In 2017 Wonder Woman made her way to the big screen in her first solo movie. At the time, it was quite an achievement. There were so few big-budget movies anchored by a female lead, let alone as a tentpole for two franchises (her own and the mercifully canceled Justice League). The thought of trying to make a story as fantastical as the story of Diana of Themyscira both palatable and understandable to a movie-going audience was once thought to be impossible. Thankfully Gal Gadot’s scene-stealing performance as Wonder Woman in the flawed but underrated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (god, that was a stupid, stupid title) managed to get even the most staunch detractor to sit back and say maybe this could work.
In her solo film debut, we were treated to another stellar performance from Gadot. Even with her strong performance, the film played like it was two movies merged together. The latter of which was too much like any bloated and overly dark Zach Snyder film, again see BvS and 40% of the debacle that was Justice League… or Watchmen… are we sure Snyder is good at making movies? Anyway, with the mess that was the production of the first film, there were enough positives that most fans were still excited to see what DC and Director Patty Jenkins would do with the character next. Enter Wonder Woman 1984. This Jenkins led sequel was supposed to right the wrongs of the original film. Jenkins should have had control of her film this time around. Snyder wasn’t attached as a producer so the collective masses were left to assume WW84 would not be the tale of two movies, but one cohesive story. What we ended up with wasn’t quite that. In fact, it may have actually been worse.
**Spoiler Warning Ahead**
What’s it all about?
The plot of WW84 circles around Diana standing by her pledge to protect the world of man. Diana, while working for a museum during the day also fights crime… well during the day. Diana eventually gets caught up in a plot by the evil Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) who uses Diana’s new coworker and friend Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) to gain possession of a wish-granting stone. To further complicate things, both Diana and Barbara unknowingly make wishes, one of which leads to Diana’s lover, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) being mysteriously resurrected. The other leads to Minerva gaining the same strength as Diana, but at the cost of her humanity. Diana must reconcile with the return of her love and a heel turn by her only friend (Minerva) while stopping Lord’s bid to take over the world.
It Is 1984… For Some Reason…
This movie takes full advantage of its’ period setting. For three-quarters of the film, it’s bright, loud, and oh so 80’s. Though this is one of the strengths of the film, it’s also one of its chief weaknesses. Even though it does a great job of encapsulating the true essence of the 80’s it opens itself up to an insane amount of continuity errors. With the scope of this film and its climax, it seems impossible that by the time Batman v Superman happens no one has any idea who Diana Prince or Wonder Woman is.
Yes, throughout the film we see Diana disabling any cameras that could possibly catch her in action, but the ending features Diana reaching out to essentially everyone on the planet and delivering an impassioned speech to get everything to renounce their wishes. How is there no record of this happening? Bruce Wayne taunts Diana in Justice League over her being a ghost and letting the world fall apart around her. The implication being that Batman has done his research and Diana even cops to it. Diana is clearly in full hero mode in WW84. I realize that when it comes to these movies, we have to suspend disbelief but asking us to ignore a gap like this isn’t just illogical, it’s insulting.
Turning Lemons Into Lemonade…
The issue with WW84 wasn’t the performances. Gal Gadot shines once again as our hero. The warmth and ferocity that she displays while in this role truly does embody the spirit of the Wonder Woman who exists in the comics. Kristin Wiig’s naturally beautiful but awkward charm is on full display as she manages to make us care about Barbara Minvera both before and after she breaks bad and becomes the fearsome Cheetah.
Speaking of Lord, Pascal worked overtime to turn Lord, a villain with the thinnest of motivations for ruling the world (he claims he doing it for his son, but it’s really for him and his own vanity. He’s basically a less likable Walter White) into a somewhat sympathetic but definitely multilayered character. Pine’s Steve Trevor delighted, as he was forced to play the role Gadot played in the original film; a fish out of water, who has no idea how to operate in a world they have never lived in. Diana and Steve’s interactions are the heart of the movie. Though touching, those interactions are also responsible for this film not living up to its full potential.
The Steve Trevor Problem
One of the main issues with the first film was Diana’s over-reliance on Steve. Steve is a major part of the character’s history, you can’t tell Wonder Woman’s story without including him. Steve is and always will be her first love and her original guide in the world of man. All that said, Wonder Woman’s story isn’t a love story. It’s about her becoming a beacon of hope, your favorite hero’s favorite hero. She’s a warrior, not a lovesick puppy. With 2017’s movie being a true origin story, it made sense to focus on the relationship between Diana and Steve and how it helped shape her humanity. One of the best decisions in the first film was killing Steve off. Steve got a hero’s send-off and Diana got another wrinkle to her already rich character.
Unfortunately in the first film, this led to Diana unlocking her full potential/god-like power to defeat the film’s villain Ares. This tired trope cheapened the whole experience. Simply put, Wonder Woman shouldn’t need Steve to reach her potential; she should reach it in spite of him. With Steve returning in this film, it shifted the story from the progression of Wonder Woman as a hero and icon for women around the world to a sad, lovelorn woman who’s entire existence is linked to and shaped by a man. It wasn’t easy, but we can overlook the use of this same old trope in the first film. Resurrecting Steve and doing it all over again is quite silly.
Diana leading the fish out of water Steve Trevor through the world was somewhat entertaining but they ended up just rehashing the same jokes and situations from the first film in reverse. Also, we can’t glance over the plot of the film having Steve taking over the body of a random guy who is just minding his own business. That dude lost days of his life and it’s never addressed. At all. Much like most of this movie, there are little to no consequences for anything that happens.
Fun Action, But That Ending Was… Something…
Despite its flaws, WW84 featured a ton of fun action sequences. The opening mall fight and the battle with Minerva in the white house stand out as particularly impressive. Diana and her powers were on full display as she utterly destroyed every villain she came into contact with. That is until we realize that the consequences of her wish to resurrect Steve leads to her powers slowly fading away. Having Diana lose her powers could have led to an interesting path for it to become necessary for her to dawn the Amazonian ceremonial gold armor. But again, they missed the mark. Instead of having to battle Cheetah in a weakened state, she gets all of her powers back and stops home to put on the armor for I don’t know… reasons.
During the course of this movie, Diana is shown riding lightning and magically turning things invisible (don’t get me started on that scene). But Wonder Woman, who at full power is essentially a god, needs armor to battle Cheetah. The armor does basically nothing. It offered some protection against Cheetah’s claws, but any standard Amazonian shield would have done that. Diana doesn’t need the armor to fly (she taught herself how after she renounced her wish and lost Steve again… eye roll). Having the armor itself be inconsequential in the final battle just makes its inclusion seem like fan service fluff. If the goal was to show Diana at a disadvantage and to force her to use other means to win a battle, giving her all of her powers back before the final fight cheapens what you were trying to accomplish to begin with.
Once Diana has dispatched Cheetah, she has to take down Lord, who is minutes away from using the powers he stole from the stone to destroy everything just so he can be the most powerful man on the planet. The only way to stop Lord is to get him to renounce his wish or kill him. Diana is placed in a similar situation with Lord in the comics. Lord has taken over Superman’s mind and in using the lasso of truth on Lord, Lord tells Diana the only way to free the Man of Steel is to kill him. So she does. She snaps Lord’s neck while it is being broadcast all over the world. For all of the darkness of the current DCU, this is the one time a grizzly moment like Wonder Woman killing Lord in cold blood would have made sense. It’s a pivotal moment in the comics and it gets wasted because having Diana give an impassioned Naruto-esque speech to get the villain to change his ways made more sense… to someone with way too much power. Believe it.
Superman snapping Zod’s neck in Man of Steel is still out of place and shows the person that helmed that film *cough* Zack Snyder *cough* didn’t truly understand the character. This is just another in a long line of bizarre narrative choices for this film. Wonder Woman is a warrior first and will always make the call for the greater good, no matter how dirty her hands need to get in the process. How would an event like Wonder Woman killing a man as the world watches shape her relationships with the other heroes in the DCU? I guess we’ll never know.
In The End
WW84 has a ton of action with amazing set pieces. Gadot, Wiig, Pascal, and Pine shine with the material they are given, but the plot holes and baffling narrative choices weigh this film down to the point where it impossible for it to live up to any of the expectations or hype that was created by the uneven original 2017 film. The movie is worth a watch but only if you have well over two and a half hours to kill. If you have literally nothing else to do, go for it but proceed with caution if you are looking for a film with any substance- this movie isn’t it.