Great ideas, bad execution
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020): Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman's next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
Woof. That's a cringe IMDB description. Anyway, DC movies get a bad wrap. They’re kind of set up to fail, because ultimately they become gods fighting gods, and they are still (somehow) influenced by Zack Snyder, which means incoherent fight sequences with a lot of cheesy CGI being shot at night. (Absolutely nothing should be influenced by Zack Snyder, yet here we are.) That said, when the original Wonder Woman hit theaters, I was pleasantly surprised. Director Patty Jenkins and company managed to buck the Snyder aesthetic (until its admittedly lame final sequence) for not only some marvelous action sequences, (with only mildly cheesy CGI) but a touching and intimate story around its title character. Wonder Woman’s arc is one of the most interesting arcs in a superhero film that combines a coming of age story with understanding the complexities of humanity. So I was hopeful, heading into WW84, that we would see another intimate portrait of one of our culture’s most iconic superheroes in addition to the inevitable Snyder “god vs god” action sequences. Is that what we got? ……..I would argue yes, but in a far more abstract and unorthodox way than we were expecting.
Look. I know WW84 is getting dunked on by the neckbeards. They say it’s overzealous, overlong, and full of “plot holes” and “macguffins.” If you came here hoping for another dunk sesh, you’re not going to get it. I actually really like some of the ideas and themes presented in this film. (Some spoilers ahead, fair warning) For example, Barbara Minerva’s (Kristen Wiig) transformation from a down-on-her-luck archeologist that nobody likes into Cheetah, an “apex predator,” was super interesting. Patty Jenkins (back as director and also co-writer, this time around) attempts to use Minerva’s past traumas as the catalyst for this transformation. This is a really good idea and has the makings of a potentially excellent villain, and is easily the most intriguing aspect of the entire film. But the execution? We’ll get to that. I also enjoyed Maxwell Lord’s (Pedro Pascal) villain arc. The idea that we could want everything in the world yet still need the people we love the most is unique and interesting, and the conclusion of this idea, aka the final “climatic” sequence of the film, is a very unique conclusion for a supervillain. But again, the execution is….lacking. The idea of Maxwell Lord obtaining everything and giving it all up for the person he loves most, while Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has to give up the person she loves most to save everything? Great idea. But the execution….? Just a minute. We’ll get there. There are some good performances too. Pedro Pascal is extremely campy, erratic, and over-the-top, but Gal Gado and Kristen Wiig are both excellent, especially the later. Barbara Minerva is generally the best thing in this film, and her quirky awkward beginnings as a character is a performance few can pull of as well as Wigg. Those are all good things!
If only the execution was anything close to cohesive and competent. This script is a mess. All of those ideas I mentioned are fun, unique, and compelling, but each requires a significant amount of setup in order to be earned. Despite this film’s massive 151 minute runtime, none of those ideas are even close to properly visualized. Instead, we focus too much on Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) “Discovering the 80s with quirky nostalgic humor,” which is totally unnecessary rehash of the “Wonder Woman sees advanced civilization for the first time with an innocent sense of discovery and joy,” from the first film. We spend too much time on Maxwell Lord essentially killing anything and everyone to control the world for his abrupt transformation to giving it all up for his son. Also, call me cynical, but part of this end sequence involved civilization “recanting” their wishes they had just asked for because Wonder Woman asked them to. While I do like the sentiment, after watching 40% of America refuse to wear a mask to protect others throughout 2020, citing “personal liberty,” it’s hard for me to buy the idea that the entire world would come together and recant everything they want for the safety / well being of others. It’s just…. An overall terrible final sequence. Despite it being somewhat unorthodox and unique. Again.... abstract! Oh, also! Just before that sequence, we (finally) get the final transformation of Barbara Minerva into Cheetah, a villain so weakly used that I had to actually Google who she was after the film to find out it was Cheetah, but this sequence is the obligatory terrible action sequence in every DC film: two gods facing each other with cheesy CGI, in the dark, and lots of strobe lights. (This time in the form of exposed power lines!)
So, should you watch WW84? I say yes, because I think there are some good ideas here. (And you can stream it on HBO Max and let's face it: what else are you going to do right now? Laughs) I’ve been simmering on what Wonder Woman has to do to save humanity here, as well as what Maxwell Lord has to do to save humanity. That ending for the supervillain was very abstract, and I appreciated the idea despite the shoddy execution. Barbara Minerva’s transformation has resonated as well, particularly when she is forced to confront her traumas with enhanced powers. Dealing with them by cheating, so to say. It’s a great descent into evil, but this idea, like so many others, falls short of being truly worthwhile because here’s another idea! And a big chase sequence that is completely unnecessary and doesn’t serve the plot! And here’s Steve Trevor discovering baggy pants with lots of zippers! (trails off into oblivion)
My Number: 5/10 Average
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