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The Very Emotional Reason I Liked Wonder Woman 1984: It Brought Me Back To The Theatres.

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The day was March 11, 2020, pre-COVID. Well, at least for India. This was before we’d lost Rishi Kapoor, Irrfan or Sushant. It was my birthday week, and I was on a week-long leave from work. I was invited for a special press screening of Angrezi Medium, a film that wasn’t as good as its predecessor, but emotional for a different reason. We didn’t know we’d lose Irrfan Khan so soon after. And little did we know that for many, like me, this would be the last time they’d be watching films in a theatre for the foreseeable future. Luckily, cinema halls are now open with film like Tenet, Indoo Ki Jawani and Wonder Woman 1984. But it wasn’t until Christmas 2020, when I walked into the IMAX screen for the first time in forever for WW84, directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal and Chris Pine, that I realised how emotional the moment was.

 

 

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What finally prompted me to step into a cinema hall?

I’d heard from other friends how theatre staff would walk up to them, early birds who rushed to catch a film the very next day that cinema halls opened with 50% capacity, to thank them for saving their jobs. We’d all struggle so much with furloughs and lay-offs and pay cuts, and there really wasn’t much I could do to help my own situation, forget anyone else’s. But if my going to the theatre, after maintaining all necessary precautions of course, could help in some teeny tiny way, to restore the livelihoods of a certain section of people, I wanted to help. I mean, I’d already been to on a weekend getaway, multiple trips to the salon, even eaten out at restaurants. I was sure that movie watching could also be turned into a safe experience as long as we adhered to the rules.

The second, and equally important, reason was that to me, it was a clear case of women supporting women! Wonder Woman 1984 is directed by Patty Jenkins, and stars two talented female actors, Gal Gadot and Kristen Wiig. When I read about how Jenkins had to actually fight to get paid a salary that was worthy of someone who had previously given a blockbuster with the first Wonder Woman film, I felt it my duty to show my solidarity with her. These past couple of years have seen a stellar rise in women-centric stories that are shattering records, illusions, stereotypes, the works. 2020 especially has done a phenomenal job, through OTT platforms, of bringing us some quality content about women, by women.

Naturally, if I had to return to the theatres, then a film about a female superhero who finds her bearings again in an apocalyptic world seemed like the perfect film to do it for!

And finally, there was no way in hell I was missing a chance to watch Diana Prince in her golden armour and Hanz Zimmer’s amped up WW84 score in anything other than in the full IMAX shindig!

What was the experience of returning to the theatres like?

It was Christmas Day, and I, along with my brother and cousin sister, were up to some fancy shenanigans. We had a lovely Christmas brunch and then proceeded to and IMAX screen in a nearby mall for Wonder Woman 1984. The mall was choc-a-bloc with crowd, no different than festive season any other year. It got me a little tensed. But the moment we reached the theatre’s ante-chamber, you could see things were different and more disciplined.

After asking us for our digital ticket that we had booked online, the security asked us for the Aarogya Setu app. Since we were all from one family, only one person showing the app on their phone was enough. Next, we were asked to make use of the sanitiser dispenser, before we proceeded to get frisked for our security and bag checks. The queue was maintained with adequate social distance, and everyone had their masks on at all times.

That is the golden rule. No matter where you are, the mask has to stay on. And to ensure that this rule is followed inside the auditoriums also, no food or beverage, (yes, not even water) was to be allowed inside. So our fellow cinema-goers were getting their fill in the foyer itself. There were sanitiser dispensers everywhere so there was no way to avoid keeping yourself clean. We three—me, my brother and cousin—took in the whole atmosphere, and finished all the drinking and discharging business before we stepped into the auditorium.

Image owned by the author.

I swear I could hear the K3G title track playing as I walked into those familiar surroundings. It smelt different; gone was the smell of freshly-popped caramel popcorn, which is hands down my favourite thing about theatres. There wasn’t too much cackle, nor the comings and goings of people to disturb you once you’re seated. All because there was no possibility of eating or drinking inside the audi.

The seating was alternate, so every other seat was cordoned off with a yellow tape. Everybody followed the rules, and kept their masks on at all times, which was quite reassuring. Of course, we clicked pictures, because what else is there to do?

Image owned by the author.

That was until the trailers began playing. Watching the James Bond No Time To Die trailer on an IMAX screen, and knowing that it’s going to be a whole year before we get to watch Daniel Craig’s swan song hurt in so many ways, I cannot tell you. There was also a Sooryavanshi trailer, and I was instantly transported to the start of the year, when I was positive I’d finally score a chance to interview Ranveer Singh for it and 83, which were supposed to release this year. Naïve! And then, the Fast & Furious 9 trailer played, and that all my feels were perfectly warmed up. Watching those stunts on the big screen made me feel these bittersweet pangs about all that this year had stolen from us.

Finally, it was time for Wonder Woman 1984.

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How was Wonder Woman 1984?

Is it weird that I have two answers for this one simple question? I mean, I could have one, and I could let it be influenced by the emotional state I was in from returning to the cinema hall and watching a film on the big screen after nine whole months. But I also review films for a living, so I decided we’d do a separation of church and state for this one.

Wonder Woman 1984, simply put, isn’t as incredible and wondrous as the first film. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, like the technical brilliance at display. The opening sequence, though tad longer than it needed to be, is spectacular. I even love Diana’s entrance as Wonder Woman in the mall sequence where she brings four robbers to boot, while humouring a little girl. And obviously the action sequences and visual effects are all pulled off quite well. Even when it comes to performances, Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord and Kristen Wiig as Cheetah are competent nemesis for Wonder Woman, mostly because she is still not completely healed from losing her one true love, Steve Trevor, and that has somehow impaired her judgement for a split second there.

As for Gal Gadot, I don’t know if she’s more stunning in her Wonder Woman suit or when she’s dressed normally as Diana. I could watch hours and hours of footage of her and the gorgeous blue-eyed Chris Pine walk hand-in-hand all over Washington, D.C., throwing their heads back and laughing or putting up a fashion show full of 80s outfits.

But despite all its heart, Wonder Woman feels a little incomplete of sorts. And a major reason for that is the utter lack of of high stakes, urgency, jeopardy, 80s music and pop-culture and, well, not enough Wonder Woman. Every plot point feels too easy and resolved too fast. The magic rock grants powers too easily; Maxwell Lord gains access to it too easily, Barbara’s warmth towards Diana turns to hatred too easily. And Diana accepts that her dead boyfriend has possessed the body of a stranger without his consent… too easily. We barely get enough of Cheetah, or explore her descend into unbridled animalistic rage. There’s just one scene, where she beats up a drunk harasser, that comes close to it, and even that’s over before the brilliant Wiig can show us what we know she’s got.

There’s not enough fight, not enough adrenaline, and not enough hair-raising, goosebumps-inducing moments. And that’s saying something when you’ve got Hans Zimmer scoring your film.

And yet, I enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984 because….

There’s a reason theatres endure and will continue to endure for a long, long time, despite OTT and digital releases. There’s a certain magic that activates when you watch a movie on the big screen. Watching Themyscira, in all its azure blue and golden sand glory, come alive on the big screen, was something else entirely! The scene where Diana cloaks their aircraft and Steve flies it right through the fireworks… there is no way you watch that scene on the big screen and feel awed by it.

Wonder Woman 1984’s wonder, for me, was the experience of watching it in the theatre, after months of watching everything on the small screen. But even with half a theatre full of people, I had hoped the film would give us moments to clap our cheer loudly about. That was truly missed.

Verdict

Wonder Woman 1984 has a good heart, even if it doesn’t pack the punch we were all hoping for. And that’s why, if you’re considering returning to the theatres for a movie, I suggest go ahead and take this one for a spin. As long as you keep your mask on, and sanitise your hands at regular intervals, you’ll be good!

PS: There’s a mid-credits scene you shouldn’t miss!

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