There is a scene towards the hour mark when a recently-reanimated (!) World War I pilot is momentarily confused by a garbage can he thinks is a 1984-style art exhibit. In the very next scene, he displays only a bit more emotion while staring up at a model of a space shuttle at the National Air and Space Museum. All of this makes sense, of course, because the same WORLD WAR I pilot is able to fly a jet plane about ten minutes later with no issues. This is only a small taste of how special this movie gets.
Absolutely fitting for 2020, one of the most anticipated releases of the year has ended up being the most disappointing. WONDER WOMAN 1984 is not a complete failure; but, rather, a laughable series of questionable choices and missed opportunities. To its credit, it is also a shockingly dull effort that tends to insult audience intelligence while diving a bit too far past the level of mediocrity.
Simply put, it’s not fun. For a superhero franchise, this latest installment in the DC Extended Universe is as uninspired as it is joyless. After a 151-minute long slog, the overwhelmingly positive pre-release hype now seems quite suspicious. Director Patty Jenkins’ return to screenwriting (in a collaboration with Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham) delivered an embarrassingly lame story that centers on a unsatisfying ‘Monkey’s Paw’ plot point.
While not entirely her fault, Gal Gadot’s fourth appearance as Diana Prince is, arguably, her weakest. The screenplay was in desperate need of a complete overhaul (Wonder Woman, herself, feels like a side character throughout most of the runtime), and even the action set pieces were nothing more than poorly-cribbed scenes from far superior films. For example, there is an extended homage to RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK that just makes you want to watch the real thing; mostly because Gadot’s performance lacks any sense of the charm you should expect.
The former Miss Israel is a distractingly beautiful woman — which is, possibly, her biggest asset as an actress. While serviceable in these films, Gadot has yet to be given much more than the role of ‘drop dead gorgeous woman who can kick ass’. There are a few fleeting moments in WW84 that call for her to emote, and Gadot’s “You have arrived at your destination” Google Maps line delivery is a big minus.
The true misfire, though, is the wasted talent of Kristen Wiig. As Barbara Minerva/Cheetah, Wiig gets to split her time between being a geeky caricature and an underdeveloped supervillain-turned-CGI monstrosity. While a legendary foe of Wonder Woman, Cheetah’s inclusion in this story is solely out of necessity for a third act battle that goes nowhere.
Awkwardly enough, for a series built on marketing ‘Girl Power’, only the guys were given a real chance to shine. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor manages to provide much welcomed laughs while trapped in a problematic (and completely unnecessary) storyline; and Pedro Pascal (THE MANDALORIAN) carries the film with an over-the-top portrayal of our central villain, the corrupt failed businessman Max Trum— sorry, Lord. Nothing is subtle (7 billion people needing to make the right decision is *chef’s kiss*), and everything is a cliché.
[The bad guy ends up building a wall. Seriously.]
Considering the reported $200 million budget, the special effects crew failed to impress. Between lackluster CGI, obvious green screen work, amateurish practical effects, and the outright dismissal of physics, many scenes look painfully bad. Take a quick return trip to the Cairo convoy scene, for instance, and ask yourself how that clear shot of child mannequins ended up being so noticeable in the finished project.
There is an unfortunate weightlessness to most of the action (especially in the final showdown between Wonder Woman and Cheetah) that may remind some viewers of the infamous ‘Burly Brawl’ in THE MATRIX RELOADED. It doesn’t quite get to that level, but only because they had the good sense to frame it as a night scene.
Until the dependent-on-memories-of-the Cold War action begins, WONDER WOMAN 1984 barely bothers to take advantage of its retro setting (beyond the overdone ‘wardrobe montage’ sight gag). The movie is not nearly as bad as many are claiming, but it is a huge letdown for people who were genuinely excited about the previous change in direction for DC films.
An earlier review I posted immediately after watching gave WONDER WOMAN 1984 Two and a Half Beers. My original opinion is that it was a middle-of-the-road timewaster and not overly offensive. However, the more time I’ve had to think about it, the more I understand why some would rank this lower. It’s big dumb fun without the fun… but I’ve seen much worse.
Two and a Half out of Five Beers