Just in time for the holidays, Wonder Woman 1984 found finally found its way into theaters and also on HBO Max for those not quite ready to head back to theaters. WW84 was originally supposed to be a Christmas movie for 2019, before getting delayed to June, and then even further as we watched the pandemic close theaters for an extended period of time this spring. I for one was just a little bit giddy for a new theater experience, but didn’t know what to expect from this Wonder Woman sequel. Did it hold up? Or will fans feel sick with a case of sequel fever?
WARNING!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS PRETTY MUCH ALL THE SPOILERS!
Channeling the Charm
One of the things that made the original Wonder Woman so good is the charm of the characters paired with beauty and innocence of the characters. Credit to Director Patty Jenkins, because WW84 picks up right where the original left off. Gal Gadot’s poise and charm shine through her character once again, and Chris Pine showed me why he is one of the better actors in Hollywood. New characters Barbara/Cheetah (Kirsten Wiig) and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) have a lot of depth and are very well acted, even though their motivations are quite shallow (I’ll touch on that more later). All-in-all, I think the acting is quite strong once again.
It’s starting to feel a little cheap to just throw movies into the nostalgia 80s just so the audience will respond a little more positively. But what can I say? For some reason everyone looks back fondly on the 80s, even those like myself who didn’t live in the time period themselves. That assumption works again in this movie, as the costumes and references evoked a smile from me on more than a couple occasions. Hans Zimmer’s score is also just about what you’d expect from the legend.
When You Wish Upon A Rock?
For a guy who picks apart movies for fun, Patty Jenkins gave me a plentiful harvest of things to pick apart in this one. Coming into the viewing, I knew that some how Steve Trevor was coming back from the dead, so naturally that was something that I hoped would be explained well and not seem stupid and nonsensical. The explanation? Diana literally has some random magical rock that grants wishes and she just goes and wishes him back. I hate to say this because I have tons of respect for Patty Jenkins, but my six-year-old brother could’ve wrote that plot point. Seriously? That’s what we’re going with? I can just imagine the writers room talking about this one like “So we want Steve Trevor to come back somehow, but he’s definitely dead. Any ideas? No idea is a dumb idea.” Then the intern in the corner of the room speaks up to say “What if she just wishes on some like magical stone created by the Gods?” I just can’t believe that is what they decided to go with and I think fans deserved better. The whole plot of this film then proceeded to revolve around this magical wish-granting rock.
I liked the idea way the film makes clear the humanistic nature and desires of our two main antagonists. Max Lord just wants to be seen as a success by his son, and Barbara is wants respect and people to like her. These are seemingly innocent desires that any of us can relate to. The issue is the lengths that these two are willing to go to in order to get what they want. They are ready to see the world tear itself apart for such a shallow motivation. As it turns out, what they desired most was easily achievable the whole time. Max’s son already loved him for who he is, and Barbara just needed a little confidence. Relatable and sweet? Sure! Do I buy it as adequate motivation to watch the world burn? Not in a million years!
I kind of felt a little disrespected as a movie-goer by the things that I was supposed to believe in Wonder Woman 1984. It seemed like they just threw so many things into the movie with little explanation and Patty Jenkins just said “We don’t need to explain it….these fans will believe anything!”. First it was the wishing rock thing that brought back Steve Trevor, then the motivations of the antagonists, and then perhaps the worst of all is the climax of the film. Max Lord gets in front of a camera and uses the government satellites to tell the world that he can grant any wish if they just ask. Before this scene, people have to be touching him and make a wish, then he will grant it and take what he wants from them in return. Late in the movie he is desperate for more power, so he tries this method in hopes many people will make wishes at the same time. The explanation as to why this works you ask? Because “the satellites can touch particles that are touching everybody” or something like that. I’m sorry but no, that should not have worked. Warner Brothers….you have lots of money. I am going to need you guys to put a little more time and thought into writing a plot that makes sense. Oh, and Wonder Woman flies now. (She could never fly in the original comics though was gifted the ability by Hermes in a later comic book origin story by George Perez.)
Update: forgot to include this in the original article, but Wonder Woman can also now make things invisible. This is cool and all and is used to create the invisible jet from the comics, but where did it come from and why did she not do it again?
Now that my rant is over, I want to say that I am struggling to accurately rate my feelings on Wonder Woman 1984. On one hand, I had a lot of fun watching it, the acting is great, and I will definitely go again if Jenkins decides to run it back for a third movie. However, the writing seemed sloppy and the adventure in itself doesn’t really push forward the story of Diana Prince, as she pretty much ends the movie in the exact position she started it. There are some great action sequences, and there are some action sequences where the movement of our Amazonian superhero seemed obviously post-produced. I liked the film’s message but didn’t buy the motivation. For all those reasons, I would recommend it as a fun family watch that is perfect for the season. However, I just can’t put it in the same breathe as the original film in terms of story cohesiveness.