PG-13 for superhero violence and sexuality. The tone of the movie somehow tempers what little violence there is. One of the big thing is that Wonder Woman bleeds for a little bit. But the most important thing is that there is some noticeable sexuality. Steve and Diana, after having not seen each other for forty years, sleep together. When I was a kid, the same thing happened in Superman II. But this time, it seems more problematic...probably because I have kids. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins
I had this whole bit about how it was a blessing to have New Year's Day on a Friday so I could write something and have it say "2021", but then have the weekend to take off. But then I wrote this whole thing and lost it after being called away for a second. So if I come across as a little terse, you know. Yesterday, my sister-in-law came over and asked if I was going to make a list of the best movies of 2020. I originally shrugged it off, but my wife knew the insanity that my brain would do. Sure enough, given fifteen minutes, I was deep in the hole of organizing my blog entries for 2020 films. But then I realized that Wonder Woman 1984 wasn't on the list.
Unfortunately, it wasn't very good.
Yeah, WW84 is a bad movie. There are good things about it and I didn't absolutely loathe the film. But it is not a good movie. If anything, it kind of returned me to an unpopular opinion. The Wonder Woman movies aren't amazing. I mean, the second watching of the first Wonder Woman movie added a lot of points to it. But I'm part of the Funny or Die skit of people who think that the Wonder Woman movies are overhyped. And the thing is...I really want the Wonder Woman movies to blow my mind. When Man of Steel really just wrecked my hope for the DCeU, I turned to Wonder Woman as my new pillar for potential for the DC superhero. Superman used to be this role model who inspired everyone to be their best selves. Created as an allegory for the immigrant, he made sense. But I didn't hate the idea of Wonder Woman filling in this role. After all, Wonder Woman was a woman steeped in gender politics and had a thick accent while wearing the colors of the American flag. Yeah, I can get behind that. If anything, it works better.
And Wonder Woman is really good at inspiring. In WW84, there's actually a scene where Diana talks to the whole world and tells them to believe in themselves. There's no subtlety, and I'm very cool with that in that moment. It's so weird that I don't love these movies (despite the fact that I think that the first Wonder Woman movie is mostly successful) because I love the characters. But I think that DC is kind of over-relying on that. It happened with the Superman movies and it seems to be trending in the first sequel to Wonder Woman. As charismatic and perfect as Christopher Reeves was in the Superman films, Superman III and IV rested far too much on Reeves carrying a weak script.
And WW84 has a very weak script. I was shocked to see Geoff Johns's name attached so heavily to this script because I really like his comics. I always felt like Johns understood what the tone of the DC Universe should have been, but his films really seem to underwhelm. It's like he's trying to be Kevin Feige, but is mostly unsuccessful. The biggest problem is that this feels like a shallow decision when it comes to a lot of the choices. The movie is set in the 1980s, which immediately made the trailers super fun. I was jazzed to see this movie because I'm part of the demographic that loves to be nostalgic for a very ironic time in my childhood. But there's nothing that really requires this movie to be set in 1984. It's really all a response to Guardians of the Galaxy and Stranger Things.
Listen, let me play Devil's Advocate for the film's time period. The first movie was set during WWI, which was this contrast for Diana and the rest of humanity. We saw humanity at its worst and Wonder Woman accepted humanity, despite its flaws. The only thing I can see that might be appropriate about 1984 is the over-greedy Max Lord and his lust for power. But Jenkins never really makes that connection between Lord and the excesses of the '80s. Instead, he comes across as a comic villain that I never really take seriously for the majority of the film.
And the villains are almost the definition of undercooked. As much as I love the first Superman movie, I can admit that Lex Luthor is a completely vapid character with his motivations. But compared to Max Lord, Luthor seems nuanced. Really, the campy villains of the movie throws me back to Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Lord can be genuinely scary if crafted well. Heck, he becomes this power player in the comics and I thought that the movie was building to the famous neck-snap of the comic. But Max Lord has the dumbest motivations.
He's built initially as this sympathetic character, a dad who has gotten in over his head. It makes sense that he would use this wishing stone to get himself out of the jam that he got himself in. I can even see trying to amass so much wealth out of the situation he's in. (I don't know how he became the expert on a wishing stone.) But he seems to pride himself on ruining others. How is that sympathetic? The world seems to be headed for the apocalypse based on his actions. The apocalypse affects his son. It seems like his likes his kid when his kid is in the room. Why is he cool with just the world catching fire? The villains' motivations make no sense.
Similar is true to Kristin Wiig's Cheetah. The movie tried to pull a Spider-Man Peter and Norman, really quickly. Barbara doesn't have friends, so Diana befriends her. The movie posits that, because Diana wants to strip the world of these cursed wishes, that Barbara fears about going back to being normal. Fame and attention have corrupted her. But she literally hates Diana by the final showdown and I don't know where that came from. She wants to be an apex predator? Where did that choice come from? I get that she's a cryptozoologist, but there's nothing in her character that makes sense that she would want to be the ultimate killing machine. The choices don't make a lick of sense.
There's just a lot that wants to happen in this movie without a hint of justification behind these choices. I do think that the life of Steve Trevor is worth more than Wonder Woman's powers. I don't think that they should have sacrificed that poor random guy's life for the sake of their happiness. And the rules of wishing is completely bonkers. Max Lord can just trade wishes for anything after the wish has been made? That's not exactly a monkey's paw so much as super-convenient. There's just so much that doesn't work in this movie.
I want Wonder Woman to be amazing. When people tell me that she's the cat's pajamas, conceptually she is. But WW84 was almost a burden to watch. It's campiness was over the top. I could talk about Steve Trevor being the new fish-out-of-water character that Diana was in the first one, but I think it is mostly unsuccessful. (They steal a jet just to get to the invisible jet element of Wonder Woman? Come on.) This is a rough movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.