to Gal Gadot is back in what is clearly the most highly-anticipated film of 2020. Much of that anticipation built during the pandemic, when "Wonder Woman 1984" found itself delayed from its original June 5th release date, to August 14th, then to October 2nd, and finally landing on Christmas Day. It was the last and only superhero movie still standing, as other films such as "Black Widow" were pushed off of the 2020 calendar completely.
Even its Christmas Day release was in jeopardy, with many expecting that it would move yet again with COVID cases continuing to climb across the country. But that's when Warner Bros. made the bold move to not only keep "Wonder Woman 1984" in theaters, but to simultaneously release it on HBO Max, a move that has since shaken up the entire movie industry.
Well, it pains me to report that we should be careful what we wish for. While many might be thrilled just for the chance to watch a superhero movie on the big-screen once again, I sure wish there was a better one for us to experience. "Wonder Woman 1984" is a mess of a film - several steps worse than the 2017 effort - and dare I say one of the worst movies of 2020.
'The DC Movie Universe by-and-large has been a big-screen disaster, and it shocks me to my core that "Wonder Woman 1984" has thus far been getting a pass from many movie critics. The character of Wonder Woman/Diana Prince is inherently not that interesting, suffering from the same problems Superman does: Both characters are just too wholesome, too overly powerful and too "good" for their own good. At least Superman has Kryptonite to slow him down...there is no such Achilles Heel when it comes to Wonder Woman.
The writers and director Patty Jenkins (returning for the sequel after helming the first installment) have also backed their character into a corner. Having set the first film in the midst of World War I (1918 or so) and with other DC Universe films like "Justice League" taking place in modern times, it almost goes without saying that the stakes are awfully low...how could they be otherwise? We know that Wonder Woman is going to survive and make it to 2020, so everything that has gone before better at least add facets to her character, or give her new depths that can be explored when the DC crossover films do take place.
Jenkins and company bypass any said character development to instead just give us yet another "evil-villain-of-the-month" movie. This time is Barbara Minerva, aka "The Cheetah" (Kristen Wiig). Stealing from Wonder Woman's pal Batman's movie sequel playbook, one villain is just not enough, so we also get The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal as the villainous shyster, Maxwell Lord.
Adding insult to injury, they decide to set the Wonder Woman sequel in the year 1984 for no coherent reason that is relevant to the plot, other than, you know, the 80s were so gnarly dude! It seems like the cool thing to do - make fun of the 1980s - but it's really just as lame as another 80s/90s film trope, where - when running out of ideas - you could just have your characters "go to New York" or some other modern, urban location. You know, like when the Starship Enterprise finds themselves in San Francisco in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," or when Predator goes to LA in "Predator 2," or when Kevin McCallister finds himself lost in New York in...wait for it..."Home Alone 2: Lost in New York." Yes in "WW1984," much of the humor is derived from making fun of things like parachute pants and fanny packs, and of course there was ALWAYS break-dancing at the mall.
Worse than even the 1984 set piece, is that this story literally revolves around a magical object that grants wishes. This incredibly lame device allows for pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to return into Diana's love life, against all logic.
But I digress. addressing again how the writers have "backed this character into a corner," I find it also implausible and uninteresting - even for a superhero film - to make Greek Gods and Greek mythology part of the actual DC movie Universe canon. At least with Thor in the Marvel movies, he is not technically a Norse God, but an alien from a godlike planet. Wonder Woman has introduced the idea that Zeus, Ares and the rest of the gang were actual Gods in the DC Universe, occupying the same space as Batman and Superman. This could have been something they glossed over - heck, this Greek mythology IS a part of Wonder Woman's origin, which is why she has always been a tricky character to lasso (pun intended) into the mix of the other DC characters. But in the sequel, they double-down on this silliness, with the magical wishing stone being invented by a God of mischief and trickery. It's just dumb, frankly, and this wishing stone allows them to bend rules as they see fit, whenever they see fit.
The movie is full of itself as well. At over two-and-a-half hours, "WW1984" should feel epic, but instead it feels oddly small. Nearly the first 20 minutes is reserved for time on the Amazon island, with Young Diana (Lilly Aspell) learning a tough lesson from Antiope (Robin Wright) and Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) that could have been found on an inspirational poster inside a 2nd Graders classroom. I must admit, the Amazon stuff has always been the most compelling part of the Wonder Woman saga, but the writers have not been able to find a way to use it or its characters effectively. Hey, maybe "Wonder Woman 3" can feature the Amazon women transporting through a wormhole and visiting New York City!
So let's recap: The character isn't all that interesting to begin with, they've written her into a corner, they've dissipated the relevance of the entire DC Universe and Wonder Woman's role in it, they rely on a magical wishing stone to bring characters back from the dead, the film is overly long and they don't quite know what to do with their coolest characters, the Amazons. Oh wait! Almost forgot! The CG is also by-and-large cheesy, with characters flying and morphing and catching things in the air as the camera artificially spins and moves in ways that feel unnatural.
It would be a huge surprise if this film wasn't a big hit, but it's as clear as Diana's invisible jet (which makes an appearance, finally, in the sequel) that there's no there here. When will we demand more of our superhero movies? Is it enough to just simply be a superhero movie these days, and are we supposed to just ignore the fact that "Wonder Woman 1984" coulda shoulda woulda been a lot better?
"Wonder Woman 1984" has a beautiful, strong, capable actress as its lead, but just hasn't figured out what to do with her yet. It's not enough to just give us a female superhero...for certain the world is long overdue for one (or many) on screen. But there are so many different ways they could have applied her character to connect with young women of today.
It is simply not enough to just stick a female lead in a dumbed-down male action movie as they did in "Wonder Woman 1984." The real wonder is that they didn't choose to do more.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy.
Run Time: 2 hours 31 minutes.
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell.
Co-Written and Directed by Patty Jenkins ("Wonder Woman," "Monster").
"Wonder Woman 1984" is in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day, 2020.
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