Alexandria, VA – The year is 1984. Hair is big. And tall. Aerobics and jogging are the new exercise craze. Spandex is out of control. Women inexplicably desire to have shoulder pads in their blouses and jackets, resembling Joe Theismann and John Riggins at a time when the Washington football team formerly known as the Redskins are a gridiron force to be feared.
Back then, Landmark Mall was an open-air shopping center flanked by Sears to the south, Woodies (Woodward and Lothrop if you didn’t experience the 20th Century) to the west, and Hecht’s (later Macy’s) to the north. Via the magic of Hollywood, the abandoned mall complex, expanded and enclosed in 1990, is reborn – something the Howard Hughes Corporation hasn’t managed to accomplish in over a decade.
Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t open with Landmark, but it upstages the backstory early on in a memorable scene that does a fine job bringing back the mall’s glory days. Longtime locals will rejoice in a recreated 80’s Commander Salamander (the punk gear outfitters) in a relocated location on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, where several cafe and action scenes were also shot.
Locations around DC prove equally diverting: the Capitol, requisite memorials, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History where Diana Prince (having not aged a day since World War I) now works as an archeologist/anthropologist, and that other “Mall” downtown.
Production designer Aline Bonetto staged 65 vacant mall stores at Landmark, resurrecting an 80s vibe in the erstwhile ghost mall, which was built in 1965 and was a going concern until 2017 when all but Sears vacated the space. Macy’s was occupied by residents and staff of the Carpenter’s Shelter while awaiting the new building that opened last month. Talent, crew, and local extras alike reveled in the resurrection of what, for the film, is renamed Southfields Mall. (In Fairfax County!?!)
Star Chris Pine said, “It was just radical! It was like walking back in time.” Co-star Kristen Wiig, who plays the insecure antagonist to Gal Gadot’s unassuming perfection, reminisced upon her teenage years as a Saturday mall rat roaming the corridors with a gaggle of girlfriends. In USA Today, Wiig lamented, “We don’t do that now, for obvious reasons, but it brought back such a lost time.” A time when the shopping mall had thoroughly replaced the American town center.
Regrettably, the film’s production team couldn’t leave the reincarnated Landmark Mall film set intact for the public to tour and locals to wax nostalgic until the film premiered. Awaiting the film’s release has been like waiting for Gadot. Initially scheduled for a blockbuster release in fall 2019, Wonder Woman 1984 was repeatedly pushed back, eventually opening on Christmas Day, screening simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.
As of January 8, 2021, Alexandrians and visitors to Old Town can see the seven-foot-high prop drum emblazoned with the 51-year-old state motto “Virginia Is for Lovers.” There’s a diverting “Wonder Woman in Alexandria” window display at the corner entrance to the Torpedo Factory, 101 North Union at King Street, that’s drawing a lot of attention. In the film, Wonder Woman uses the drum to foil a fleeing felon. The Wonder Woman 1984 window will be on display until February 28.
Wondering now…but how was the flick? The leads were strong and sustained the questionable plot premise: making a wish upon a rock. Okay, so it was a crystal rock. Director/writer Patty Jenkins and co-screenwriters Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham grappled with plot problematics such as how to explain that Chris Pine survived a plane explosion seven decades beforehand. Apparently only Wonder Woman is immortal. But I won’t spoil any of the film’s wondrously wild ride; they figure it out.
Surprisingly the 80’s cultural wink homages are sparse, early on, and unsustained throughout the film. There are moments it reels with so much action, it’s as if Indiana Jones time travels to the Fast in the Furious future. Editing is all in filmmaking. WW84 editor Richard Pearson may have been given the Golden Lasso to make some cuts, but by the end, truth be told, it’s not Wonder Woman 2017. Still, it is a Wonder Woman for 2020, for sure.
Hooray for Hollywood. In a tenuous and unrelentingly uncertain time, Wonder Woman rewrote its encore. A fantastical trip back to the future, parachute pants and fanny packs aside, one last look at Landmark Mall is just the tonic that the final curtain on 2020 warranted. Farewells are not always final, but they are never easy. Wonder Woman 1984 delivers the message that hope prevails, kindness is courage, eleventh-hour conversions are welcome, and love transcends time and space. It also proves that, with the notable exceptions of The Godfather, the Hunger Games, and Pitch Perfect, the sequel is always the lesser film. But who cares?
Alexandria and area businesses will be offering various promotional opportunities until February 28th.
· Captain Gregory’s speakeasy has created a WW84 specialty cocktail called A Deal is a Promise, made with persimmon infused Pisco, Strega, Cynar, and persimmon bitters.
· Elizabeth’s Counter offers the Truth-Teller doughnut: vanilla glaze with red, white, and blue sprinkles adorned with gold and silver stars.
· inq Old Town has Wonder Woman-inspired tattoo designs at five percent off. This business is both woman- and veteran-owned, much like Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot.
· K Street Kettle Korn is selling a red, white, and blue, three-flavor WW84 assortment of America’s favorite gourmet popcorn for $19.84.
· Port City Brewing Company has established Wonder Woman Wednesdays when two six-packs or a variety 12-pack sell for $19.84.
· Vola’s Dockside Grill and High Tide Lounge is serving the Invisible Plane, made with Sauza, Hornitos Tequila, raspberry, ginger, and fresh lime juice.
Self-guided tours of Alexandria movie and TV filming locations, including Broadcast News, Jackie, J. Edgar, Mercy Street, No Way Out, Loving, Random Hearts, and more are available at VisitAlexandriaVA.com/wonderwoman.
Editor’s Note: News of the World starring Tom Hanks, which opened Christmas Day, became available on-demand starting January 15th. If you enjoyed the book, you will love Tom Hanks as Captain Kidd. He’s looking good for award nominations for this role. So what else is new?