Wonder Woman 1984

I wanted to love this movie. But I didn't even like it.

Warner Bros. has been in a difficult position for a while now. It built up its direct competition with Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe on the back of the troubled 2013 film Man of Steel directed by somewhat divisive filmmaker Zack Snyder. They doubled down on the morose tone with the first follow up, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Then things took an even darker turn with Suicide Squad, a film so bad that even Margot Robbie’s fabulous turn as Harley Quinn couldn’t save it.

Then came Wonder Woman (2017) which almost single handedly saved the beleaguered DC Cinematic Universe. It has a major third act problem, but the rest of the film was kind of great – especially the famous No Man’s Land scene which rivaled some of the best superhero reveal moments of any film in the last forty years. It gave the fans hope that perhaps this DC movie universe could be saved, that it wasn’t as dead as we thought.

The next three films have been mixed. Justice League was almost unwatchable, it was so bad. Aquaman was oddly fun, even though it was basically the equivalent of eating massive amounts of popcorn. The last film, Birds of Prey, I personally found to be silly and well made and featured great performances all around.

Fast forward through 2020, because why bother recounting the worst year so far this century, and yes, I’m counting 2001. Wonder Woman 1984 has been waiting to fly for a long time, originally set to be released December 13, 2019 – that’s right, it was supposed to come out last year. It was actually moved up to November 2019 before being delayed a further seven months to June 2020. Then the release was pushed from June to August, and then October, and then it finally landed on Christmas Day.

Then came the news this would be one of the first major tentpole movies to release on HBO Max, allowing viewers to watch it in the comfort of their homes during this dangerous time to be out in public. So that’s exactly what I did: I watched it at home.

I wish I could say it was wonderful, and to be fair, at times it was. The highs in this movie really are great. There are beautiful character moments that literally fly. Unfortunately it is such a mess otherwise that even those great scenes were brought down.



Good writing is the foundation, the savior of any type of fiction. Sometimes the writing is held to a high standard and is the first priority before tackling any project in Hollywood. Other times, it seems to be just a necessity to get something made, a patchwork series of scenes held together with scotch tape rather than a carefully crafted narrative with judicious editing. And that second bit is exactly what this film is.

The ideas on display are interesting, although clearly underbaked. As a central McGuffin, we have a magic rock that can grant wishes. Our main villain is a morally corrupt businessman, Max Lord, who wants to change his fortunes. Our hero, Diana, is still pining for her lost love Steve Trevor after sixty some years while spending her time doing superhero heroics under the radar. Finally, there is Barbara Minerva, a sweet person brought down by her lack of confidence who really just wants to be noticed.

Not a bad setup, really. And honestly, if it was just that stuff mixed together with magical hijinks, we might’ve had a good film. And there is a good film here, buried under the weight of bad writing mistakes and an inability to edit out superfluous story beats.

There is a general rule of storytelling that says you need to bring up something three times: you set it up once, follow up to remind the audience about it, and finally pay it off in a satisfying way. This film does set up and follow up, but then it follows up again and again and again before paying off that original set up in a limp and rather dull way.

The acting is kind of flat, except for Kristen Wiig as Barbara, and at times Gal Gadot and Chris Pine are very good and extremely likeable. Padro Pascal, whom I generally like, was perhaps miscast as Max Lord. He isn’t smarmy enough to pull off the corrupt businessman, and I never fully bought into his character arc. The movie even tried to give comic book fans some much desired moments of fanservice, which I will not spoil here.

However, there are so many issues with the story structure and pacing that even with a decent amount of action and a rather great idea for a plot, we end up with a strained and frankly boring mess. It doesn’t help that a movie this big, with so much extra time on its hands, didn’t go through additional editing passes and fine tuning of special effects.

The Death of a Cinematic Universe

After eight films loosely connected with shared actors playing the same roles, we have a cinematic universe that has failed on pretty much every level. The writing has been lackluster, the characters are shadows of their comic book selves, and while pretty, most of these movies fail to understand what made these stories so compelling in the first place. So this cinematic universe should be boxed up and labeled Dead On Arrival.

But that’s not going to happen. Yesterday they announced Wonder Woman 3 is going to be fast tracked. Zack Snyder got the go ahead with his total re-edit of Justice League. They cast Michael Keaton to return as Batman in the upcoming Flash movie, and James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame is writing and directing a kind of Suicide Squad sequel coming in a few months. They are even working on an Aquaman spin off featuring the creatures from the abyss. And no, I didn’t forget about Shazam!, but that film is barely in continuity, and until it fully integrates I’m not going to include it in this dead horse of a cinematic universe.

I guess what I’m trying to say is we should let this franchise die, wait five or so years and start again. I wish Wonder Woman 1984 wasn’t the nail in the coffin that it was, but it was a failure in every sense of the word.

2 out of 4 Wishes that shouldn’t come true.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

8 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I saw it on Christmas Day and had a similar reaction as you, J.D. The sequence near the end (I won't spoil anyone) should have had a huge emotional impact, and it just didn't. This movie desperately needed better writing and editing, and a better villain, because Max Lord didn't work for me, either. That might have been the writing. I don't want to dump on the actor, who probably did his best with the material.

CoramDeo said...

I actually found both Wiig and Pascal to be the most compelling parts of the movie. Pascal’s hamming it up, but I quite enjoyed his performance and I did buy in.

But I miss Diana’s powerful character journey from the first one. I miss the simplicity and power the original had. This one improved on the villains and basically nothing else.

Davide Hallac said...

I had pretty much the same reaction to WW1984. The writing, the pacing, the action, it just all felt off for some reason. Kristen Wiig was absolutely the best part of the movie, I thought her character was the only really fascinating one of the cast.

As for the DCEU, I like to think DC is at its best when it doesn't try to tie all of its movies together or making endless sequels like Marvel, and just letting its directors explore different genres and tones. Aquaman, Birds Of Prey, Joker, and Shazam were all really solid, and felt like drastically different films. It's a shame 1984 couldn't match up to those.

Anonymous said...

That's sad. I have no faith in the Snyder cut cause I liked it as it was. Shazam was solid fun and the sequel can't come fast enough. Even liked Birds of Prey and Aquaman.

Mara Fabella said...

I... didn't hate it. It probably helped that I got wind of the lukewarm reviews before watching so I knew not to have any high expectations.

The script was terrible, several moments were unintentionally funny, and there were a lot of outdated tropes used that really don't sit right at all for a modern audience. Like the very tiresome "ugly girl" trope where she basically just has glasses, unkempt hair, and unfashionable clothing. As someone who regularly has two out of those three, I take mild offense. :P

But I did still kinda enjoy the film. Pascal, Wiig, and Pine were a lot of fun to watch. And yes, Gadot definitely owns the role, but against actors as charismatic as those three she unfortunately was kind of overshadowed in her own film in my opinion.

I guess I kinda missed blockbuster films like these that aren't afraid to get cheesy and sentimental. The film had pretty huge and conspicuous plot holes, but I still liked that it did have a genuine heart at its center. It definitely didn't land all the time, but I think that's what's gonna make me remember this film more than Captain Marvel, the two Ant Man films, or even Doctor Strange.

Nowhere near as good as the first, but for me, it wasn't totally terrible.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I liked it, but didn't love it. Some of the early writing was very, very clunky, especially for Barbra. It felt like all she said was variations on "I'm not popular" for the first 20 minutes. I do think that this is the best live action version of Cheetah that we're ever going to get, though. Wiig killed it and the CGI for her final form was pretty decent. (Although I wish that we saw more of it!) The "high flying" moment did make me tear up a little. Yes, the poses were a little silly but it emotionally resonated with me.

Anonymous said...


Big letdown..Film left me frustrated and irritated like Iron Man 3 and Last Jedi. Decent ideas but horrible excution and a terrible script.

Just seen an article where Patty Jenkins says the film is a masterpiece and she didn't need an editor.

Opening scene was the best scene of the film. That young actress is amazing and that is the Diana that grows up to fight doomsday and laugh/ relish the battle as a warrior. They have lost that part of her personality. She was frontline in wars she is more capable of killing than anyone else in the Justice league. They are trading the darker parts of her story and personality for some rom com with cheesy effects. That ending was ripped straight from Supergirl season 1 finale.

Also other than Steve Trevor..Every single man was either an asshole or a sexual predator or both. Even extras and dudes in the background were always doing the stupidest, or most 'toxic' thing possible. Actually the homeless black guy was pretty cool/

Tim said...

"I wanted to love this movie. But I didn't even like it."

My thoughts exactly.
Thanks for the review, JD.