Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) has some really fun parts and some very good effects. It also has a lot of parts that don’t make sense. Now, to say that you would have to suspend belief for a superhero movie is redundant, so I don’t know why many people have harsh opinions of this rather silly but allegorical film.
Moral of the story: “Be careful what you wish for” or “All things come with a cost.” or “You can’t cheat your way through life.”
I’m not really giving anything away by telling you this because it’s a familiar theme of so many other stories, shows and movies before it. The ultimate may be the cherished short story of “The Monkey’s Paw.” If you’ve not heard of this tale, then perhaps spend 25 minutes reading a copy of it online, or watching one of these videos.
This movie opens with another flash back to the Amazon’s island, where a tween version of Diana (aka Wonder Woman) makes a valiant effort to win a race against her fully grown competitors. The scene is a bit of a cross between Harry Potter’s Quidditch and the Ninja Warriors tv show.
Fast forward to the 1980s, when popular fashion is not complimentary to the body, shopping malls are a thing, and the Metro is a modern marvel. We see Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, some 66 years after her previous feature film. In that film, she basically ended the use of poison gas during World War I, but in the process, she lost her love interest, the pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). She is in Washington, D.C. and performs some daring feats at an 80’s version of Pentagon City Mall. She stops some criminals who were stealing stolen artifacts.
These artifacts end up going to the Smithsonian, where they are studied by a mousey antiquities specialist, Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig). Diana and Barbara become friends after discussing a cheap looking crystaline object. It is surrounded by a ring enscribed with Latin writing. Since Diana can read hundreds of languages, it says something about making a wish. You see where this is going?
Without realizing what she’s done, Diana gets her beloved pilot Steve back, sort of. And Barbara also get her wish to become more like Diana, “sexy and strong.” Next, enter the films third main character, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal, an actor mostly know for his role as Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones.)
Max Lord is a shady character who wants the stone for himself, so he woos Barbara and convinces her to let him have it, because she believe it to be nearly worthless. Turns out, he is a failed and phony oil baron wannabe. And, so — off goes the plot. Wishes are granted, consequences must be paid.
None of what you see after that point makes much sense plot-wise. In the earlier film, it was established that Diana is a child of the god Zeus and her Amazon mother. She did battle with the god Ares in 1918, and though she was trained to fight as an Amazon, she discovered she had many extra talents as “the god killer.” One of which was some kind of cross-fisted force field explosive energy. Also, the island of the Amazons seemed to have an invisible shield around it to protect it from the eyes of men. These concepts get revisited here to bounce some bullets and to produce the famous “invisible jet.”
Now, I only really know Wonder Woman from the 1970s Saturday Morning Cartoons, and the short-lived TV show that starred Lynda Carter, and less famously from the first Wonder Woman movie starring Cathy Lee Crosby. The Lynda Carter TV show was a favorite in my household, and my school that year; and my brothers and I used to pretend we could ricochet bullets off our wrists. I took the role play a bit further and would do the twirl where Lynda Carter would go from pretty lady to curvy superhero in a skimpy costume. None of that action made any sense, but people really enjoyed it as entertainment. That series had two different timelines, too — both of them with the same male lead, Steve Trevor. But they didn’t craft any particular explanation of how he could be in both timelines without ever aging. So, again, this movie really harkens back to simpler times of lower expectations for plotlines that don’t need to make a whole lot of sense.
The effects in the opening sequence in the mall look amazing. The overall finished product there really makes you feel like you are watching a product of late-70s Superman (Christopher Reeve) era. Pedro Pascal’s comes off as being another take on power-hungry Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman). As I was watching Wonder Woman do her impossible leaps and swings, I was thinking, “The special effects have come a long way from Cat Woman (Halle Berry).” But as the plot got toward the end, and mousy Barbara’s character turned from nice to nasty, the film literally turned into Cat Woman again, with a cat fight between the two women, and lots more impossible leaping. Actually, at one point Kristen Wiig becomes the powerful character of Cheetah, but she looks like she should be on the set of Cats the musical, rather than Wonder Woman.
I may be a little biased about the movie being all right. It was shot right here in Washington, DC. And I remember driving by the sets one early weekend morning and seeing blockades and vehicles overturned in the street. At first, I really thought there’d been some kind of accident or terrorism incident. Then I realized, “Oh, it’s the Wonder Woman film.” They do a super job of turning the Watergate, Ellipse, Pennsylvania Avenue, and many other the many places I’ve traveled repeatedly into a disaster movie set.
So, look, you already know this truism: sequels demand more. More villains, more super feats, more powers, more costumes, more gadgets, and really — just more of the same, in most cases. Which usually ends up bringing in more plot holes. By the time we get to the invisible jet, it seems so dumb. But it really doesn’t matter because you have to ask how Steve figures out how to fly a jet, why it has fuel in it, or even where they land the plane when they get to Egypt. And to prove it doesn’t matter, Diana next learns how to lasso lightning and catch the wind so she can fly. Now, I don’t remember Wonder Woman being a demi-god or being able to fly back when I was a kid (that would have been Oh Mighty Isis), but I suppose the fans can tell you more than I ever could of who and what these characters are.
In the end, this is another allegory about living a lie and paying the consequences. It is hardly the worst superhero movie I’ve ever seen. At least it is playful, and not all gloomy like the Batman franchise has become. There’s a few mild 4-letter words, but nothing like Batman v Superman with the serious, adult language and edgier violence.
Is it a dumb movie? By the time Wonder Woman and Cheetah duke it out, there’s a costume change for Diana, to a golden warrior with wings. It is not necessary. A lot of what they do, is not necessary. Flashy without plot substance. What does she need wings for, if she can fly on the winds anyway? Why don’t they explain what is wrong with Maxwell Lord’s head? As for what happens to the villains in the end — it is family friendly ending, but not really an ending at all. I mean, it is an ending for this film, but what are the consequences for any of these characters? Don’t know.
Pascal’s acting is pretty good at some parts, particularly when he is having his climax moment; but he is not given a great deal of believable behavior to follow. Gadot looks pretty and hits a couple of unexpected marks when her voice breaks in the beginning; though her emotional scene with Pine near the end feels like it is just acting. Wiig does not feel like she has the physicality or mean streak needed to carry this character of mousey Barbara to the wild Cheetah. She does okay, especially when she confronts a man who deserves a whooping. The emotional bits could have been played up a little with better close-ups or something, I’m not sure. But both of the pivotal “moments of realization” feel like they missed the mark.
The thing about this film is, it has been delayed multiple times because of Covid closing nearly all of the theaters. It is essentially a 2-year-old movie, when Kristen Wiig was a bigger star, and Wonder Woman was still new and beloved. But an extra year has gone by, and our world has suffered a world-wide tragedy, and some would say at the hands of a failed businessman with megalomaniacal behaviors to try and take over the world. We’ve been living this nightmare, and the end of this will not be anything like Wonder Woman’s “truth” winning the hearts of everyone.
I actually did appreciate the themes of becoming a slave to power, and that we all suffer at some point and there’s no wishing or shortcuts going to change all of that. But this world is not such a great place for goody-two-shoes and honesty and doing things the hard way. Maybe it should be, but after what we’ve gone through, and continue to go through here in Washington, D.C., it’s evident that nearly 1/2 of the American people are becoming less interested in truth and goodness and justice and patience.
I’m not going to tell you that WW84 suffers from being overhyped or over-anticipated. Honestly, I think it became bigger than it was meant to be because of the delay and because of the shutdowns. But, in this real world, some crazy crap happened in 2020, and it didn’t take a shiny crystal or glowing orb to make it all come crashing down around us. And I think, despite the good parts, people want answers and explanations — and some portion of the American people would never believe the negative things that happen to them are their own dumb fault for being arrogant and wishing on a cursed monkey’s paw or their own