I went into Wonder Woman 1984 with higher hopes than a DC movie probably deserves. The one consistent thing about the DC universe has been the Inconsistent quality. They haven’t really had a start-to-finish home run.
“Chris, what about [insert movie]?” Well let’s go through them.
Man of Steel: I like it better than most people, but the dark tone made it a contentious offering for Superman fans who wanted more hope.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: The theatrical version was, I thought, straight up bad. The character motivations made no sense. The public outrage at Superman made no sense. Every scene was either illogical or cheesy or both. And the fight choreography left me uninspired (outside that one Batman scene).
Batman v Superman: Ultimate Edition: The added content actually saved the movie. It’s legitimately all the character motivation stuff the studio thought unnecessary. And what do you know? It made something I hated into something I really enjoy. I’m still not sure it competes with the best Marvel movies, but it certainly deserves to be in the conversation. This would have been a home run if it were the first and only version of BvS. But, alas.
Suicide Squad: lolololol
Wonder Woman: The first 2/3rds of Wonder Woman was excellent. Especially the trench scene. It seemed like DC had finally figured out how to make a superhero movie. Then the third act happened. Fun fact, like two weeks ago, right before WW84 released, Patty Jenkins revealed the studio forced her to change Wonder Woman‘s third act. And boy does that make sense. Rumor is Geoff Johns, co-writer of WW84, was the one who wrote the changes. Whoever did the work, yeesh. That third act ruined Wonder Woman for me. The dialogue became cheesy. The story beats became cheesy. The action lost its refined choreography. The change in quality was unexpected and upsetting.
Justice League: Definitely better than Suicide Squad. But not even close to conquering the low bar that was the theatrical version of BvS. Justice League had some good ideas. I just didn’t enjoy any of the execution on those ideas. Hopefully the Synder Cut saves the day.
Aquaman: I dislike this more than most people. I had heard so many good things I thought it might be on the level of Thor: Ragnarok. It definitely had a similar sense of comedy to all the Thor films. That was nice. But like with Justice League or the last part of Wonder Woman: I didn’t much care for the editing, the CGI, the choreography, the dialogue, etc. It all felt like a poor use of cinematic language. I haven’t watched a James Wan movie since Saw but this is more a Warner Bros/DC issue than a James Wan issue.
Shazam!: Shazam! was a lot of fun! And it’s what I thought Aquaman would be. If you wanted to argue this was a start-to-finish home run, I’d probably allow it. It’s a movie with so much heart, especially with how emotionally dead some of the other DC movies can feel. The heart probably makes up for and masks a lot of complaints someone might have with pacing, villains, logistics, origin story tropes, etc. The climax at the fair is arguably the best set piece in the DC universe. So a lot of points for that.
Birds of Prey: I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t watch it.
And then we have Wonder Woman 1984. I had hoped that at the very least I’d get a second serving of the 80/20 good/bad mix from the first Wonder Woman. I’d have even been happy with 50/50, ya know? Especially when it’s a 2 hour and 31 minute movie. If 75.5 minutes of that were good—I think we could all be pretty satisfied with the time spent. Like watching the 2nd and 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Are they as awesome as Curse of the Black Pearl? No. But they have enough moments that you enjoy the experience.
Instead, we got what’s probably the worst movie I’ve seen since 2010’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Guy Pierce, Katie Holmes). Or maybe 2011’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? Hm. Regardless, definitely the worst movie I’ve seen in almost a decade.
I want to focus on just a few things regarding Wonder Woman 1984. Otherwise, I could be here all day and tomorrow.
The Amazon Olympics
The idea of the Amazonian Olympics is cool. And I get having a young Diana competing against grown women shows just how powerful Diana is. But visually it’s a little goofy/jarring to see an 8-year old outclass grown women. Especially in the cuts between the absurd athletcism of CGI Diana vs the normal child actor. There’s a bit of an uncanny valley thing going on the whole time.
But what really bothers me.
During the race, Diana’s way in the lead when she gets distracted and clips a bush and falls off her horse. The horse keeps going along the path down the cliff. Diana, at a loss about what to do, notices a drain slide for water. So down she goes, getting ahead of her horse and the competitors who had passed her. Great! Except she had missed one of the checkpoint targets competitors need to hit. Which makes it clear to everyone that Diana had done something wrong. Just when she’s about to win, her trainer/mentor, Robin Wright, takes her out of the race. Diana says it’s not fair. Wright says Diana took the short path and cheated and it’s “The truth. The only truth…No true hero is born from lies.”
Diana may have left her horse, but the horse followed the path the entire time. Just because Diana used the slide to catch up to her horse, that makes her a cheater? Maybe it was a rule we’re never told? “You must stick to the path at all times.” Regardless, it seems like a really dramatic accusation. If the natural environment isn’t part of the course, then someone should have trimmed the bush that knocked Diana off her horse.
If anything, Robin Wright should have scolded Diana about missing the checkmark. “If you want to win the game, you have to know the rules and play by the rules. You missed the checkmark. You broke the rules. You can’t win by breaking the rules.” Doing it this way still works as a set-up for the main theme of the movie—the problem with taking the easy way to what you want. But it has the added benefit of being an appropriate critique of Diana’s behavior rather than an arguably unfair and illogical accusation.
Wright’s chastisement is clearly meant to be the thematic foundation of the movie. And we see going forward that the conflict of the main plot is making wishes in order to “cheat” in the game of life. Diana unknowingly wishes Steve (Chris Pine) were still alive. And suddenly he is! But because this whole wish thing is a monkey paw, meaning for everything you gain there’s something you lose, Diana starts to lose her powers. “No true hero is born from lies,” right? So until Diana lets go of Steve, she can’t save the day. That makes sense.
What drove me crazy is how this kind of robs WW84 of tension. Watch enough movies and the moment you hear Robin Wright give that speech you know exactly what will happen: Diana’s going to be in denial about some truth for most of the story, but she’ll finally have to admit the truth in order to save the world. And that’s exactly what happens. As soon as Steve reappears, you know she’s going to have to get rid of him again. But that takes like…2 hours.
Remove the opening Amazon Olympics altogether and it means the rest of the story has far more tension as viewers aren’t sure what Diana’s arc will be because it’s not screamed in our face in the first 10 minutes. Instead, we’d start with the god awful mall scene.
This was when I knew things were gonna be bad. There were 3 main red flags.
First, the robber who holds the little girl over the railing, threatening to drop her like 50 feet to her death. WHAT IS THIS GUY THINKING? He’s panicking because he dropped his gun and people saw it and mall security is after him and the other robbers. I get that. But dude…We see two mall security guards. And all four robbers go up the escalators—they’re already on a different floor than security. All they have to do is keep running and they have a chance to escape. Instead, this guy grabs a kid and stands at the balcony where everyone can see him? It’s just so unbelievably dumb I couldn’t suspend my disbelief.
Second. I fundamnetally disagree with Wonder Woman using her lasso to be Spider-Man. Yes, it’s a magical lasso, but the magic’s supposed to be compelling people to tell the truth. Other versions have it also being unbreakable and infinitely elastic. I can accept all of that. But the swinging thing is a bridge too far for me.
For Spider-Man, it’s just sticky web and he has to shoot a new web for each new swing. And Batman has his grappling hook. It’s clawed and has to attach then detach. Batman can’t really continuously swing like Spider-Man, nor does he. But with Wonder Woman, I can’t comprehend what’s happening. Her lasso wraps around things or does it lasso things? How does it unwrap or unlasso so quickly? What’s that process like? And how does it “detach” when she’s in the middle of swinging?
I get this won’t bother everyone. If this were a cartoon, it wouldn’t bother me. But this isn’t a cartoon. It’s the sequel to what was a pretty serious and logic-driven movie. So the lasso physics in Wonder Woman 1984 shatter my poor brain. Maybe she’s just mentally adding length so it “unwraps” then she mentally shortens the lasso so it “retracts”? Idk. It just feels like something the filmmakers were like, “Everyone will just accept it, so we don’t have to worry about it” and didn’t think through the physics of it themselves. The lasso ends up contrivance that does whatever the filmmakers need it to do at any given moment rather than a realistic part of the world.
Lastly, the micronarrative with the little girl made me roll my eyes so hard I had to go see a doctor to get them unstuck from the back of their sockets.
The scene wants to be fun and show Wonder Woman having fun and how she’s cool and an inspiration. So they include this girl who becomes symbolic for how every young girl might be in awe of Wonder Woman. But I think it’s too small. This is 1984 in the DC universe. Superheroes weren’t publically known at this point. Maybe Batman? But we see in BvS that even in 2015/2016, Batman is still just a rumor in Gotham. Not a pop culture figure.
So what’s the deal with Wonder Woman? How active has she been? 66 years have past since the first movie. Do legends of her abound? Has she been active in the DC area for a few weeks? Months? Years? Or is this her first time out and about? WW84 doesn’t give us any real indication of the public reputation of Wonder Woman. It seems she just exists in this nice little bubble where she does good things and no one asks any questions. To me, that’s a black hole at the center of this movie, preventing it from having any sense of gravity and dimensionality.
The scene with the little girl is a perfect example. Instead of focusing on the reaction of everyone in the mall to Wonder Woman’s appearance and feats, they’re merely faces in the background. It’s only the little girl who gets actual reaction shots. That considerably lessens the information the viewer gets. Is the girl in awe about Diana because she’s heard about Wonder Woman but never seen her? Or is this a completely new thing?
I’d rather they showed multiple people, young and adult and old, react to Wonder Woman. This should be a special moment for everyone. For 99% of them, it’s their first time seeing a superhero. Maybe the first time they’re even aware superheroes exist. It should be a revelation. But how the scene is shot you’d think that no one else cared and the kid is the only one excited.
It’s such a small but important thing when it comes to making your character feel a legitimate part of an in-story universe. Rather than that universe being nothing more than an artificial backdrop for thing to happen.
And one final nitpick.
Diana gives the girl a “shh” gesture as if this is their secret. But pretty much every single person in the mall saw Wonder Woman. What’s she expect the girl to do? Deny seeing this super woman when everyone else there says they saw the super woman? Salute the girl. Wink at the girl. Wave at the girl. All of that makes sense. But doing “sh” as if saying “this is our little secret” doesn’t make any sense in the middle of a mall. The girl even nods in confirmation.
And what about the cops at the end of the scene? Wonder Woman drops the four robbers on the cop car, from the air. Are the cops blown away by this woman swinging away? Are they used to her? Do none of them see her? Do they hold a press conference saying they’re trying to find this “wonder woman”? Or this is another instance of the wonder woman? There should be some kind of consequence from this whole mall fiasco.
The whole thing should be all over the news. The brief footage of her breaking through the glass ceiling and saving the hostage kid before she broke the security cameras should be everywhere. What Diana did should be all over the news. The brief footage of her breaking through the glass ceiling and saving the hostage kid before she broke the security cameras should be everywhere.And there would be if this was a half-way decent movie.
Geoff Johns and Patty Jenkins aren’t amateur writers by any means. Both have accomplished significant things in their careers. But WW84 comes off as totally amateur.
An easy way to have improved the movie is to cut the Amazon Olympics scene and then this mall scene and just open at that 17 minutes, 20 second mark with Diana returning to her dark, lonely apartment in her WW gear. We’d get the sense she was out doing Wonder Woman things. But because we don’t see the Wonder Woman-ing, it downplays that part of her life. Shows that it’s part of her routine and not this big adventurious thing. The focus, instead, is on the photos, the mementos, the fact time has passed and Diana is the same while everyone she had loved had died and the life she had first known is gone. We get a sense that things are kind of in a funk for her rather than lavish and heroic.
Right there you have the emotional stakes clearly set and can get into the rest of the story.
You have got to be kidding me with this armor. Warner Bros used it in all the promotional posters. They give it this epic backstory. You’re set up to expect some legendary shit.
But it’s kept in the corner of Diana’s spy room. Wrapped up. You’d think she’d like…honor it a little more? Build a secret room and have it on a mannequin with a floodlight above it or something? Or keep it in a special box? Anything more honorary than wrapped and leaning against a wall?
And then the flashback about the armor is pretty lackluster. Diana says that Asteria was the greatest warrior and, I quote, “My people gave up all of their armor to make her one suit strong enough to take on the whole world.” Asteria’s supposed to wear the armor and keep mankind at bay so the Amazons can escape enslavement. But all we see is Asteria huddled in her wings, as scores of men try and bash her. You don’t get the sense of her being a tremendous warrior. Or that the armor allowed her to actively protect anyone. The fact the scores of men just surrounded her and beat at her rather than chasing the rest of the Amazonians is less an endorsement of the armor and more a condemnation of mankind’s critical thinking.
Regardless of how you feel about the flashback, we can all agree the armor has been built-up to be pretty epic. When Diana finally puts the armor on, it should be this huge, cathartic moment of connecting with her culture and channeling the energy of a legend. Instead, the scene is less than 10 seconds. Diana walks into her apartment, opens the wrapping, and that’s it. When we next see her, she attacks the island Pedro Pascal’s broadcasting from.
Diana swoops in and takes out some guards. Lassos a couple other guards. Then does her wrist blast to knock back some other guards. At no point does the armor make a difference. She was already flying, so the armor wasn’t the secret ingredient there. We don’t see her use the armor to withstand gunfire. It doesn’t give her more strength. So its first action sequence doesn’t showcase the importance or power of the armor. Very disappointing.
Then Diana fights Thundercat Barbara (Kristen Wiig). The armor allows her to tank a lot of attacks from Barb’s claws. That destroys the wings. Which were the only real functional part of the armor. Kind of anti-climactic given the backstory. You could argue it shows how strong Barbara is. Sure. But there’s a way to do that that doesn’t make the armor feel much ado about nothing. Especially when it doesn’t do anything in the “fight” with Pedro Pascal. It’s a hollow fashion choice rather than a meaningful and consequential part of the story.
“But Chris, you said the armor helped her defend against Barbara’s claws? So that’s something.”
I hear you. And that’s technically true. But remove the armor and all Diana has to do is dodge the attacks. Or block with her bracers/wristguard. Or, better yet, take some battle damage. If Barbara can hurt Wonder Woman then the battle has stakes. As is, Barbara only hurts the armor and Diana comes out unscathed. It’s kind of pointless as a physical confrontation. Opting more for the emotional stakes between the two characters. Which can work. I just don’t think it works here.
Think about Avengers: Infinity War when Thor has to go get Stormbreaker, the ax that replaces his hammer. There’s this whole journey to get the ax. Imagine if he got it, then just punched a bunch of people and that was that. The ax would have been pointless. But they set up in the opening scene of the movie that Thor needs a weapon that’s capable of killing someone like Thanos. Then it almost works. Thor nearly kills Thanos and saves the day. Unfortunately, he didn’t “aim for the head” and Thanos lives long enough for the snap and the rest is history.
Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t set up any stakes for the armor. It didn’t create a situation where only the armor could solve the problem. Yes, I’m more upset about this than anyone should be.
I have so many issues with the end of WW84. Pedro Pascal has to touch people to grant wishes. It’s a completely artificial limitation. They could have written it to be completely different. But that’s what they decided. Sigh. Even though they knew they wanted to escalate the conflict from a local event to a global one. Why do that to yourselves?
So because Pascal has to touch everyone and hear their wish, Wonder Woman 1984 forces in particle beam technology that allows for the overriding of any and every broadcast system. The “particle bath” that covers the planet satisfies the touching limitation. The broadcast system satisfies the hearing.
The sheer amount of wishes and the negative backlash to every wish creates an armageddon situation. HOW EVER WILL THEY SOLVE THIS?
The ultimate contrivance: you can renounce your wish. As easy as that. Say out loud: “I renounce my wish.”
Here’s how that idea came about, I’m pretty sure:
Patty Jenkins: Oh, man, we wrote ourselves into a corner with this one. How can they possibly reverse all the chaos?
Geoff Johns: What if they, like, just renounce their wish?
PJ: Isn’t that a little insulting to the audience that the solution is so convenient?
Diana’s showdown with Pascal isn’t physical. It’s not even a mental. It’s Diana vs the wind created by Pascal’s broadcasting his wish offer to everyone. She can’t get close to him because the energy or wind or whatever is too strong. Okay. So she ends up on the ground, in a corner, and gives a big speech that reaches everyone…because the lasso was in the particle beam with Pascal? Or touching Pascal?
So now the lasso not only allows Diana to swing from anything, it not only shows people flashbacks of events they were never part of (see the armor section), it not only gets them to tell the truth, but now it serves as a conduit that allows Diana’s spoken words to broadcast to everyone.
“Chris, that’s because the particles connect everyone and if Diana’s lasso touches someone it shows them the truth. So it actually makes sense why this works and why her speech actually convinces everyone to renounce their wish. Because the lasso makes them see the truth.”
Say we accept that logic. Can we at least agree the whole concept is ridiculous? It’s the opposite of the little girl in the mall. The mall scene should have gone wide and included as many people as possible reacting to Wonder Woman. And the finale should have stayed small. You can still have Pedro Pascal causing a chain reaction that leads to potential armageddon. But you can make the finale more intimate and powerful because it involves the character’s we’ve spent the movie learning about. Rather than throwing in tons of random people making wishes who we keep cutting to and needed millions of people to renounce their wish.
You also completely avoid the particle technology and the last 10 minutes of the movie being Pedro Pascal in a hurricane simulator and Diana sitting against a wall.
What’s extra weird about this is no one knows who Wonder Woman is. She doesn’t have the world wide acclaim Super Man would have decades later (in the movie world). So when she speaks to everyone, she’s a completely random, unseen person. The TV screens only show the golden glow of her lasso.
Imagine the fallout from that day. You’d have had a global event where everyone in the world heard a TV salesman cause worldwide mayhem by granting wishes. Followed by a strange woman who begged you to renounce your wish. How would that not fuck up society for generations? It would be the greatest mystery of all-time. How did that happen? Who was that woman? What grief did you cause with your wish? What amazing thing did you have for a short time then have to renounce? How would that fuck someone up? The demand for therapists would boom.
But there’s apparently zero fallout from that day.
Pedro Pascal escapes and reunites with his young son who has been on his own running through the chaos. Someone helicopters Pedro Pascal from the island, back to DC, and he happens to land in a field off the highway near some woods WHERE HIS SON JUST HAPPENED TO BE HIDING.
Landing exactly where his son is when there’s no way he could have known here his son is—that’s some Grade-A bullshit.
I was going to complain about how Pedro Pascal even escaped. But there’s one quick shot that shows Diana pass out after everyone announces their wish. So apparently because she’s unconscious, Pascal can leave. And convinces someone to fly him back to DC. I guess it’s his smooth talking. But that’s a huge ask.
What happens to Pascal after he’s back with his son? Does no one remember he’s the one who caused all of this? Wouldn’t the president make him the most wanted man in America? Wouldn’t he have other business people and oil people who want to kill him? Did anyone eventually arrest him? Or is he a successful businessman now? What the hell happened to him? Apparently that kind of resolution was beyond the writers and approved by the studio. I think it’s irresponsible and ridiculous.
Then at the very end we see Diana meet cute with the guy Steve body-snatched. One quick, pleasant conversation and he’s gone. Diana has a quiet, nice moment of enjoying all the happy people out for Christmas, showing the world is back to normal.
It’s the most consequence-free ending of any movie I’ve ever seen. Essentially, nothing happened. Diana got some catharsis with Steve. But her life is ostensibly the same. She still doesn’t have friends. Still doesn’t have a love interest. All we’re left with is, “See, now she can maybe make friends and fall in love.” It’d be much better if she did.
And what happened with Barbara? We see her in the movie before Pedro Pascal. She has a ton of scenes. She’s not the primary character, of course, but she’s definitely a co-lead. Yet her last scene is merely a shot of her on the island, starring sadly at the sunset, having renounced her wish. Does the US government fly her back like nothing happened? Does she get arrested for being an accomplish of Pascal? Does no one care? Does she just go back to her job at the museum? Does Diana still work there? Are they friends now? What in the hell happened to her?
At the end of the first Wonder Woman, Diana knows she’s a hero who can make a difference in the world. At the end of this one…what? Diana’s even more convinced she’s a hero who can make a difference?
Ugh. And this is the short version of all of my complaints.
Thanks for reading.