Thursday, March 18, 2021

Max Lord: From Chaos to Reason

You don't need me to tell you that Wonder Woman 1984 is a bad movie. By now I bet most of you have either watched it, or seen a million takes from every internet film reviewer desperate due to lack of superhero movies, laughed at how silly and bad it is, and then forgot about it entirely. But not me.

WW84 is one of those films that leaves you with a lot of questions (in the bad way) such as: Why did Kristen Wiig become a Cheetah lady? What was the point of the golden armor? Why were the questionable ethics of the body-swap thing with Steve Trevor never really addressed? What's the deal with Max Lord?

The latter question has plagued me for months. Superhero movies are usually pretty simple with regard to their villains. Pick a random Marvel movie out of a hat and you'll find a boring one-note villain that exists just be be an obstacle for our hero. And the weird part is, I'm usually the first person to complain about that, but it does confer one big advantage: It's easy to understand. I'm not at all confused by Ronin in Guardians of the Galaxy. He's evil, he explodes at the end, I don't need to know anything else. So what's the deal with Wonder Woman?

The main(?) villain of Wonder Woman 1984 is Max Lord, and it's pretty apparent from the outset that he's supposed to be Trump. I don't think I'm breaking new ground here. He presents as wealthy, while actually in horrible debt, he responds to accusations that he's a con-man by claiming to be a "television personality." The final scene of the film is Lord ranting like a lunatic in front of the Presidential seal while broadcasting all over the world. He even changed his ethnic-sounding name (Lorenzano, Drumpf) to something plain and triumphant (Lord, Trump). It isn't subtle. But it had me asking: Why? What are they saying with this?

It came to me like a bolt from the blue. If we start with the obvious, that is, that Max Lord is Trump, the plot of the movie starts to come together. By becoming a wish-granting man, Max is able to take something from anyone uses him to grant a wish. He exploits these wishes, working his way up from failing oil magnate. Is there a goal in mind? Of course not! In a normal superhero flick, the villain always has a clear objective for the hero to stop, which made this confusing on first watch. But the answer lies in the typical Centrist position on Trump; the proverbial dog chasing cars, amassing power by utilizing other peoples' short-sighted desires just to have it.

So Max Lord works his way up to the President, getting access to some satellite thingy where the aforementioned ranting takes place. This is pretty clearly Trump becoming the actual President, what with his many rambling press conferences and announcements. It whips everyone who receives the broadcast into a wishmaking frenzy, causing chaos, riots, and imminent nuclear annihilation. None of this is particularly revelatory, I know. But the whole situation is resolved when Wonder Woman shows up to speak some goddamn reason into these selfish impulsive wishmakers.

And they all just... do it. Once Wonder Woman makes her long, exhaustive, platitude-laden speech, everyone just listens to reason and undoes their wishes. Max himself decides it was all a bad idea and runs off to his poor sad son. And somehow, miraculously, everything is better after. The whole event was shrugged off, nobody even bothering the remember that one time where a crazy man on the teevee granted everyone's wishes but also it was bad and the world almost ended. Lord got off scot-free, he wasn't apprehended by anyone, he just went off with his son never to be heard from again.

Now, going by superhero movie logic, this makes no sense. Usually the villain is killed by their own failure, or at the very least ends up in jail. They don't just get to go free. But with the framework we've observed, it starts to make sense. Within the analogy this film creates, once Trump is out of power, everything will just go back to normal. It espouses the Bidenesque notion that the forces harnessed and exploited by Trump and his associates will just evaporate once he's no longer in power. Trump himself doesn't need to be punished, you can just let him go.

It makes no sense in the movie because it makes no sense in real life. This naive fantasy (even for a superhero movie) that we could all move past this era of history without doing anything to address the issues that arose is the whole point of the movie. Almost killed everyone with nukes? Forget about it! A sizeable portion of the population has desperate desires which would lead to an end of life as we know it? That don't matter, everything is instantly back to normal! Orange Man gone!

So that's it. Woman Woman 1984 is a mess of a movie because it relies on an erroneous assumption about how reality works. Superhero movies may be facile and simple, but at least we know who the bad guy is, why he is bad, and why he should be stopped. And now I can rest easy that I've deciphered this tangled headphone cord of a film.

Wait, why is he a POC? GOD DAMMIT