We’ve been expecting you, Wonder Woman 1984.
After numerous stops and starts, it’s finally here, dropping on HBO Max and at theaters (where applicable). With the hype train taking off from the station at the 2019 CCXP almost a year ago to date, was it worth the long and momentum-killing wait?
Sadly, or predictably, this is the part where I tell you some variant of “not exactly,” “kinda, sorta,” or “yes and no.”
Diana’s (Gal Gadot) story picks up in the mid-80s where she resides in Washington, DC, working at the Smithsonian and covertly (in the loosest terms possible) keeping the peace as her costumed alter ego. At work, she makes a new friend in the sweet and nerdy Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who almost immediately finds herself in awe of Diana’s entire being. Also passing through the museum, as well as through both of their grasps, is the film’s deadly dramatic object – the mysterious citrine “dream stone”, an ancient wish granting jewel sought after by the power-mad wannabe oil tycoon and TV personality, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal).
Eventually, all three come to make a wish on the stone. Through a little charm and chicanery, Max obtains the stone and wishes to become the magical item itself, going on to use his newfound wish granting ability to take what he wants and slowly bring the world to a tipping point. Diana’s wish brings Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) back into her life, though Barabara’s brewing, newly granted feral attitude puts the Amazon’s second chance at love at odds with her duty to save the day.
The biggest problem Wonder Woman 1984 has is that it does almost nothing to exceed the expectations of anyone who’s been looking into this flick since last January and kept appraised of online rumors (like yours truly). From Steve’s return in a ‘Quantum Leap’-type scenario, to the Golden Eagle armor belonging to an ancient Amazon warrior named Asteria, to Max standing in for President Trump and always wanting more-more-more, most of the Reddit spoilers from February are accurate. If you’ve read them, you’ve essentially seen the movie.
Hoping for any curveballs or extra nuance? You’ll be disappointed for the most part.
Return to Camp
That’s not to say the affair isn’t any fun, mind you. It’s just fun in the same way Richard Donner’s Superman, the 1984 Supergirl movie, Batman Forever, or even the Menachem Golan-produced Superman IV and Captain America starring Matt Salinger can be. This is true especially of the first half, which leans heavily into the campiness of an 80s superhero movie. Just watch the action scene at the mall, where hammy thugs rob an antiquities store as equally corny bystanders scurry for their lives or find themselves saved by Diana, to see what I mean.
The endemic corniness might be an attempt by director Patty Jenkins to pay tribute to the decade of the 80s and the 1975 Wonder Woman TV show, but it reeks more of the story’s co-writer Geoff Johns, whose writing previously resulted in the endless rewrites, woeful reshoots, and lighter tone for the theatrical release of Justice League were his doing largely. After all, less dark, more optimistic superheroes for all ages – as seen in Stargirl – are his signature.
More than that, WW84 fits better into the image Johns tried, in vain, to remold the DC cinematic universe into amidst the absence of Zack Snyder. Tonally, the film is equal to Justice League, Birds of Prey, and TV offerings like the aforementioned Stargirl. Hardly rebooting anything, the film stands on its own just as Jenkins wanted, but also outside the grim, muted palate of the Snyderverse – a canon it’s supposed to fit within.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a two-and-a-half-hour movie that doesn’t feel long, though it also feels disposable, in a comfort food sort of way. It didn’t stick with me after a first viewing the way Joker did or the way Marvel’s stuff usually does. Instead, I found myself pondering on all of the lingering questions and missed opportunities resulting from the film’s fear of taking risks.
Case in point: Did Steve really return or was it an existential fakeout, the illusion of someone thinking he was Steve with all his memories and skills? An exact copy created by the stone based on Diana’s deepest desires and recollection of him? In short, only Steve in her mind? We never know because, ultimately, the movie never bothers to ask.
For all of the waiting, not to mention the alleged reshoots made after a particularly bad test screening, you’d think Warner Bros. would’ve been hiding something more bold and not so run-of-the-mill. Aside from box-office receipts, the studio is losing nothing from dropping the film on HBO Max, as it does little to nothing to distinguish itself from other cinematic superhero offerings.
It’s not like those returns would matter anyway; we’re getting another one anyway.
After the average romp that is Wonder Woman 1984, here’s to the hope Godzilla vs. Kong will be everything we want and more.
- Pedro Pascal plays a decent bad guy, recalling aspects of Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor, Trump or no Trump.
- Gal Gadot still does very well with her material, proving that, all things considered, she is a great Wonder Woman.
- Gadot and Chris Pine’s chemistry is the highlight of the film.
- Cheetah is underutilized.