Wonder Woman 1984 & The Mandalorian

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Many times during my life as a blogger I have looked in the mirror and asked myself, “have I degenerated into a pure troll at this point? Has it become my default response to just hate everything?” And I have often struggled with the answers to these questions, particularly so in more recent years.

But in just the last couple of weeks, I have had my faith restored. I can honestly say I am no troll and no, I don’t just automatically hate everything.

The first thing I didn’t hate in the past couple of weeks was Wonder Woman 1984.

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Ever go see a movie with someone and when you walk out of the theater together and share your opinions, it feels like you were each watching a different movie somehow? This was kinda my experience with this movie, even though I watched it alone in my living room.

I had avoided reviews prior to watching it as I wanted to avoid spoilers, so when I went back and read some of those reviews I found myself a bit surprised. People are so overwhelmingly negative about this film—we’re talking some serious vitriol here—and I’m not sure why. Was this a great film? No. But it certainly wasn’t offensively bad. And in the context of modern superhero films, it’s certainly better than anything Zack Snyder has ever done; better than Endgame; I’d say it’s even better than Marvel’s Captain Marvel.

As mentioned, the film is flawed. They don’t really tell us much about Diana’s place in the world of 1984, nor did they explain what she had been up to during the seven decades between this film and the last one. Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah/Barbara Minerva feels a bit all over the place. The revival/resurrection of Steve Trevor is clunky and problematic, and the Dreamstone is the MacGuffinest of MacGuffins. But the reunion with Trevor is emotional and his loss (again) even moreso. So in this regard, the film did its job. And the plot required Diana to make a selfless and noble sacrifice, like a true hero, which is why it’s light years ahead of Endgame. I also feel like I know this character (Diana/Wonder Woman) and can sympathize with her much more than Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel, who struck me as a complete cipher.

Plus it gets mucho bonus points for that cameo in the end credits.

Then there was this other thing that I not only didn’t hate, but actively loved.

Mando

I touched on The Mandolorian just over a week ago but have been catching up on more articles and fan reactions since then. Because I desperately want to avoid spoilers for this masterpiece, I’m going to serve up another dose of spoiler space. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

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While I didn’t weep at the reveal of Luke Skywalker at the end of that final episode, I still came damn close to doing so. As I touched upon in that aforementioned post, I loved this about as much as I have ever loved any movie or TV show before. And it came at the perfect time, a time when I was beginning to wonder if I was even capable of feeling love or joy ever again. I have a heart. I am not a troll.

But just because I am not a troll doesn’t mean there aren’t other trolls out there. In fact there are a handful of sick, twisted souls prowling the interwebs that didn’t like this. Their chief complaint would appear to be that Luke’s appearance was “fan service.” Allow me to explain why they’re wrong.

Every writer strives to touch their audience on the deepest possible level. Every artist dreams of creating something so powerful it moves people to tears. So in writing terms, if you can accomplish this while making story sense and character sense, putting in the work with everything being well set up, that would be what’s known as good writing. Now if it doesn’t make story or character sense, if you haven’t put in the work and none of it is properly built and you just toss a scene or a character into your story gratuitously, for the sole purpose of giving your audience what you think they want, that’s fan service.

The appearance of Luke Skywalker at the end of the last season of The Mandalorian was not fan service. In hindsight you can see that nearly everything they gave us this season, particularly from the Ahsoka episode (#5, Chapter 13) on down was building toward the arrival of Luke Skywalker. She directs Mando to the planet Tython, where Grogu can use the Seeing Stone there to contact another Jedi through the Force. When the child does so (episode #6, Chapter 14), there aren’t many other jedi around besides Luke to potentially answer his call. As the series is set five years after Return of the Jedi and we know from Star Wars lore that Luke would go on to train a new generation of Jedi after this film, it comes to make even more sense. The build is there; they did the work; it all makes perfect sense.

Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni, and all the creative staff on this show have a hell of a lot to be proud of. It takes real creative talent to touch your audience this deeply.

When you’ve got people applauding from their couches at home and shouting out loud and crying, you’ve really done something.

For the younger folk out there wondering how us old timers could all be so moved by this, allow me to explain.

Having Luke Skywalker show up would have been amazing enough on its own, but this is so much more than that. This is Mark friggin’ Hamill. This is our Luke Skywalker—the Luke we left back in 1983 with no expectation of ever, ever seeing again. This felt like living a miracle, like traveling in an actual time machine and getting our childhoods back. It’s like learning there is no Santa Claus as a child and then being forced to grow up and live a dreary, adult existence for the next four decades and then… psyche! Just kidding! There really is a Santa Claus and here he is, standing in front of the Christmas tree, ho-ho-ho-ing with a sack full of presents for you.

I never dreamed I’d feel such joy ever again in this life. I was a child again and kinda still am. The glow will fade eventually, I’m sure, but even when it does it will be comforting to know that the kid is still there inside me and just might find his way out again someday.

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