Life is Good, but it Can Be Better

Wonder Woman 1984 is heartbreaking. I really wish the DC Extended Universe would get their act together, because I don’t know how many times I can be disappointed. Wonder Woman isn’t flawless, but it is the first DCEU movie I genuinely loved all the way through. The Amazing Amazon was finally given a film that both honored her history and made her a role model worth cheering for. Of course I was excited to see a sequel. Even after Warner Bros. continued mishandling their heroes in Justice League, Wonder Woman remained untarnished. Patty Jenkins returned to direct and Gal Gadot made the sequel her fourth portrayal of the iconic heroine. Setting the movie in 1984 made sense considering Diana’s immortality and the fact that 80’s nostalgia is still a thing.

Trailers made Wonder Woman 1984 look brighter and more optimistic. I was definitely excited to see the movie until the pandemic struck. Although it should’ve come out November or December 2019 like originally planned, Warner Bros. foolishly moved it to June 2020. It was frustrating to see all the theaters close and even more frustrating to slowly lose excitement for something I really wanted to see. Like most tentpole releases, WW84 was moved from August to October 2020. When Tenet failed to attract viewers, Warner Bros. sort of panicked and gave the movie a final release date of Christmas day 2020. Both in theaters and on HBO Max at no charge. Since I absolutely need to see a superhero movie on the big screen, I made seeing it a present for my family. I tried very hard to love Wonder Woman 1984, but I needed to stop lying to myself…

19. Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman runs through DC

Wonder Woman 1984 is yet another superhero sequel with an undeniable drop in quality. No matter how hard Rotten Tomatoes tried to convince you otherwise. I’ve never seen a movie go from 90% to 59% in a matter of weeks. It got so bad that Rotten Tomatoes had to change its critical consensus from glowing to lukewarm at best. I can’t say that I saw too many warning signs on the surface. Gal Gadot was still the ideal Princess of Themyscira after her performance won me over, but DC continued to cast the most unlikely actors to play their biggest characters. Well known comedian Kristen Wiig is the last person I’d expect to play Wonder Woman’s archenemy Cheetah. Wonder Woman has a colorful rogues gallery, but Cheetah is the villain I always wanted to see the Amazing Amazon go up against. I just never knew much about her comic book history or origin. Regardless, it was encouraging to know she’d be making her theatrical debut in the movie.

It was confusing, but I was just as happy to know Chris Pine would return as Steve Trevor despite dying at the end of Wonder Woman. WW84 is technically the first direct sequel in the DCEU. Batman v Superman doesn’t count as a Man of Steel sequel since the Dark Knight gets just as much attention. Birds of Prey doesn’t count as a Suicide Squad sequel since it’s more of a Harley Quinn spin-off. WW84 has no other DC superheroes or references to other films. I continued to believe in Patty Jenkins as a director, but now I think she’s part of the problem. Although she had a perfect understanding of Wonder Woman in her first movie, WW84 feels like she got way too much creative control with no one questioning her decisions. Starting with an agonizingly slow 2 hour & 31 minute runtime. There’s no reason why it had to be that long. I was happy to be in a movie theater again, but even I have my limits.

Wonder Woman 1984 begins promisingly enough with a flashback dedicated to part of Diana’s origin that was missing in the first movie. In the original Golden Age comics, Diana secretly performs in an Amazonian competition on Paradise Island to determine who brings Steve Trevor back to “Man’s World.” Diana wins the competition and her mother Queen Hippolyta reluctantly accepts her as champion. Since the competition would’ve slowed things down, WW84 makes it part of Diana’s childhood. I suppose Gadot’s cheesy narration should’ve been the first warning sign, but it was just nice to see the beautiful island of Themyscira again. It’s the only time we see Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright reprise their respective roles as Queen Hippolyta and General Antiope in the entire movie. Young Diana participates in the athletic event that includes a giant obstacle course, horseback riding, and javelin throwing.

She’s knocked off her horse and cheats by taking a shortcut. Her Aunt Antiope hammers in the film’s message about always telling the truth and her mother does the same with a not so subtle reference to another Amazon warrior. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with the flashback, but it is 11 minutes longer than it needs to be. The tone shifts considerably when we enter 1984. Thanks to movies and/or shows like Stranger Things, 80’s nostalgia is practically inescapable. If Wonder Woman is like Captain America: The First Avenger, then WW84 is like The Winter Soldier. But only for its American setting in Washington, DC. The 1984 opening scene is more like Superman III. It’s overly comical and sees the titular hero save several civilians at once. The entire sequence screams 1980’s with bright colors, questionable fashion, aerobics, and a mall as the first action set piece.

Every background performance either sounds off or is overexaggerated to the point of unbelievability. A gang of criminals trying to rob the mall is so over-the-top that it feels like a Joel Schumacher Batman movie. Most problems can be found in Wonder Woman’s first fight scene. Diana makes her grand entrance in the already perfect Wonder Woman costume. The red & blue colors are a bit brighter, but the only real difference is her 80’s hairdo. It was suddenly clear that Diana wasn’t going to use her sword or shield in any fight scene. I knew I was in trouble when Diana said “I hate guns” out of nowhere. Patty Jenkins was so certain that a hero who fights for love wouldn’t use harsh weapons or kill people. Some fights come to a screeching halt just so Diana can clarify no one will get hurt. Not that Zack Snyder ever got the memo. So Wonder Woman finally uses her tiara as a boomerang and only occasionally uses her indestructible bracelets.

It’s really her Lasso of Truth that she turns into an all purpose superweapon capable of swinging, catching bullets, deflecting objects, and even flying through the air. It’s almost never used as a straightforward lie detector, but it is shown to also reveal the truth to people. Wonder Woman knocking a criminal into an oversized drum, holding a criminal by the leg after flipping him, and throwing a child into a giant teddy bear while winking is the corniest thing I’ve ever seen in a superhero movie. I hope you liked it, because those 3 minutes are all we see of Wonder Woman for well over an hour! It’s almost like Patty Jenkins forgot this was a superhero movie and decided to make a romantic comedy in the meantime. I loved Gal Gadot as a wide-eyed optimist capable of great heroism, but the material she’s given really makes me question her performance.

Since World War I, Diana Prince became quite the wet blanket. She doesn’t go out with friends, date, or even own a TV. Her life can be seen in photos of her old war buddies, an elderly Etta Candy, and the watch Steve gave her. Steve Trevor is practically all Diana can think about half the time. She now works at the Smithsonian Museum where Diana encounters Barbara Ann Minerva. In the comics, Cheetah is three women and one man. Priscilla Rich is an ordinary human debutante with a split personality who grows jealous of Wonder Woman. Deborah Domaine is the equally human niece of Priscilla who befriends Wonder Woman, but ultimately takes on her aunt’s mantle. No one talks about Sebastian Ballesteros, so Barbara Ann Minerva became the definitive Cheetah. Unlike her predecessors, Dr. Minerva was an archeologist granted the appearance and powers of a superhuman cheetah by the god Urzkartaga.

Kristen Wiig is surprisingly fitting as a mixture of each Cheetah, but Barbara is literally every bespectacled nerd who feels invisible cliché. WW84 is almost exactly like Batman Returns with a less than confident woman gaining confidence by becoming a cat, and a shrewd businessman as the antagonists. Pedro Pascal comes full circle after his role in the failed 2011 Wonder Woman pilot. Maxwell Lord is a shrewd, but powerful businessman responsible for the formation of the Justice League in the 80’s. He’s had many appearances in animation, Smallville, and Supergirl. Jay Baruchel was meant to play Lord in Justice League: Mortal before the film was cancelled. So Max Lord made his cinematic debut in WW84 instead. I’m happy Pascal is getting a career boost, but there’s no reason to make him Latin or give him so much endless attention.

Maxwell Lord is an oil tycoon who does TV infomercials with the catchphrase, “Life is good, but it can be better.” He’s meant to represent Gordon Gekko, but modeling him after Donald Trump really makes me question critics who praised the film’s “escapist qualities.” I couldn’t care less about Lord’s crappy working environment, endless boring business discussions, or the fact that he has a son to make proud. It’s in the comics, but that doesn’t mean half the movie needs to be dedicated to it. Cheetah is practically sidelined in the process. A lot of time is spent on Diana befriending the nerdy Barbara who wants to be just like her. The movie also has a ton of catcalling that never feels natural. Diana saves Barbara from a creep without revealing her identity. At work, they both try to identify this movie’s McGuffin. A Dreamstone created by the Duke of Deception.

Wish fulfilment feels like a serious cop out when it can be used to explain Cheetah’s powers, Maxwell Lord’s telepathic percussion, or the sudden appearance of Steve Trevor. Barbara makes a wish to be just like Diana and ends up looking hotter in the process. She also gains the unintended side effects of Wonder Woman’s super strength that she uses in a random aerobics session. Lord steals the stone after seducing Barbara and wishes to become the Dreamstone itself. His comic accurate power of percussion ends up feeling more ridiculous with every wish he grants. Lord has to touch a person, but grows weaker after taking something in return. Before Lord became the stone, Diana wished to have Steve back. He does return at a gala, but it’s done in the most unnecessary way imaginable. Rather than have Steve Trevor appear out of thin air, Patty Jenkins thought it made sense to have Steve possess the body of a guy literally credited as “Handsome Man.”

Diana & Steve lovingly embrace, then proceed to use his body like a sex doll. No DCEU movie can ever seem to escape controversy of some kind. Chris Pine is still perfectly likeable as Trevor, but making him the new “fish out of water” goes on forever. Steve has an 80’s clothing montage, visits the Air and Space museum, sees airplanes, subways, and appreciates art. Didn’t this movie used to have a superhero in it? Things finally get back on track when Diana & Steve investigate the origin of the stone. Learning that every wish comes with a trick. Diana scolds Barbara for giving the stone to Lord and she grows resentful of having her wish taken away. Wiig is surprisingly convincing when she eventually turns evil. She beats up the creep who harassed her and fashions herself a cheetah print outfit.

Diana feels the effects of the stone when her powers diminish, but she still helps Steve fly to Egypt to confront Lord. Another ridiculously implausible scene is Steve & Diana using a plane that’s been sitting in a museum. Nevermind that it’s both full of gas and easy for a WWI pilot to fly. When Diana remembers radar tracking, she randomly gains the ability to turn things invisible like her father Zeus did for Themyscira. I can’t complain too much, because it finally gives Wonder Woman her iconic Invisible Jet. In the comics, the plane made up for Diana’s lack of flight capabilities. It’s a magical moment with Steve & Diana seeing fireworks on the Fourth of July, but it doesn’t feel earned after so many moments with the couple. Lord gains more oil from the ruler of Bialya. Even more time is dedicated to Arabian politics I couldn’t bother to understand.

Diana is drawn to his wish and finally suits up again at the 1 hour & 21 minute mark. If taking this long to see Wonder Woman again was supposed to be a recreation of the brilliant “No Man’s Land” scene, then they failed miserably. Not even with Han Zimmer’s infectious score. Still, it’s enough just to see Wonder Woman flip tanks even if her powers are slowing her down. The Israeli Gal Gadot saving Muslim children as Wonder Woman can’t be a coincidence. Lord gets away, but his power only gets worse until the whole world descends into chaos. I officially checked out when Lord meets the President resembling Ronald Reagan. Lord takes the President’s power in exchange for Cold War missiles that can destroy the world any second. More baffling is Lord interpreting the President’s global satellite broadcasting system as a metaphor for touching everyone on Earth. He plans to use the remaining wishes to make himself healthier.

Wonder Woman’s third fight scene at the White House is probably her best action set piece by default. Her Lasso comes in handy, but Steve being told not to kill doesn’t make things easy. Even though he could easily make a wish from Lord after handcuffing him. Barbara showing up in her Cheetah outfit is their best confrontation in the movie. Wonder Woman does her best, but she’s too weak to defeat her former friend. It’s clear that Diana has to renounce her wish after a tearful goodbye where she vows never to love again. Wonder Woman achieves flight by launching her Lasso into the air and floating on the clouds like Peter Pan. There’s no reason to question anything at this point. Diana returns home where she dons the golden armor worn by the bravest Amazon warrior in history.

In the comics, the gold armor was worn by Wonder Woman in the Kingdom Come storyline. I immediately recognized the golden eagle-like wingsuit, but that doesn’t mean it translates well to film. I think she only wears the costume to show less skin in the climax. Diana flies to the satellite base where she’s confronted by Cheetah after Barbara wishes to be an apex predator. The final Cheetah design leaves a lot to be desired. Rather than use makeup, Wiig’s fur is entirely awkward CGI that’s far too similar to Cats. Their fight is equally uninspired with Cheetah clawing Wonder Woman’s armor and their second confrontation ending after she’s electrocuted. It’s the last physical fight since Lord has to be taken down with words. SPOILER ALERT! Diana uses her Lasso on Lord to tell the world that all their wishes are inherently selfish and they should all be renounced.

Nevermind people who might wish for sick relatives to be healed or world peace. Lord’s past is also revealed at the last possible second with him becoming way too sympathetic after everything he’s done. Hugging his son is literally the last we see of him. The final scene set during Christmas is so sappy it feels like something on Hallmark. Diana finally experiences the world and talks to “Handsome Man” before soaring through the skies again. The mid-credits scene is just as cheesy, but at least it features a cameo that was a long time coming. The gold armor wearing Amazon Asteria is none other than former Wonder Woman Lynda Carter. WW84 nearly ruined my Christmas, but at least theaters were finally opening up again. I just hope the third installment learns from the sequel’s glaring mistakes. Wonder Woman 1984 is truthfully a disappointing step backwards for the Amazon.

20. Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman in gold armor

Preceded by: Wonder Woman

12 thoughts on “Life is Good, but it Can Be Better

  1. The plot sounded like it had a ton of holes, especially the ending (which you mentioned). And it was strange that she was shacking it up with a strange man’s body… without that man’s consent? Just because it looked to her like her old boyfriend or something? Did I understand that right? 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with you. The first Wonder Woman wasn’t perfect, but it was still great to watch. WW84 is a disappointing sequel. Gadot is great as Diana, but that’s really much of only the good thing about the project. I get where Jenkins and her team were trying to establish in the movie, but its

    all too cheesy, simple, and overly long.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My Dad saw this when he got stuck overnight in the city from a car malfunction, and he felt the movie was trying too hard. I can’t blame the creators for wanting to be ambitious, but sometimes you do have make decisions that go against your ideas, but are good for the film, which sadly got ignored. WW84 may get to a status where people will like it for the creators wanting it to be amazing, and will be forgiving for the filmmakers aiming too high.

    As to Chris Pine returning as Steve Trevor, remember in the Lynda Carter series that Diana learned Steve got married after WWII, and had a son whom he regaled stories of his adventures with Wonder Woman to. In the first film Steve mentions having many romantic escapades, and most likely a son resulted, who had a son, etc., and managed to learn of the original Steve’s adventure with the cunning female warrior.

    Liked by 2 people

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