Review: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ (the McGuffin movie)

There shouldn’t be four Fantastic Four movies better than this.

Diana Prince (Gal Godot) lives a lonely life in Washington, D.C. curating at the Smithsonian… whenever she’s not saving unsupervised children, thwarting art thieves, or destroying mall surveillance systems. Fellow curator Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) — who goes ridiculously unnoticed in her shy, awkward, and mousy ways — is assigned the task of identifying artifacts retrieved from a black market store front. One of those items is the Dreamstone, a worthless piece of citrine… unless you count its godlike ability to grant any person a single one-time only wish, a power that shady entrepreneur Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) desperately desires. There’s always a price for getting everything you always wanted, and even an Amazon princess may not be able to resist such a temptation.

When director Patty Jenkins unleashed her hard-fought Wonder Woman into theaters following a string of ho-hum DC Murderverse movies, it changed the tone of those films building toward Justice League. Against all odds, it delivered the goods with an unproven leading lady in Gal Gadot, an established leading man (game to play second fiddle to girl power) in Chris Pine, and dipping a toe into a World War I period piece. Subsequently, the pressure was on to deliver a better sequel, and just-as-good wasn’t going to cut it. With two B-string villains, a little movie magic to get back a lost favorite, and finally being let out of the can due to COVID half a year later than intended, can WW84 deliver the viewer expectations where Tenet reportedly failed?

The more-is-better mantra has crushed potential franchises before; one need only experience the overreach of Sony’s Andrew Garfield reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 to experience what can go wrong. Clocking in with a two-and-half hour runtime, WW84 feels as bloated as it is, with senseless combat sequences, random occurrences, and a new McGuffin for every act. Okay, sure: it’s a “be careful what you wish for” story, but just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you should. Somewhere underneath all the glitz, set pieces, and CGI are bullet points about family, togetherness, and biting off more than you can chew, but that last lesson was clearly left on the cutting room floor.

It’s easy to suggest that “magic” is a get-out-of-physics free card, but when you break in-story rules this readily, audiences tend to ask, “Well, if you could do that then, why don’t you do that now?” The combat sequences have no weight — literally, in this case, as thrown or leaping characters continuously appear to float rather than fall. Whether it’s a wishing stone, legendary battle armor, or a unassailable global communications system, the script creates things for the sake of things, never to be seen or considered again. On second thought, it didn’t seem to bother Aquaman that every coastal city on Earth was showered with centuries of ocean garbage, so apparently there’s unlimited money to fix all this stuff between films. The actors also take everything far too seriously for all the ridiculousness, which is likely what they were directed to do. Also: were there no better child actors available than this? Aside from Chris Pine’s faux pas fashion show, there’s no reason this story needed to be set in 1984 other than happening sequentially prior to Man of Steel; it didn’t even have the 80s soundtrack hinted at in the trailer.

Make no mistake; Gal Godot still brings her all in the title role, but she deserved a better sequel. The 1980s Saturday morning cartoon “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” Season 1, Episode 3 entitled “The Fantastic Mr. Frump” addressed similar wishing issues, with Doctor Doom accidentally imbuing a nobody with the power to alter reality at will. Even in a cartoon where artists can draw whatever they like, more restraint was shown there than here; even the Wishmaster horror series knew where to draw the line most of the time. It’s just not realistic that all the people in the world would come together with a single-minded purpose when something this dire yet fantastic is at stake, so perhaps a lighter concept in a more positive story would have been a preferred way to go. After all, that’s how Bill and Ted did it when they had to Face the Music.

Wonder Woman 1984 is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, gross implausibility, and inexplicably making Batman V. Superman look less foolish for going on about “Martha.”

One skull recommendation out of four

5 comments

  1. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
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    Still here? Fine.

    Maybe I take my movies too seriously — guilty as charged — but these are some of the most glaring errors of to-hell-with-suspension-of-disbelief I noticed.

    —–

    A WWI pilot isn’t going to know how to fly a fighter jet.

    A fighter jet doesn’t fly like a WWI plane.

    Unprepared aircraft typically doesn’t sit around full of fuel… nor have enough to fly round-trip from Washington D.C. to Cairo.

    If Diana can make a plane invisible, why not make herself and/or other people invisible?

    If magic lassos can be flicked out thousands of feet or actual miles to swing from jumbo jets or lightning bolts, why not just lasso bad guys the same way?

    What exactly did the golden armor do for Diana other than get beaten off of her?

    Are we to assume Barbara revoked her wish since the day was saved?

    Hey wait: how did Barbara get a *second* wish? Max was desperate to find others who hadn’t wished in order to keep going.

    Why is the Secret Service still flying Max Lord around if he revoked his wish to become the Dreamstone? And when are they arresting him for fraud or dropping him into a black site?

    Where’s the Dreamstone now… since that wish was revoked?

    Shouldn’t Diana have one or more doctorate degrees by now… having lived over a century and publically employed at the Smithsonian?

    OMG… I’ve become Movie Sins! 💀

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  2. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
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    Yes, some people liked it… “Doctor Who” ending and all.

    And that cool mid-credits scene.

    But besides the fact that the initial central conflict was over the desire to wear heels (never mind Diana still pining for Chris Pine or Barbara slightly better desire to have people fawn over her), it’s what the film suggested about Wonder Woman:

    Diana is seemingly okay with rape.

    Hear me out.

    As a plot device, Steve Trevor doesn’t come back as wished; his soul occupies a person who already exists in 1984… and Diana almost immediately sleeps with him. Sure, we get it, but not very hero-like. And even when Steve points out that it isn’t right, at no time does he remind Diana he’s raping an unwitting victim whose life was stolen from him, that he was given no opportunity to say no.

    If nothing else, there was no moment when Diana even realized this other than trying to get her powers back. She didn’t give up Steve to save the bodysnatcher victim; she did it so she could be powerful again… before inexplicably putting on a useless suit of golden armor.

    So the Amazons of Paradise Island aka Themyscira have no concept of rape?

    Doesn’t she deserve some happiness… continuing to rape a victim incapable of giving permission, their choice taken away forever?

    That doesn’t sound like the Wonder Woman we wanted. 💀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One final note as I think about before moving on to greener pastures and better movies.

    A ScreenRant article entitled Wonder Woman 1984’s Cheetah Is What Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Electro Could’ve Been” is the purest clickbait… because it’s clear that the problems both characters had similarly crippled and undermined their own stories: the victim who unapologetically evolves into the bully.

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, the imperfect Tim Burton follow-up Batman Returns features a reborn Selena Kyle emotionally portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer as exactly the same kind of character. While her comic counterpart never really had such a storyline as a defining trait (or any significant superpowers to speak of), the story of Burton’s Catwoman in a superhero setting is a better blueprint to evolve from than what has followed. Plus: Michelle Pfeiffer.

    I now return you to your previously scheduled Internets, already in progress. 💀

    Like

  4. This movie was such a letdown. From all the massive plot holes that you pointed out, to the silly storyline and the ridiculous handling of Steve Trevor returning, it all added up to a big mess. Wonder Woman deserves much better.

    Like

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