While the release of Wonder Woman 1984 has sparked controversy, mostly because of the ongoing movie theater versus at-home-viewing experience debate, it’s important to judge it on its own. Sure, we’re used to seeing superhero movies on a much bigger screen with an impeccable sound system, but obviously that’s not possible for a lot of people right now. Because of this, studios like Disney and Warner Bros. are releasing new movies on their streaming services the same day they’re released in theaters. It may not be the same, but it’s a suitable solution for those of us who can’t go to the movies. In the case of Wonder Woman 1984, not even seeing it in a theater could fix its substantial flaws.
Patty Jenkins has proven her talent as a director, and her work in Wonder Woman 1984 is impressive. What is incredibly lacking is a cohesive story, which she helped create along with DC veteran Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham (co-writer of Zombieland: Double Tap and The Expendables). They fail to deliver a compelling sequel that has some promising elements but is ultimately bogged down with too many underdeveloped ideas.
Wonder Woman 1984 finds Diana in the 80s, although as much as the trailers boast what decade the movie is set in, it’s quite easy to forget. The film doesn’t do enough to embrace the 80s and often feels very glossed over in terms of what it was actually like back then. Yes, there’s a cute sequence of Chris Pine trying on various outfits of the decade, which ends up being pointless since he just ends up wearing the same clothes he wore the previous day, plus a fanny pack. It’s clear that there was much more work put into the visuals and the overall style of the movie, which are arguably the most compelling parts, than the script. The story is so thin despite the lengthy runtime, the main plot device being an ancient wishing stone that ends up falling into the hands of the movie’s main villain, Max Lord.
The villains of WW84 are an incredible weak point despite solid performances by Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal. Wiig plays Barbara Minerva, an archeologist and gemologist at the Smithsonian who is assigned to identify several unknown artifacts, the wishing stone being one of them. In her first interaction with Diana, Barbara is immediately floored by her presence, later finding herself wanting to be like her. Her journey as a character is quite juvenile as screenwriting goes, a lot of what happens to her not making sense in the world of the movie. To that point, there are so many details that feel like they were just thrown into the story last minute to try to bring the whole final act together, which happens to be the lowest point of the film.
Max Lord serves as the central villain to the story and suffers from the same problems most of the script does. A man bent on having the wishing stone for himself, Lord’s motivation as a character is so muddled. It’s like the screenwriters couldn’t agree on one aspect of him to fully develop so they just ran with all the ideas they had and put it all on this one character. It makes the climax of the movie so confusing and inconsequential. It also doesn’t help that the mechanics of the wishing stone are never fully established, leading to a very important detail being implemented towards the end that was never even considered a possibility until that moment. The film is filled with so many plot holes and issues like this that take away from the few good things it has to offer.
While Gal Gadot still carries herself well as Diana, especially in the action sequences, she’s not as charming and likable as she was in the first movie. This is largely due to their insistence of bringing Steve Trevor back and the way that they do it. It feels very out of character for Diana to be so okay with Steve coming back in the way that he does, and the fact that it’s dealt with in a way that’s supposed to be cute and funny does not come off well at all. The addition of Steve Trevor is a major detriment to the story and definitely could have been cut out, or at least easily changed in a way that wouldn’t feel so inappropriate.
Clearly Wonder Woman 1984 suffers from bad writing. The fact that there’s so much of it is the real surprising part. Visually, it’s engaging and fun to watch, and Pedro Pascal is so hammy and wonderful it’s almost like he’s in a completely different movie. While it’s certainly a disappointment, I find it hard to believe that seeing it in a theater would change anything. Movie theaters exist to enhance already good movies. If the filmmakers didn’t do everything they could to make it the best that it could be, then that’s on them.
Dir: Patty Jenkins
Scr: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal
Prd: Stephen Jones, Patty Jenkins, Charles Roven, Gal Gadot
DoP: Matthew Jensen
Runtime: 2 hrs. and 31 minutes