Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984
Rating: 1 Star
I’m not sure why it was decided that Wonder Woman 1984 was the optimal title for the sequel to the fantastic 2017 rebirth of Wonder Woman. WW84, as it is called in shorthand, has no shortage of reminding its audience that the film is set in the year 1984. There are glimpses of children at the mall playing arcade games while Chris Pine engages in a pointless “let’s laugh at the 80s fashion” scene.
I hated this movie and I really didn’t want to which makes the disappointment sting more than it should. Patty Jenkins has shown to be a promising director again joins Gal Gadot who is the most alluring and captivating superhero lead since Downey Jr. got in the Iron Man suit. This should be a recipe for entertainment and spectacle and WW84 gets it all wrong.
WW84 suffers comparatively due to releasing alongside Pixar’s Soul which is masterfully written. While Soul’s director got some direction and writing assistance, Jenkins is credited with writing on WW84 along with Geoff Johns. Neither wrote on the previous Wonder Woman film. While the first film wasn’t carried by its tight script or innovative writing, 2017’s Wonder Woman at least stuck with a mostly cohesive narrative.
WW84 goes off the rails early and never intends to find a lane as its story elements, pacing, and character development go careening off on separate courses crashing and burning up all the goodwill that was built up three years ago. Jenkins will take a majority of the ire whether fair or unfair. I can already imagine media outlets will dig for the ‘what went wrong’ details in the coming weeks and months.
Yet as I sit here, I search within my movie critic bones and ask, “Did the Marvel Cinematic Universe indoctrinate me into what I expect and demand from the modern-day superhero film?”
Before I can succumb to my self-doubt I slap myself to my senses and remind myself at how many times I found myself groaning at overlong scenes of Gal Gadot fawning over her alive again lover, or how countless men harass the female leads Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) because that’s the thing men do but this detail whisks by as an unresolved tertiary plot theme.
The minor details only further demerit the film which is about an infin- I mean god stone that grants a wish but takes something away from the wisher. Before we get to the stone the film opens with a vignette from Diana’s past where she participated in an Olympic-like Amazon event. Diana attempts to circumvent the rules but is disqualified and taught a lesson that is loosely relevant to Diana’s internal struggle in the film.
The film opens again with a mall robbery where your friendly neighborhood Wonder Woman thwarts an attempted robbery of some valuable ancient artifacts. It’s less of a fight scene and more Cirque du Soleil.
WW84 opens again by settling into some Great Gatsby-esque assessment of Diana and Barbara, and a failing Ponzi scheming oil investor, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal, who played a leading role in a TV Movie rendition of Wonder Woman in 2011). Diana is cold and emotionally unavailable, assumedly still mourning the loss of her dead boyfriend from World War I, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
Diana uses the wishing stone to bring said dead boyfriend back to life in someone else’s body. Diana made the cruel mistake of not detailing the particulars of her wish. Diana slowly becomes more mortal as a result. The speed at which the stone takes away someone’s prized possession is left to the writers’ discretion. Barbara wishes to become more like Diana, jealous of Diana for being Gal Gadot obviously.
Diana learns of the stone’s destructiveness when in the wrong hands but whaddya know, not-so-super villain Max Lord already wished to become the stone and has turned himself into the most distressing genie ever.
There’s a hilarious moment of unintentional comedy where Diana saves a couple of children playing soccer during a highway chase scene. The poor kids weren’t alerted at the sound of machine-gun fire or at the sight of a speeding military convoy so Diana swoops in to save the poor sods from being roadkill.
Max goes on terrorizing the world as he gains more and more power from granting the wishes of others. Max vaults himself from mogul to US President and eventually broadcasts himself to the entire world who all start wishing simultaneously. But wait! If you verbally renounce your wish then you lose your wish but regain what you’ve lost.
WW84 is an over-padded mess of melodrama and moral positing. Diana spends the majority of her screen time convincing herself that she can have her cake and eat it too. She enjoys having Steve back in her life but maybe her slowly fading God powers can help her save the world Max is torpedoing into self-imposed catastrophe. Can’t cut corners, right?
Barbara squeezes her own transformation from unimposing awkward woman to full-grown femme fatale feline between Max’s power fantasy and Diana’s moping. Barbara’s jealously of Diana grows from wanting to be Diana to becoming superior to her. Naturally, she wishes to become the “apex predator” which turns her into Cheetah. Once again, Barbara needed to be a little more particular in her wish if her goal was to become more powerful than an Amazonian God.
Diana and Cheetah have a lackluster confrontation before Diana gets to confront Max and by this point, the script is searching for excuses on how to end this mess. How can Wonder Woman defeat Max and also save the entire world at the same time? Also, why is Max conjuring a mini-tornado and standing in that beam of light?
Even the final scene drags on as if it is invoking a powerful message. It falls on deaf ears. I was tuned out long prior.
WW84 had the fleeting semblance of Jenkins’ desire to take the superhero genre in an unconventional direction. What ensues is an identity crisis. WW84 can’t decide what direction it wants to pursue. Jenkins tries to fit in multiple threads and progressions but can’t orchestrate them into a coherent story. Sound familiar DC Comics films…?
By the end of a grueling 2 and a half hours, I was left wondering what is the remedy for these DC clunkers? Is there be too much creative freedom? Does the creativity clash with conventional tropes? Does executive oversight muddle the process? I am convinced they are in desperate need of an editor that’s on a mission to bring sensibility to the screenplay and cut out meaningless filler.
Wonder Woman 1984 is poorly conceived, poorly written, and poorly executed. It was clear the Jenkins wanted to capture some 80s Star Trek-ian moralizing but the film struggles to deliver any meaningful virtuous dialogue.