WW84 film full review
Wonder Woman 1984 is the long-awaited sequel of 2017's Wonder Woman, with Gal Gadot portraying the titular superhero for the fourth time in a feature film.
Originally slated for release more than a year ago, on Dec. 13, 2019, the film's debut in the United States was pushed a surprising number of times before finally seeing the light of day on Dec. 25, 2020, via HBO Max. The film was first delayed until June, 2020, due to "rushed pre and post-production," but then received an additional extra seven months for the post-production team to perfect the film due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moviegoers are perhaps more accustomed to highly anticipated films like this one being rushed to release, rather than given the proper time for careful post production work. As a result, CGI and special effects can lack polish (take Black Panther for example).
Even before filming ends, studios can begin meddling and demanding edits, script revisions and reshoots. Take 2017's ill-fated Justice League, which fans of the franchise hated so much they petitioned for years before finally forcing Warner Bros to release the "Snyder Cut" (set to release in 2021). Alternatively, one can look at Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), a film that received an extra three months of post production work before release, after the original trailer became an overnight meme. The increased time and care paid off, making the studio more money in the longterm.
Wonder Woman 1984 - Official Main Trailer www.youtube.com
So, with more than a year of extra time for tweaking the final cut and building up hype, Wonder Woman 1984 could conceivably have gone from "good enough" to absolutely incredible. That's not what happened.
WW84 is a 2h 35m disappointing mess, with a confused, bloated screenplay, and surprisingly mediocre special effects.
None of what I'm about to argue is meant to disparage the wildly talented cast and crew, nor shame the countless people that undoubtably worked tirelessly to bring the film to fruition. Popdust has no insider information regarding what went down behind the scenes, or what limitations or other unknown factors may have impacted the final product. All we can comment on is what we watched Christmas Day on HBO Max.
**SPOILERS BELOW FOR WONDER WOMAN 1984**
Let's begin with what works in WW84.
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince is, and has always been, the best possible casting decision made for this iteration of the Wonder Woman franchise. She might even be the best casting in the history of the DC Extended Universe (with the exception of Joaquin Phoenix in Joker). Gadot looks and feels the part, and several critics have cited her performance in WW84 as her best yet in the DCEU.
Nobody doubts her commitment to this role, and this time around she may have even suffered neck and back injuries from performing her own stunts. The latter is surprising and particularly unfortunate, given that most fight scenes in WW84 were unintelligible or otherwise forgettable.
Lilly Aspel reprises her role as young Diana Prince
Perfectly mirroring Gal Gadot's portrayal of Diana Prince is Lilly Aspel, reprising her role from Wonder Woman 2017 as "young Diana." The film's opening follows young Diana competing in an Amazon competition on Themyscira. We later learn that this whole sequence was solely to set up Wonder Woman's belief that shortcuts are bad (wait, was that the moral of the movie?). Despite it's poor payoff, the opening is a lot of fun and looks great, and Aspel is fantastic.
Pedro Pascal stars as Maxwell Lord, WW84
Next we have Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord, the classic Wonder Woman villain that first appeared in the comics in 1987. Pascal is arguably the best part of the movie. His performance is hammy and eccentric - a total joy to watch on screen regardless how directionless and tonally confused the plot becomes around him. Pascal works perfectly as the smarmy '80's business man with coiffed hair and an inflated ego. The twist is that when his nose bleeds in the film, it's not because of cocaine. Instead, it's because the filmmakers saw Stranger Things.
And with a mention of the plot, we must now consider the things in WW84 that absolutely do not work.
At the center of WW84's story is a magical crystal that grants wishes. Yep.
Maxwell Lord holding the magic crystal...
As YouTuber and film critic Jeremy Jahns points out in his WW84 review, the film seems to deliberately go for the cheesier tone of older superhero films, rather than the "gritty realism" of the modern era. For many, that "cheesiness" will be a welcome and refreshing change of pace in the DC movies. Others, like myself, will wonder why the movie is rated PG-13 and over two hours long if it wants to go full Saturday-morning-cartoon.
Making media that is campy and aimed at a young audience is not an excuse for shoddy storytelling.
The first Wonder Woman takes place in 1918 because Diana is trying to stop World War I. The sequel takes place in 1984 because... um... fun wardrobes? In actuality, they probably needed to set it in an era that would have no consequence in the rest of the DCEU. But if you like fun wardrobes, we get a whole montage of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) trying on wacky 80's outfits. Good thing we got that long runtime.
Chris Pine 80s makeover montage
By the way, Steve Trevor is back in this film, despite dying in the first, because Diana wishes to have him back while holding the magic crystal. He doesn't come back like a zombie, but his spirit (???) possesses the body of a random guy living in 1984 Washington DC (where the film is set).
Steve Trevor is a bodysnatcher, and nobody cares...
This might sound like an overcomplicated device to make sure Diana has a male love interest in the movie, while avoiding writing her a new one. And it is. But don't worry, the film doesn't spend much time explaining Trevor's return or exploring the ethical implications of hijacking a living person's body with the soul of a deceased lover. Diana barely seems interested in the logistics and immediately accepts Trevor being back, before she even realizes that the magical crystal is actually magic.
Oh, and how/why is the magical crystal magic? Doesn't matter, because now we have a second villain to worry about!
Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva
Kristen Wiig joins the cast of WW84 as Barbara Minerva, Diana's awkward, nerdy coworker, who nobody realizes is actually hot until she takes her glasses off. Yes, that actually happens in this movie. Minerva wishes while holding the magic crystal that she could be strong and beautiful like Diana.
Her ensuing, cliché transformation from insecure science dork to cool, sexy villain could actually have been pretty fun if it wasn't competing for screen time with Pascal as the much better developed villain, Max Lord. Then again, the primary way the movie illustrates Minerva's change is by showing us many times that she can now walk in high heels, when before she could not. So maybe "pretty fun" is too generous a descriptor for what could have been.
Kristen Wiig in the dark reboot of "Cats"
In the last act of the film, Minerva uses a second wish to transform again - this time into an anthropomorphic CGI monster from Cats (2019), named Cheetah. All this build up was for Cheetah and Wonder Woman to share a wildly anti-climatic, two-minute battle of zero consequence. Diana quickly beats Cheetah, which is for the best, because even setting the fight outside in the dark couldn't cover up the underwhelming Cheetah CGI.
Even Pascal as Lord was done pretty dirty, when you realize his character arc was lifted from the tropes of 90s Jim Carrey-type family comedies, where the dad learns through magic that he has been working too hard to spend time with his one-dimensional son.
Max Lord remembers he likes his son, entire world forgives him for nearly ending world...
In the end, watching WW84 begs the question: what was all of this for?
Some superhero movies exist solely to set up future films in the franchise. Others serve as the connective tissue to help tie together events in other films or provide backstories for characters that are important in the larger picture. Why else would we have Ant Man movies? Unfortunately, there's no indication that WW84 is setting up something bigger and better in the DCEU.
I guess we got to learn where Wonder Woman got her invisible jet: she got into a jet and then decided to make it invisible with magic that never comes up again, nor does the jet.
We got to learn how Wonder Woman learned to fly: she was really high up from jumping and then remembered Steve Trevor-bodysnatcher telling her that flying is easy.
Maybe we'll see Kristen Wiig again as Cheetah in some future installment that has more room in the script and CGI budget for her. I would say I hope to see Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord again, but he was hugging his son at the end of the movie, which means his character is resolved. And wait, shouldn't Lord have been immediately arrested and jailed for nearly ending the world? Whatever.
We're trained at this point to say "Wow, a big blockbuster movie in 2020, the worst year of all years! Even if it's bad, that's still pretty good. I mean come on, we could all use a nice escape," blah blah blah. No. We saw the awesome WW84 movie posters and billboards (you know, the colorful ones with Gal Gadot in that sick gold eagle armor) and got tricked. Side note: that armor is in the movie for all of five minutes and is completely useless.
Patty Jenkins wrote and directed Wonder Woman 1984 and completed it over a year ago, yet it feels like a film with too many cooks in the kitchen and not nearly enough food to show for it. It's The Mummy (1999), meets Stranger Things (Season 3), meets Batman Forever, and all of it is bad and boring.
I suppose the more accurate question left to us by WW84 is why did we expect anything better?
What did we do to deserve this?
"Wonder Woman 1984" premiered Dec. 25 on HBO Max and in theaters. It's rated PG-13.