’t pay off later. This is the only time Wonder Woman uses what I’d say is a pretty useful ability.

Heroes spontaneously gaining new, incredibly convenient powers is a bit of a throwback to long-gone eras of comics. Hell, Superman once gained the ability to shoot little Supermans from his hands. Stuff like this doesn’t really break a character, except when it’s surrounded by so much other nonsense that it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief.

But we’re not done yet. The scene in question manages to squeeze in one last mind breaker.

Having narrowly evaded authorities in a stolen jet, on their way to apprehend a megalomaniac who possesses an item of unlimited power, Wonder Woman and Trevor take a brief detour before going to save the world.

Our couple notices a firework show over D.C. Trevor diverts from his flightpath, and the two marvel as they fly amongst the pyrotechnics.

While visually stunning, this final moment robs all urgency and tension from the movie. It tells the viewer that there is no real threat to worry about. We have plenty of time to stop and take in the scenery.

Or, and perhaps even more gravely, it tells the viewer, “Your heroes can’t be bothered to care about saving the world at this very moment.” This isn’t something you want in your big, superhero movie about sacrifice and truth and justice.

But that really speaks to the film’s larger problems with its protagonist. Wonder Woman lacks any of the agency or self-assuredness she displayed in the first film, which proved so compelling. Instead she’s just idling away—pining over a dead man.

A large part of this sequel is Wonder Woman learning to move past her feelings for Trevor, but the filmmakers failed to give their main character any, well, character beyond that. She just comes across as an afterthought in her own movie.

While it’s the jet that Wonder Woman manages to turn invisible, she’s the one who ultimately disappears.

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Dustin Waters is a writer from Macon, Ga, currently living in D.C. After years as a beat reporter in the Lowcountry, he now focuses his time on historical oddities, trashy movies, and the merits of professional wrestling.

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