By Christian DiMartino
“So many things.”
“So many things” is the final line of Wonder Woman 1984, a line that is repeated a few times before the movie finally ends during a… Christmas scene, which looks like it was a lost Kay Jewelers commercial. What is there to say about Wonder Woman 1984? So many things. What is wrong with Wonder Woman 1984? Ah yes, so many things.
Patty Jenkins knocked it out of the park with the original Wonder Woman, which temporarily rescued the DCEU, made a ton of money, and made a true star out of the Goddess known as Gal Gadot. A sequel went without saying, and even though comic book movies aren’t my favorite, a sequel certainly had my interest too. Considering the disaster that 2020 has been, Wonder Woman 1984 seemed to be a last minute treat that may not redeem the year, but at least pass the time nicely. Whether you choose to see it on HBO Max, or on the big screen (I did the latter).
Alas, having seen Wonder Woman 1984, it brings me no joy in reporting that the film witnessed last night is a hot mess, and a massive disappointment. What happened? Jenkins and company had the groundwork laid out for them, but maybe that was the problem. Wonder Woman 1984 begins well, and there are things to admire, but it’s a film that gets worse the more you think about it, so maybe it’s best to not think about it… but how can you not?
The plot details will be left to a minimum here, in the event you still want to see this movie after I’m done with it. After a spectacular opening flashback sequence… that ultimately has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, Wonder Woman 1984 flashes forward to… 1984. We see Diana/ Wonder Woman (Gadot, a radiant beauty) as she fights crime while also keeping her existence somewhat unknown. She works in a museum these days, and even some 60 years later, she still mourns the loss of her one true love, the late pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Kristen Wiig plays Barbara, a frumpy dork who everyone honestly ignores because she wears glasses. Diana doesn’t though, and the two, who happen to be co-workers, strike a friendship of the sorts, with Barbara being envious of Diana’s beauty and confidence. More understanding, I could not be.
There’s a McGuffin at the center of the plot, and this doohickey is what sets the plot in motion. It’s this rock that when you rub it, you make a wish and it comes true. Enter Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord, a cartoonish slimeball businessman (with a strange resemblance to Jeremy Renner in American Hustle) who is after it, and sort of gets close to Barbara to get to it. Also, from the trailers, we know that Pine’s Steve is still alive, despite visibly exploding. How? Well, despite the fact that this film isn’t worth seeing (sigh), I guess I won’t spoil it.
Much of the action revolves around Lord, and another good chunk revolves around Barbara. In the background somewhere is Diana and Steve trying to uncover the plot. To me, despite a few slightly wonky elements, this was where the film began to fall apart. The plot has a lot to do with wishes, oil, money, etc. Yet for a movie called Wonder Woman 1984… there’s really not much Wonder Woman, nor is there much 1984. Sure, Diana is in it enough, but even she kind of gets sidelined at times. As for Wonder Woman herself, not joking, she appears in the first 10 minutes, and then she isn’t to be seen in character again until about 50 minutes later. Which, by the way, said appearance is pretty cool, until they pull out the ultimate, face-palm worthy cliche: despite being set in the middle of the desert, despite multiple explosions, about a mile away from a truck explosion… there are children playing in the street. Really? Did they not hear the aforementioned explosions in the middle of the desert? Anyways, once I pulled on this thread, the whole thing began to come undone. She hardly appears until the last 30 minutes or so, and when she does appear, it kind of seems like she gets her ass beat. As for the 1984 thing, yeah, why did they set this in 1984? Imagine the fun they could’ve had- imagine the fun they had with the 70’s in X-Men: Days of Future Past. I honestly believe that they only set it during this time period for the gag in which Steve Trevor tries on all of the 80’s outfits. Because that’s about all they do with it. There isn’t a cool 80’s soundtrack (the film does have a solid score from Hans Zimmer though); there aren’t any pop culture references; no historical references. Why call the damned movie Wonder Woman 1984 if you’re hardly going to do anything with Wonder Woman or 1984?
I actually began taking notes on everything wrong with this movie because… well, so many things. As mentioned above, Wonder Woman 1984 has so much going on that it feels like, in an attempt to make the story bigger, they forgot to actually take the time to flesh things out, even at two and a half hours. Take the character of Barbara for example. Wiig is great, and she looks great, but her character ultimately fails to convince. Barbara is a likable character who we know will become a villain, but whenever she develops a thirst for blood, it doesn’t feel earned. Like it does slightly, but one would expect a little more before she snaps. Then the character goes back to normal… just to snap again for no reason. It must also be said that, as seen from the eyes of Barbara and Diana, every man in 1984 is either a villain, a drunk, or an idiot, with the exception of Steve Trevor, who was probably born in 1898. There isn’t anything wrong with girl power, but it should be done a little better than this, which is at times laughably on the nose.
The rules of this magic rock thing also feel as if they were made up as they go along, and it doesn’t really make sense. Why? Can’t say. Also, the rules of Wonder Woman appear to be made up as they went along. Why? Can’t say. I will say though that for a film that runs two and a half hours long, there isn’t much action. It isn’t necessarily boring, but it still feels long, and by the time we get to the climactic battle, it dawned on me that I didn’t actually care. It also dawned on me that something went wrong here, but I’m not exactly sure what. Because by the time we reach the end of it, it sure feels like the film really thought it was about something, but what that something is is sort of a mystery. Yet I personally know what the movie is though, and, in short, it’s a debacle. A debacle that feels like they had an end goal in mind at first, but they kept re-writing it as it went along. Which is funny, because the one thing this movie really needed was a re-write.
What’s weird though is that, despite being kind of terrible, Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t the worst of the DCEU- that title belongs to the dreadful Suicide Squad. It is, however, the most disappointing, especially because the first film was as good as it was. To be fair though, despite my trash-talkery, credit can be paid in a few places. Gadot is a first-class charmer, and despite not being given much to do, she is still a likable, and yes gorgeous, presence. The score by Hans Zimmer works, the film looks great, and every so often it gets a moment.
All of the pieces were in place for Wonder Woman 1984, and then it feels as if the filmmakers removed a piece at least once a day during filming, leaving us with… this (For a much better, more enjoyable female-centric comic book movie, you should really give Birds of Prey a go). It turns out that not even Wonder Woman could save 2020. Such a pity. What was wrong with 2020? So many things. What is wrong with Wonder Woman 1984? Ah yes, so many things.