By: Kevin Jordan
Dick move (or, just fast forward to the good part).
Wretched. I tried to think of the most appropriate adjective to describe Wonder Woman 1984 and…wretched. And I was looking forward to this film. Yes, I know – this is a DCEU movie we are talking about; I should know better. Of the eight prior movies, four of them are completely unwatchable and the other four combined are worth one and a half decent movies. I just figured since Birds of Prey was at least an entertaining movie and Wonder Woman’s second act was solid, that Wonder Woman 1984 would be entertaining and kind of solid. Nope. Wretched.
(SPOILER ALERT – You can thank me later.)
Like the first installment, Wonder Woman 1984 starts with a scene on Wonder Woman’s (Gal Gadot) home island when she is a young girl. Except this time, there is no reason to do this, but it does bloat the film’s running time to two and a half hours. Since you are most likely going to stream this movie on HBO Max rather than attend Covid Night at your local theater, you have the power to fast forward through this scene. It shows her learning a lesson about not lying, but we already know she is virtuous because we watched the last movie. There – I just saved you fifteen minutes.
From there, the film jumps to 1984 instead of current times because if one prequel to Justice League is good, two is better. Also, fuck the 1980s. The 80s was a diaper rash of an era filled with awful clothes, bad music, violence, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and a recession, all wrapped in cocaine. If you need more proof, listen to Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire. The 80’s were so shitty the song just quits because Joel “can’t take it anymore.”
Once in 1984, the first scene we get is a fight scene in a shopping mall. Four guys rob a jewelry store and Wonder Woman shows up to stop them. For Spider-Man reasons, she comes in via her lasso and takes out all the security cameras before dealing with the thieves. Keep in mind she is not wearing a mask and the shopping mall is teeming with people, so destroying the cameras just feels like a dick move. And the four thieves she takes out are the equivalent of rodeo clowns, including the acting. I kept expecting a director to yell cut and find out they were shooting an episode of Hill Street Blues or Magnum P.I. or even the original Wonder Woman television show (which ended in 1979, but could have been billed as a TV movie event or continued on in this alternate timeline). Nope. This scene was literally there to show off Wonder Woman’s fight skills against four inept morons, punctuated by Wonder Woman dropping the four of them as a group on a police car, destroying the car and, presumably, many of the thieves’ bones. Seriously – dick move.
After the mall scene concluded, I looked over at my wife and in-laws and they all had the same look on their face, which said “you wanted to watch this on purpose?” You probably want to fast-forward through this scene, too, since even the special effects are terrible.
If the first two scenes weren’t big enough red flags, the introduction of Kristen Wiig as a supporting character was the equivalent of an air raid siren. I am still angry at the Ghostbusters remake for being one of the worst movies ever made and Wiig is a large reason why. Another reason she is a red flag is because sketch comedy actors do not belong in major roles in superhero movies. Jim Carrey proved that one for us years ago. Wiig plays Barbara, a thrice-degreed scientist recently hired to work at the Smithsonian museum where Wonder Woman works. Barbara is also a klutzy, unpopular dork who becomes infatuated with Wonder Woman (Diana when she is not being Wonder Woman) because Diana helped her pick up some papers she dropped one time. The plot finally starts when the two of them examine a crystal mounted on a base etched with Latin. For what it’s worth, the stone was part of the mall heist, sent to them for examination by the FBI. If you cut out the mall heist part of that sentence, it doesn’t sound nearly as stupid, does it?
The women soon learn stories that say the stone grants the person holding it a single wish, but of course they don’t believe it. Just kidding. Diana doesn’t believe it and jokingly wishes that her dead boyfriend Steve (Chris Pine) were alive. Soon thereafter, Barbara wishes she were like Diana. Around this time, we also meet Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), an oil entrepreneur who is about to go bankrupt. He has been searching for the stone and donates some money to the museum, hoping to steal the stone and become rich. All of the above happens and the movie somehow makes the mall scene seem like the best part of the film.
One of my biggest complaints about DCEU movies is they don’t even try to make sense in their own context. They will set things up, then ignore those things. We learn that the stone grants only one wish per person, but in return takes what a person most desires or cherishes. Halfway through the film, Barbara will verbally point out the obvious – isn’t the thing a person most desires the thing they wish for? It sure is, Barbara. It sure is.
And that one-wish-per-customer-thing is more of a guideline than a rule. Max wishes to be the stone, which, instead of sucking Max into the stone or turning Max into stone, imbues him with its powers (ironically, this is the least nonsensical thing in this film). Max’s plan is to trick people into making wishes so he can steal the thing they most desire. At one point, he decides to grant Barbara a second wish (turning her into some kind of human-cheetah hybrid) because he is “feeling generous.” There is no indication of what he took from her at this point, since the thing taken for her first wish was her being a decent person (huh?), but why does he get to ignore the rule when it was literally enforced at every other point in the film? Are you still fast-forwarding?
Speaking of nonsense, instead of Steve just appearing alive as a result of Diana’s wish, he appears as the possessed body of a random yuppie. We actually get to see what said yuppie looks like, as does Steve when he looks like in a mirror and the script waives this away when Diana says “all I see is you.” In a movie with a magic wishing stone, the choice to try to make Steve’s appearance semi-logical is embarrassingly stupid. And I am fairly sure it was done for the sole purpose of a gag scene where Chris Pine tries on a bunch of 80s clothes in his body’s closet. Because, get it? 80s clothes are ugly. This is exactly the kind of shitty skit that made Saturday Night Live unwatchable when Wiig was a cast member.
When Diana and Barbara find the stone’s base later in the film, Diana recognizes hieroglyphics on the inside of the base’s ring as “the language of the gods.” This particular object was created by a deceitful god named Dolos and I, once again, expected this movie to take that idea somewhere. Since the first movie featured Ares, an actual Greek god, I thought Dolos would eventually reveal himself as the villain, having used Max and the stone to come to life or return from exile or turn into a giant snake and capture Wonder Woman in a giant hourglass. At least it would have been consistent. Nope.
Max really is the villain and rather than take the thing most cherished from people who make wishes, it turns out that he can just take what he wants at that moment. Look, if that is what the movie wanted, why didn’t the ring just say that? And why is Max getting headaches every time someone makes a wish? And also bleeding from the eyes and ears? And why is Diana losing her powers only sometimes and really slowly? And why is everything devolving into chaos? And is the one consistent thing in this movie really that in order to fulfill a wish the person has to be touching Max, so he is going to use a satellite constellation to “touch” everyone because the President said his advisors explained to him that technically the satellite is touching particles that touch people so that counts for Max as touching everyone? And to undo a wish, people must renounce their wish and we are expected to believe that every person on Earth simultaneously renounced their wish? And isn’t it kind of a dick move when a bunch of bullshit gets thrown at you all of a sudden?
In summary, wretched. The plot, the villain, the creative choices, the dialogue, the editing, the special effects, 1984 – everything. All four family members in the room with me were seriously considering rescinding their Christmas presents to me after sitting through this abomination. And I do not blame them. After watching this film, I wanted to put coal in my own stocking. The most amazing thing about this movie is that the creators read the script, filmed it, edited it, watched it again and went “nailed it.” At this point, the only explanation for DC Films and Warner Brothers continuing to churn out shit blockbuster after shit blockbuster in this shit film universe (DCEU) is that they want to be the anti-Marvel. Dick move, Bros. Dick move.
Rating: If you went to a theater to see this, what is wrong with you? If you saw it on HBO Max, ask for nine months of subscription back.