WW84 is yet another disappointing sequel that makes the first film look like a masterpiece by comparison. Wonder Woman 1984, like its predecessor, is a movie that’s too long and paced far too steadily to be a satisfying comic-book action blockbuster. There’s numerous dips in interest which means as an audience member, you sit waiting for some action to kick-in, but when it does it’s invariably swift and filled with fake-looking CGI. Similar to 2017’s Wonder Woman, there are enjoyable moments and it’s these same ingredients that work here: Gal Gadot’s formidable fighting skills and sweep-kicking of evil-doers’ butts, Lilly Aspell as an adorable young Diana Prince, and Chris Pine bringing his subtly comedic delivery. These elements all work well. In terms of plot, once again, it’s the fish-out-of-water moments, this time Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor (including a humourous take on modern art and confusion over the exercise bike) that impresses the most. I still don’t know why Steve is bemused by fireworks (since they were around back in the early twentieth-century) but it’s these alien-in-the-modern-world scenes that clearly stand out. Unfortunately, this flick isn’t a non-stop ’80s comedy or for that matter, an ’80s action movie despite WW84 wishing it was both. The 1984 setting, is not a reference to George Orwell or the Eurythmics song, it instead seems to have been picked at random to represent the peak of 1980’s excess and greed and the contrived story goes from there.
The plot of WW84 involves a “Dream Stone” that can grant people’s wishes and of course this leads the world to destruction and makes certain people power-mad (yawn). Pedro Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, a failed businessman who grew up poor, and he becomes an evil genie by merging with the ancient gem. Diana wishes for her deceased boyfriend back and he magically reappears but like The Monkey’s Paw which the screenplay mentions by name, there’s of course a catch. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman 2 is less like The Monkey’s Paw or “Wish You Were Here” from 1972’s Tales From The Crypt and more closer to Four Kids And It; a bright, tacky, almost soap-opera-esque film. Everyone seems to be channelling their inner-Days Of Our Lives or Power Rangers (the actor who plays the President is particularly bad). There’s people in the street calling for Wonder Woman in a ’60s TV show kind of way, which didn’t even occur in the piss-poor 1970s Wonder Woman TV series. If you disliked Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin, you’ll most likely dislike this. That is unless, you find contemporary examples of filmic trash as some kind of ironic pastiches of the past instead of the piles of crap they truly are.
It’s quite obvious that most of the content has been lifted from better creations of yesteryear. The movie opens with what looks like a Themyscira Quidditch tournament and the film continually ventures into familiar territory from there. Remember the origin story of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman? Recall the origin story of Jim Carrey’s Riddler or Jamie Foxx‘ Electro? Well, Kristen Wiig‘s Barbara Ann Minerva/Cheetah is all of them mushed together and wrapped in a trite bow. There’s also a very Quantum Leap-esque body-swap mirror scene and while I’m at it, Southfields Mall looks very much like Stranger Things season 3 meets Jingle All The Way.
The film, after its Hogwarts-slash-Gladiator-lite opener, begins with Wonder Woman seemingly thwarting petty crimes; things that surely the police, a gun permit or even some pepper spray can cope with. It takes far too long for some genuine peril to occur, but when it does, it spirals into a B-movie or even a TV-movie. The film is set in an idealised and even caricatured 1980s where absolutely everyone is dressed in the most exaggerated ’80s outfits. Bearing in mind that middle-aged people always dress like the previous decade, this is just plain lazy, especially coming from writer-director Patty Jenkins who should remember the auld yins first hand.
Given that this film was penned by Jenkins, prejudicial ideas raise their ugly head once more:
Wonder Woman is still wearing her high-heel wedges because they serve some sort of mystery superhero purpose (maybe to arouse William Marston’s ghost). There is of course, a comment about scientists wearing heals “sometimes”, possibly because of the slight backlash the first film received, but WW84 is yet another stereotype-reinforcing movie courtesy of a woman, which according to mainstream critics is an impossibility.
Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Ann Minerva starts off as timid and weak, and she wants men to pick up her dropped paperwork as well as wanting their sexual attention. But in order to attain her desires, she transforms into the most cliched “sexy woman” character – high heels, short skirt, leggy – which even first-wave feminists would have a problem with. Almost like a scene from Not Another Teen Movie, after removing her glasses (don’t you know, spectacles make women look ugly? 🙄) everyone is in awe of Minerva’s beauty despite her still being, err… Kristen Wiig.
Either because this is a caricatured depiction of the past or because Hollywood would like you to think the last century was so backward that you’d be satisfied with contemporary society, almost all the men are continually pestering and sexually harassing the women who walk past them. Okay, the ’80s contained whistling builders and butch arseholes but not every fucker with an XY chromosome was clutching a tube of KY with their pants down, harassing anyone with ovaries. Conversely however, when a two-time, attempted rapist gets his arse repeatedly kicked, we the audience are supposed to think of this as going too far and the inflict-er of said ass-whooping as becoming a “baddie”. The morals of this piece are very dodgy indeed, kinda like the overall message (more on that in a bit).
We also have Independence Day-style country-by-country scenes with foreign nations, north African sheiks, and Arab terrorists wishing for more land and nuclear weapons (not to mention the main antagonist is a possible immigrant). And when the wished-for Egyptian wall disappears at the end of the movie, the world rejoices because only certain walls are evil (this one and the U.S./Mexico border wall) never the one in Israel (cough, cough).
There’s a nod to Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman in a post-credit scene but the writers ignore the original TV show and change her to someone called “Asteria” (from whom Gal Gadot gets her golden armour) rather than make her Diana’s grandmother or Wonder Woman Sr. This inclusion just feels crow-barred and pointless, as much as 2019’s Charlie’s Angels. Bottom line: a reboot or remake is for profit, not to honour the past. You honour the past by refusing to do a remake.
When I first saw the original trailer, I was intrigued as to how Steve Trevor makes it to the 1980s since he died in a plane in World War 1. I was ready to do a “Misery” (he didn’t get out of the cock-a-doodie car!”) but the plot isn’t cheating us, it’s just reuniting two actors who had chemistry via a very familiar children’s story narrative: a wish. This is perhaps where the non-serious aesthetic came from; the heightened visuals, the hackneyed villains and plot, the lack of morning breath, everything would sit fine in a kid’s TV show but on the big screen, this comes across as second-rate and even cheap. Not only is there crappy CGI for Cheetah and some of the vehicles but every performer is acting as though Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t serious at all (which goes against the feel of the first movie). I know it’s Panto season but not at the frigging multiplex! I’ll also say that the original New Order “Blue Monday” trailer evoked not only the 1980s but also the summer, so there’s something lost during the time we’ve waited for a release date, especially now that it’s almost Christmas. There is a fleeting Xmas scene at the very end, which may have already been there or was re-shot to evoke the season we’re in, but it instead introduces a dubious concept involving sexual assault whilst someone was “asleep” and unable to consent. #MeToo
Wonder Woman 1984 currently holds an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes which is a little less than the undeserved 93% of the original 2017 film but still far too generous. Remember that the modern classic Joker (that at least subverted the subgenre) is at 68% proving that sites like this continually under and overrate flicks for clicks. Superhero movies aside, 99% of sequels are inferior and this is yet another. It’s not embarrassingly bad but there’s so many problems that I cannot fathom why a critic would tell you WW84 is worth chucking your hard-earned cash at. Maybe the overrating has something to do with the overriding message: that there can never be a utopia. If everyone on the planet got what they wanted, the world would be ruined! (But surely a hippy’s peaceful wish would countermand a far-right bigot’s wish?). The utterly horrid message that if there was total freedom, humans would create havoc and we therefore require not only leadership and hierarchy but control, is an odious thing to put across. But I guess that’s what mainstream Hollywood is for: to tell you that our shite life is brilliant the way it is and to never wish or strive for better.
With its simultaneous release on HBO Max in the US, WW84 may work, especially because most of it looks like a TV movie to begin with. Here in the UK, watching this film at the cinema, all its problems whether writing, directing, acting, or effects, were amplified. With most of the UK in “Tier 3” and many cinemas closed, it’s unlikely that it’ll be the massive hit Warner hoped it would be. What I dread is that if this watch-at-home model works, we’ll be inundated with more TV-looking movies (think Netflix and Amazon originals) made purposely cheaply for our relatively small televisions. As a cinema release, this movie will probably flop as much as the overrated summer non-blockbuster Tenet, but hopefully this potential financial failure will be attributed to the extreme circumstance that we’re in, and not as a model for all future film releases. Good, bad, or average, without cinema, there is…