Storytelling Breakdown Blog Entry 033

WonderVision And The Hard Questions Of Some Of The Last Year’s Superhero Content – By Ben Clemmer.

SPOILER ALERT for Wonder Woman 1984, WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan.  

Feelings about Wonder Woman 1984 were mixed. The positives included Gal Gadot’s continued excellence as the title character. I enjoy most everything Pedro Pascal touches and it was great to see Chris Pine reprising his role as Steve Trevor.

That said, many issues were found with the story of the film and some of the implications that went unexplored. Yes, I am talking about the fact that Wonder Woman’s wish seemingly hijacks the body of another person in order to return Steve Trevor to life. That was a hard detail to overlook and on some level it feels like it could have been avoided if the decision had just been made to use space.

What do I mean by that?

In Wonder Woman 1984, Diana has her own apartment. Suppose the first act establishes that there is an apartment across from hers on the same floor that is currently vacant. Then after she’s made her wish, she could meet her new neighbor and old love interest, Steve Trevor. The plot can continue without the stumbling block a lot of people struggled to get around. Or at some point, maybe Wonder Woman will appear in a film where she’s actually gotten over the loss of Steve Trevor. That works too.

Anyway, in past blogs I’ve highlighted how Marvel has outperformed DC in a number of areas when it comes to bringing their entire universe to film. Not only have their characterizations been stronger and their continuity easier to follow, but they’ve also handled themes better. This was quite apparent with WandaVision. A grieving, powerful female lead uses magic to bring back a man she’s loved and has to grapple with the consequences of making that choice. Wonder Woman 1984 did it. WandaVision did it better. We see who is impacted by Wanda’s decisions and questions are answered in the show that Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t even bother to ask.

Have the MCU shows been perfect? No. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did a lot of things really well. The question of what it means to replace Captain America was well explored. Bucky’s atonement, Sam’s reluctance, and Walker’s dark side were all phenomenal elements of the show. The show also addressed race in a time and place where it couldn’t afford to ignore it. Most who criticized the show found one key weakness, the plot of the villain(s).

I didn’t find myself really caring about the Flag Smashers, which in itself is a problem, but my biggest issue with the show came in its closing moments. Anytime a hero has to give a speech, it’s hard to avoid heavy handed preaching to the audience and other characters. The conclusion where the Global Repatriation Council decides to change course didn’t sit right with me because I’ve read Ex Machina. In the fifth trade collection from the series called Smoke Smoke, a woman sets herself on fire in protest of drug laws in New York City. Once it’s revealed why she did it and that the mayor was partially responsible for the events that led to her death, he wants to fight to change the city’s laws. His deputy mayor talks him out of it, because if they change course now, then everyone with a cause crazy enough to try lighting themselves on fire will do it.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier arguably put itself in a no-win-scenario. We can see why the Flag Smashers are doing what they are doing, but even a small victory rewards the extremes they’ve gone to. Ex Machina did a better job of dissecting a very similar question. Those in power know they need to course correct, but enough distance is put between the cause and the effect to prevent future acts of violence.

All of this hits on a much broader concept that has fueled superhero mythology for almost a century. We don’t love these stories because the protagonists can accomplish great feats. Rather, they help us to grow when we see them struggle or make mistakes, learn, and try to do better.

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