Wonder Woman 1984
To say that I wasn’t expecting this film to be what it was might be an understatement. Wonder Woman 1984 was delayed, delayed, and delayed. First by so-called “quality” issues, and then by a global pandemic. It was originally supposed to come out in December of last year, but , due to the aforementioned issues, wound up being pushed back an entire year. Why, then, does this film appear as if it were rushed out the door?
2017’s Wonder Woman was a smash success at the box-office, grossing nearly a billion dollars in theaters alone. Due to a number of factors, I never wound up reviewing it, but suffice to say that, aside from the issues I had with the movie’s ending, and an incredibly awkward sex-scene between Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) I thoroughly enjoyed it. The same cannot be said for this film. Aside from a stupid ending with a big dumb villain fight out of literally nowhere, (An ending director Patty Jenkins has since divulged was pushed on her by Warner Bros.) Wonder Woman was an incredibly tight movie that wasted very little time moving itself along, and the consequences of the film rang through into the events of 2016’s Batman v Superman, with no real contradictions between the two movies. The same cannot be said for Wonder Woman 1984. The film has no point, no consequences, no real start, and no real ending. To say that one could skip it and miss nothing would not be an understatement. The shared universe of the DCEU would entirely benefit from the excision of this movie, and I intend to show why.
The film starts with a flashback to Themyscira, Diana’s homeland. Why? Because something young Diana is told in this sequence returns later on in the film apropos of nothing. Child Diana (Lilly Aspell) participates in an athletic competition that , allegedly, is incredibly difficult. And yet, Diana manages to handle almost all of the competition against seasoned adults, until she gets knocked off her horse, and winds up taking a shortcut to get back on the path. Which is, apparently, cheating, despite the fact that she was knocked off her horse by what I can only assume was a poorly-maintained tree. She gets plenty of scoldings for this act. Now, I can’t be the only one who was reminded of the obstacle course scene from 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, can I? It’s not just the fact that Diana is a small competitor and the others are larger, the course itself starts off similar to the one from The First Avenger. Except that Steve Rogers failed at nearly every turn, because he was physically inferior to the other soldiers, and Diana succeeds at almost every hurdle, despite being approximately ten. Also, I don’t know who was doing stunt-work on this film, but there are times when it looks like they pasted Lilly Aspell’s face onto a much wider body, which is the first sign of special effects that will persist throughout this movie.
Then, there’s an action sequence between Diana and a trio of robbers, who, by all rights, should have been subdued in like two minutes, because she’s Wonder Woman, and they’re just out-of-shape schmucks with guns, but apparently we needed to add another five minutes of runtime to this two and a half hour movie for… Some reason. After she finishes with the robbers, she throws them three stories off the top of a mall onto a police car, where they don’t appear any worse for wear, despite the fact that they should probably be dead. Can anyone tell me why Diana is, all of a sudden acting more reckless than Batfleck? No? We’re just moving on? Okay.
So after that pointless scene, we find out that Diana lives in Washington DC, and works at the Smithsonian, with Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who’s like Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 if his man-crush was on Peter Parker instead of Spider-Man, and if Electro had starred in a terrible Ghostbusters remake four years prior and was channeling his character from that for the entire early stages of the performance. Now, the reason I say that the mall robbery scene was entirely pointless is because it only serves to set up a scene later where Barbara and Diana try to figure out where some of the stolen artifacts robbed from the store came from, which is literally explained away in a single line of dialogue. One of the artifacts grants wishes, but takes something from you when the wish is granted. It’s later described as a “Monkey’s Paw,” effect, but the Monkey’s Paw wasn’t a bargain for something you had, it was about corrupting the wish so that it turned against the wisher in some way, or didn’t turn out as expected. This isn’t really the same thing, the wish just takes something from the wisher in exchange, without even laying out terms ahead of time, as tends to be the case with Faustian bargains in fiction. Later, it’s revealed that the Duke of Deception, Dolos, created the artifact, and that would have been a prime time to mention his connection with Ares, the villain from the previous film, but to my recollection, they either don’t mention it, or gloss over it. Regardless, this object grants Diana the wish of bringing back Steve Trevor, and Barbara’s wish of being like Diana. Both of these come with caveats, obviously, and Barbara eventually gets more than she bargained for, gaining powers equal to that of Wonder Woman. Then, someone claiming to be Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) shows up there, steals the artifact, and wishes that he would gain the power of the artifact itself. The rest of the film is spent with Diana and Steve trying to play catchup with Max, while Barbara mostly just piddles around DC until she discovers that Diana wants to neutralize the wishes, at which point Barbara forms an impromptu partnership with Lord to try and shore up his position so she can remain strong, powerful, and charismatic, instead of being a clumsy dweep who doesn’t know how to wash her hair. I know it’s supposed to be the ’80s, but come on.
Speaking of it being the ’80s, Wonder Woman 1984 appears to have raided Captain America’s unused “man out of time” jokes and scenarios, because it spends way too long on Steve Trevor getting used to the 1980s. Oh, yeah. I should also mention that Steve Trevor isn’t actually “back to life.” His spirit was implanted in the body of some dude, and, at first, they put Chris Pine in baggy clothing, and stick a pillow down his shirt to make him seem out of shape, but after a while, they just gave up on trying to make him not look like ripped Chris Pine. Also, the old-age makeup they used on Chris in this movie is god-awful, with the grey in his hair looking ESPECIALLY fake, and even changing positions at times, likely an artifact of the reshoots.
Back to the plot, Maxwell Lord eventually uses his wish power to try and take over the world, as you do, and tries to grant everyone a wish, and does, somehow. He does this to try and repair his body, because being the human wish-machine, his body starts deteriorating. For some reason. He hijacks some super-secret technology that can impose a signal on everything in the world that can display a signal… Somehow. You know, when the Kryptonians did that in Man of Steel, I thought that was a bit far-fetched, but I could believe it, because they were super-advanced beings from space. This is just a tad absurd, to the point where I think someone might have legitimately not been paying attention when bringing this script into production. Somehow, this lets him grant wishes to everyone on the planet, despite them not being able to touch him to get their wishes granted, and lets him turn into some kind of pseudo-super-being. Diana then uses her lasso on him, gets him to renounce his wish, and everything goes back to normal, making the entire two and a half hour runtime of this movie completely pointless. It’s like someone read all of the criticism of how the first movie ended, and took entirely the wrong message from that. “Okay, you think it should end without a fight? I’ll make that happen!” Even though this plotline was so empty, it might as well have not happened at all.
There are a few things from the plot I didn’t mention that I’ll briefly touch on now, such as the fact that Steve being brought back was at the cost of Diana’s powers. Not all at once, just slowly, over time, so we can have a plot. Barbara’s wish sapped her humanity, though she’s also given a second wish with an explanation that makes no real sense. I could understand if Maxwell Lord’s rules for the wish were somehow different to the artifacts, but the way he phrases it, it makes it sound like he can just break the rules however he wants, despite the fact that they showed him being limited to one wish a person previously. Also, Barbara’s second wish turns her into an anthropomorphic cheetah, so we can have an excuse to say that Cheetah is in this movie. Diana also learns how to fly, out of nowhere, and turns a jet that she and Steve steal invisible, also out of nowhere. They steal the jet to get to Cairo to intercept Lord, where Diana apparently forgets that she has bulletproof bracelets, and decides to use her lasso to grab them out of thin air. Additionally, Diana’s sword and shield are nowhere to be found, despite the fact that she has a both in BvS and Justice League, and her shield was still intact at the end of the previous movie. That shield would’ve come in handy a few times, but instead, Steve has to use a tea tray as a shield, and Diana whirls the Lasso of Hestia fast enough it acts like a shield. Against bullets. When the one thing everyone knows about Wonder Woman is that she has bullet-deflecting bracelets. That she used for just that purpose in three other movies so far. Hell, she used the bracelets against Doomsday‘s heat-vision in BvS, what the hell is she forgetting to use them now, for?
As far as the plot goes, I think that’s about it, in terms of criticisms. Now for the characters, starting with Maxwell Lord. Fans of the comics will know that Maxwell Lord is most well-known as a successful businessman from multiple generations of Lords, and having been instrumental in the founding of the Justice League. As this movie takes place while Clark Kent is four, Bruce Wayne is fourteen, and Arthur Curry, Barry Allen, and Victor Stone haven’t even been born, that latter part is obviously not happening. Instead, he’s a commercial spokesman, entrepreneur, and (sort of) scam-artist. Really, at this rate, why not just call him something else? He has no connection to the character from the comics, all you’re doing is making up a new character and slapping a familiar name onto him, much like they did with Cheetah. Rather than following any of the comic versions of the character, they instead decided to play Nutty Professor with her and reuse the ancient trope of the nerd becoming cool, with plenty of influence from Sam Raimi‘s 2002 Spider-Man film. Lynda Carter also makes an appearance as Asteria, a character who has no importance other than a stupid piece of fanservice in the end credits, and for an armor that gets briefly used in one fight and then thrown the hell away, with no real information on how Diana found the armor. I’m not gonna lie, her cameo made me a little bit angry, because it felt like DC was dangling keys in front of my face, and I could see the DCEU slipping into the same fanservice traps of the Arrowverse, where they make constant references to things that they think the fans remember as opposed to making filmic statements. It’s the difference between asking “Hey, remember this?” and stating “You will remember this.” And that’s it for characters, everyone else is either returning, or doesn’t matter. Aside from the guy they have playing Ronald Reagan (Stuart Milligan), who looks nothing like the former President of the United States.
Now it’s time for the technical aspects of the film. This movie has some of the worst editing I have seen out of a Hollywood film in a LONG time. Continuity errors between shots are rampant, and it’s stuff that’s obvious enough that it should’ve been noticed, but small enough that they could’ve been fixed without much effort, like hands being open in one shot, but closed in the next. It reminds me of the editing issues in Iron Man 2 and Captain Marvel. Then there are CGI composite shots, like when Wonder Woman is running, or flying, and it legitimately looks worse than Superman: The Movie from 1978. Man of Steel was seven years ago, and when watching that film, you really would believe a man could fly. Wonder Woman 1984 has flying and running shots that barely look better than the effects work in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. The running shot(s) remind me of bad greenscreen composites seen in goofy YouTube videos, and for a two-hundred million dollar film, that’s a bad sign. Additionally, Diana’s suit seems to change textures and coloration between sequences of the movie that take place less than a week apart, despite her taking care of her armor. And her armor also looks more vibrant now than it did when it was new, back in the first movie, so I’m not really sure what’s up with that. There are patches where her armor appears to be trying to become the same shades it was in BvS and Justice League, but the colors just don’t seem to match up. Then we come to various glowing effects, ranging from glowing screens, to the Lasso of Hestia, where the glow looks like something you’d see on a TV show in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Again, despite the fact that this film was delayed by over a year, it looks and feels like a rush-job. Additionally, and this may just be an issue on HBO Max, but there are times when the audio mixing has a strange buzzing sound, as if the audio is peaking, but isn’t, if that makes any sense? Also, there are several places where the ADR either doesn’t sync correctly, or isn’t mixed properly, as if the dialogue is sort of floating above the rest of the mix, rather than being part of a unified soundscape.
Before wrapping up this review, I’d like to take some time to talk about Wonder Woman 1984‘s score, composed by the maestro of the DCEU himself, Hans Zimmer. I’ve seen people saying that his score pretty much carries this film, and I have to agree with them in that regard. Zimmer’s score lives up to the other DCEU scores he and JunkieXL have composed, as well as slotting in fairly well with the also excellent Wonder Woman score composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. One major criticism I have is that, during the speech Diana gives at the climax, rather than a piece of original music, the film just pastes in a section of A Beautiful Lie from the BvS score. A Beautiful Lie is best known as the DCEU theme for Ben Affleck‘s Batman, and as such, has no place in a story that doesn’t even come close to featuring the character. I was honestly baffled by this choice of music, it sounded as if they’d accidentally left a temp-track in the mix.
Some of the issues with this film may stem from a change in staff. The original story team, consisting of Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs is nowhere to be found, as are the original designers, at least in the roles they performed on the first movie. Zack is still producing, but Geoff Johns and Patty Jenkins wrote the script with Dave Callaham. I’ve never particularly cared for Geoff Johns’s screenwriting, personally, and I’ve never seen any of the previous films Jenkins wrote, so I can’t comment on the general quality of her writing. I will say that not writing any feature films since her 2003 feature-film directorial debut, Monster, is probably a bad sign, though. Granted, this script was also written by the architect of the DCEU’s destruction, Geoff Johns, and a guy I’ve never heard of, but who apparently worked on The Expendables, which had a god-awful script with many of the same problems as this film, and 2005’s Doom, which wasn’t particularly great. Wikipedia also claims he did uncredited rewrites on Ant-Man, and he apparently wrote the story for the 2014 Godzilla film, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and given the writers guild’s rules on crediting, the three writers have to have written at least a third of the script apiece to get credit, so this could be everyone’s fault. Honestly, I’m not prepared to lay the blame on any one individual. All I can say is that, if this script made its way onto my desk, it’d be easier for me to just dip the entire thing in red ink and make them start again than to try and figure out what I’d keep from it.
All in all, this film is one of the weakest installments of the DCEU thus far. The script meanders from place to place aimlessly, and ultimately winds up mattering even less than the last arc of Dragon Ball Super in the grand scheme of things, all the while creating plotholes in previous films in the franchise. The only thing it really has going for it is more interactions between Steve Trevor and Diana, and Hans Zimmer’s score. I haven’t yet had a chance to see Shazam or Birds of Prey, but, from what I’ve seen of them, they’re not exactly that great, either. ’tis a shame. I give Wonder Woman 1984 a 3/10.
Image from Impawards.com