The original Wonder Woman film was a rare high point in the DC universe of films. She was also the best part of the Justice League. I was excitedly waiting for the Christmas day release of Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max. The movie quickly dashed my high hopes, and I was given more of the disappointing DC universe that has become all too familiar. At least we got a Harley Quinn movie this year, whatever the final name turned out to be.
Gal Gadot returns as Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman. The film starts with a flashback to a pre-teen Diana on Themyscira where we see Diana come up with a clever solution to a problem only to have her mother point out that the solution broke the rules. I still do not know what the point of that scene was because I could not draw a parallel to 1984 Diana. The credits were also set in a horrendous 1984 graphics font. It was a horrible juxtaposition to the very first HBO release in 4K HDR.
The second opening scene, the one in 1984, left me wondering if she had become the ‘friendly neighborhood spiderman’ of the DC universe. Wonder Woman lassos four would-be robbers in a mall. Oddly, nobody knows who she is. Was this a one-off vigilantly job for Wonder Woman? It must be since nobody knew who she was.
Chris Pine returns as Diana’s love interest Steve Trevor and he introduces us to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane, though she never flies it. The movie never really addresses how Steve returns or why he is living in someone else’s body. It is best not to think about Steve. Diana learns to fly without the jet making the entire invisible jet just a gift to Steve. That was an odd choice.
Kristen Wiig plays Barbara Minerva, a co-worker of Diana’s at the Smithsonian. I would expect the researchers at the Smithsonian to be a bunch of highly intelligent nerds who love talking about their various scientific pursuits in a deeply passionate way. WW84 decided that the Smithsonian was like high school and Barbara was the nerd that nobody acknowledged the existence of. I work almost exclusively with the nerds from High school and we all generally get along. I cannot imagine the Smithsonian would be anything but an even nerdier bunch of people. Barbara being an outsider sets her up for a stupid ‘She’s All That’ style makeover. That was fine in 1999 for a cheesy comedy, but not for a 2020 blockbuster.
Pedro Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, the overly cartoonish villain of the film. His motivations and concerns in life are one-dimensional, money! He is a con-artist that stumbles his way into a superpower to gain more wealth. He has a son from a prior marriage that he has zero interest in for 95% of the movie. Lord is so over the top cartoonishly evil that you have zero compassion for him at any time. The best villains make you question how much of a villain they are and Lord is unquestionably a self-serving villain.
This movie is 2:30 long and does not deserve it. There are plenty of entire scenes that could have been cut completely. I am not sure what the editors were doing, but it certainly was not editing this film down. The fight sequences were very disappointing. Wonder Woman relies almost entirely on her lasso. Gone is most of the hand-to-hand combat from the original movie. Gal Gadot served in the Israeli armed forces, I know she poses a level of martial arts skill that I never will, and we have seen it in other performances from her, including the first Wonder Woman. It is a huge disappointment to not see those skills in her performance this time around.
This film had so much hype behind it. The critics that got to see it early must have been selectively chosen because the negative reviews are flooding out now that it has been released more broadly. This movie should serve as the nail in the coffin for any hope that the DC universe will ever take on the MCU. It is time to reset expectations for Warner Brothers and accept the DC universe for what it is.