Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)


Wonder Woman was a surprise when it came out in 2017.  It wasn't that a superhero movie with a strong female lead could become such a hit, but more so that Warner Bros. and DC had it in them to make a movie that had a sensible plot and was indeed watchable.  Marvel has made its mistakes, especially when trying to force female leads to be heroes of third-wave feminism rather than just simply showing them as equals with the male heroes.  Diana Prince was always a character that was building up to being great.  As times changed, Wonder Woman changed, from making tea for Superman and Batman to being one of the strongest heroes around. 

I still had a couple problems with the first film.  One is that it went the usual path of the DC movies of looking like it was filmed on an extremely bad day in Los Angeles, with everything a monochrome brownish-orange.  The other is that Ares was a terrible, forgettable villain.  I understand that there has to be someone with the power of a god to go up against Diana, as she is practically a god herself.  This is also a major problem with DC - their superheroes are often so ridiculously overpowered that the plot can't get interesting unless the villain is of equal power or the hero loses theirs.  For the second outing of Wonder Woman Patty Jenkins and her cowriter Geoff Johns just decided to throw in both and get it done with.  

Diana Prince is living alone in Washington, D.C. in 1984 and works at the Smithsonian Institute.  After she captures a bunch of bad guys at a local mall it turns out that one of the jewelry stores was a front for smuggling artifacts, and one in particular happens to be what appears to be a cheap decoration from Roman times that an inscription says grants wishes.  Not thinking much of it Diana wishes that Steve (Chris Pine), whom she has been missing since he sacrificed himself to help stop Ares's plan in World War I, was back.  Her colleague, the beleaguered and largely ignored Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) makes her own wish, and shortly finds that she is suddenly the center of attraction - not to mention that she suddenly possesses some surprising new powers.

It turns out the stone was smuggled in at the behest of Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pescal), a television huckster stuck with a bunch of dry oil wells.  With it he quickly starts becoming the most powerful man on Earth.  Diana and Steve also find out that the stone is responsible for the destruction of civilizations throughout history, and with the way the world of the 1980s is connected, it might spell doom to the entire planet.  Also, it turns out that every wish has a price, and the price for Diana is the loss of her powers. 

One of the first things I noticed about Wonder Woman 1984 is that it doesn't look like a DC film.  There are some filters used here and there, but they're not intrusive and they're much more natural.  Unfortunately, the CGI is still the quality that the other DC movies have had, which means largely looking like it is half-finished with an obvious green screen behind.  While it is nice to see an invisible jet (not the invisible jet, mind you), the scenes featuring it are horribly done.  Better done is the flying sequence (turns out Diana doesn't really need a jet), but they also contain scenes that are just eye-rolling, not because of the effects but because at this point it is becoming obvious that Diana's powers and the physics of this universe have no rules other than whatever might serve the plot.

As an aside, this movie was finished and ready to be released a year ago.  That means before the pandemic.  It has been sitting on a shelf waiting for the right moment, so there is no excuse for anything here looking half-baked, but it still is.  Also, the length of the film is a major problem that someone should have noticed between then and now.  The beginning is an extended flashback to Themyscira with a young Diana (Lilly Aspell) learning a life lesson that has nothing to do with anything else that happens in the movie.  After that it is at least 20 minutes before we stop just meeting random characters and find out what the plot is supposed to be.  I didn't read any reviews before watching so I wasn't aware that it was going to be similar to an old After School Special about a kid who brings society to its knees when he wishes for all the money the world.  

Once the plot is revealed it does get interesting.  It's not an original idea by any means, but the results and the destruction caused simply by everyone getting everything they want is well done.  It also becomes clear that this is taking place on an alternative Earth, as the President (Stuart Milligan) is definitely not Reagan - and was a wise choice to avoid attaching any politics to the movie.  

While I thought the movie got better as it went along, and do not think it's as bad as the reputation it is getting, Wonder Woman 1984 is a return to the problem of DC films having thin plots that get overcomplicated.  Also, there was no need for two villains, especially as neither Pedro Pescal or Kristen Wiig are convincing in their roles.  This is sad because they get a lot of screen time, plenty in fact to develop them, but they were either told just to play them campy or else it's just a case of miscasting.  Chris Pine provides a bit of humor as he tries to adjust to the modern world (from within the body of a random person), but he largely sleepwalks through his portion of the film, as does Gal Gadot for the movie's entirety.  She looks the part, but in all honesty Wonder Woman is given little do, and Gadot often looks like she has not idea why she's hanging around.  There are two major action sequences, and one is to show how she is starting to lose her powers, while the other is the end - which is something all on its own, using lines I swear were stolen from motivational posters and Hallmark cards.  And that golden angel suit in the trailers?  That is used for all about 90 seconds.  And, yes, I am aware there are three sequences if one counts the mall scene near the beginning, but I really can't. 

While I am still happy to see that Wonder Woman 1984 is not trying to follow the grimdark path of the rest of the DCEU, it still makes many of the same mistakes and, for something that has been waiting in the wings for over a year, should have been much better.  There was plenty of time during this pandemic for individuals to sit down, watch this and ask, "Is this really what we want to release?"  This probably doesn't even have the excuse of a "Snyder Cut", as I'm sure this is what Patty Jenkins meant to give us.  

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Time: 151 minutes 
Starring: Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pescal, Chris Pine
Director: Patty Jenkins
 

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