It deeply pains me to write this article. I am, in my heart of hearts, a DC Comics guy. Don’t get me wrong, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been an absolute thrill for the last decade or so, but when the chips are down, my loyalties lie with the trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. But where Batman and Superman have been in disarray in recent years following Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, Wonder Woman has been anything but, as Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the legendary Amazonian warrior has long been considered to be the lone consistent bright spot in the otherwise haphazard DCEU. With Wonder Woman 1984, that magic has been evaporated — entirely wiped away — bringing both the character and the film back in line with the rest of the franchise’s outings: and that’s subpar.
Warning: light spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984 will follow.
In the original Wonder Woman, the decision to move the action back in time to World War I was heralded as one of the wisest moves the DCEU ever made, as it not only allowed the studio to make a superhero film we haven’t *really* seen yet (Captain America: The First Avenger takes place during World War II), but it wisely removed the character from the pressures of interacting with the likes of Batman and Superman. In WW84, transporting the timeline simply feels like one of those ideas that sound good on paper, as nothing about the 80s — particularly the music, as there’s not a single 80s song in the film! — seems to exist in the world of WW84 other than Maxwell Lord’s overwhelming Donald Trumpiness. That said, I actually found Pedro Pascal’s totally-hammed-up Lord to be one of the film’s strongest attributes, as his goals and desires, at the very least, seem to follow the behaviors of a normal, albeit very greedy, person. The same cannot be said for Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah, whose development from BFF to bad guy is so utterly rushed that it makes it clear the character was introduced into the sequel strictly to provide a physical challenge to Diana. Wiig’s below-average acting chops certainly don’t help the situation.
In the same way that Wiig’s Cheetah feels scattershot and incomplete, so does the rest of the film, particularly the plot, as it almost seems as though WW84 was reverse-engineered around a handful of half-baked ideas that certainly don’t represent a hill worth dying. In fact, depending on your mileage on the film’s MacGuffin and subsequent plot progressions, you may find yourself wanting to bail in the first hour: the machinations of the film’s story felt that so aggressively and absurdly manufactured that I certainly did. The extent to which this film deus ex machinas its way through its plot is actually shocking. Perhaps worst of all — unlike most comic book movies, which are usually able to fall back on their action as a crutch — the film’s misguided narrative isn’t even able to be propped up by its set pieces, which are wholly underwhelming at every turn.
That’s not to say that Wonder Woman 1984 is entirely devoid of positives, as there are a handful of moments that tap back into the magic that made the original such a joy, particularly during the scenes Diana shares with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, as the pair’s famed chemistry save this film from devolving into a dire state of affairs. In fact, despite the film’s overall dip in quality, I actually found this to be a strong performance from Gadot. Certainly no Meryl Streep, Gadot unleashes some respectable dramatic skills that we haven’t necessarily seen from her thus far, especially in some of the film’s more climactic moments — Gadot saves some truly eye-roll-worthy scenes with a passion and authenticity that’s become the character’s calling card.
Ultimately, it’s the winning charm and chemistry of Gadot and Pine — despite the limitations that the film oddly puts on them, as there’s actually *not much* superheroing for Wonder Woman to do in this movie — that rescue Wonder Woman 1984 from outright disaster, elevating it from among the genre’s worst to simply your standard below-average DC Comics outing — an outing that makes you wonder if the original caliber of 2017’s Wonder Woman was merely blind luck.
In a year infamously without of wonder, movie fans around the globe have spent the last six months or so hoping that a movie and a character named after that very feeling would be able to provide a much-needed dose as we head into the new year. Unfortunately, like the rest of us, even Wonder Woman wasn’t able to overcome the direness of 2020: just like the year itself, you’ll likely find yourself wondering when this movie will end.
BroBible’s ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Review: ★★☆☆☆