Reel Reviews | Wonder Woman 1984

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

Forty years after her last big adventure, Diana Prince steps out of the shadows to save the world again from a maniacal menace in the long-awaited DCEU film, Wonder Woman 1984.

While working at the Smithsonian Institution, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) encounter a strange stone, an artifact that has a history over four thousand years old. It isn’t until after entrepreneur Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) steals the artifact that they realize the power of it, the power to recreate the world in an unimaginable way. Can Wonder Woman and the newly returned Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) stop Lord from destroying the world?

Wonder Woman 1984 is the long-awaited sequel to the 2017 original film and the latest submission from the DC Extended Universe (DCU) which includes Batman, Superman Justice League, and Suicide Squad. Director Patty Jenkins returns along with stars Gadot, and Pine and are joined by Pascal (The Mandalorian) and Saturday Night Live alum Kristen Wiig. The screenplay is written by Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham based upon characters created by William Moulton Marston.

The good news is that except for a couple of gaffes that only long-time Washington, DC residents would catch, the set design for the movies is spot on. The big hair, large shoulder pads, and high waisted pants are all staples of the ’80s that Jenkins and crew capture well. Viewers will fall into nostalgic love watching and experiencing the film. There are even a couple of throwbacks to the old Wonder Woman series, one being the creation of the invisible jet, the other being a super cool, can’t-miss Lynda Carter cameo.

The bad news is that the first Wonder Woman movie was written by Allan Heinberg and Zack Snyder as a part of an overarching DCEU theme. Since the plans for the DCEU seem to be crumbling, this movie is a standalone feature with no obvious connection to any other film and is only the second feature-length movie ever written by Jenkins. Unfortunately, Jenkins’ talents seem to lie in directing not writing. The story of the film is an unassembled puzzle that still seems to be missing pieces. The film starts with a contest on Amazon Island in which the child Diana competes against other fully grown Amazons. Through Diana’s competition, she learns a moral lesson that is loosely applied to the entire film. By the time the story comes back around to the moral though, much of the sense has left the film and no one is looking for any semblance of reason.

If a weak moral lesson was the only problem this movie would be just fine. However, it is not. While we know that these comic book movies are in no way beholden to their comic book heritage, the origin of the Barbara Minerva version of Cheetah, one of the most iconic Wonder Woman villains of all time, is poorly crafted for this film. Minerva has magically gifted the powers of Diana which for some unexplained, non-sensical reason involve Minerva transforming into a cheetah, a power that Diana does not have.

The same fate awaits Maxwell Lord. Lord is one of the most insidious and dangerous villains not only in the Rogues Gallery of Wonder Woman but in the whole DC Universe. He has killed and confounded many superheroes for a very long time until his recent death in the comic books. In this film, Lord is portrayed as a vapid and almost cowardly simpleton who has a lust for power but not the genius to manifest his own destiny.

Even the return of Steve Trevor is a disappointing let-down. While it is great that they found a way to bring Pine back for this film, the explanation (which actually fits the moral lesson) is a horrible and sad cheat which will be unsatisfying for Trevor fans.

Visually, there are too many poorly done CGI scenes that distract from the movie more than helps it. The fight scenes are not well choreographed even when they are not CGI driven. The COVID delay in releasing the film may have been best served by sending the film to reshoots and more post-production revamps.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, Wonder Woman 1984 is a sad, sophomoric attempt at the creation of a franchise that has none of the promise or power of its predecessors. Seeing the film, it is easier to understand why Warner Brothers decided to release it on HBO Max instead of hold out for a full theatrical release.

Grade: D