Review: WONDER WOMAN 1984


Word is already out on the street that WW84 is something of a disappointment.  I watched it last night via HBOMax and I sadly must agree with the general consensus.  This second outing for Diana is a let down, one that fails to ride the wave of the first and take it to new levels.

I reviewed Wonder Woman the evening of its Midnight release in 2017 on Facebook, where I put reviews for films that I don’t feel deserve the Amazing treatment (good or bad);  I fell asleep several times and ended up leaving about 2/3rds of the way through.

Of course, this was less than a month after my wife, Karen, died and I acknowledged at the time that this was obviously affecting my reception of the film, so my critiques ought to have been taken with a grain of salt.

Following a lot of discussion, I was encouraged to go back and re-watch it, which I did, finding that it was a much better film than I had originally thought.  In fact, it’s probably the best DC universe film so far.

The movie itself was an important milestone for Hollywood:  a female director at the helm, the studio backing a product that many clearly believed would not appeal to a large enough audience to achieve blockbuster status, and a lot riding on it, not the least of which was the future of other female-centric big budget movies.

It shattered all expectations, thankfully, and now the Female Superhero flick is a thing, and will become increasingly so.  (Gee, who’d u thunk that little girls have an imagination and could be (should be) inspired by powerful, intelligent, morally good female characters?  Who’d u thunk that the male audience would engage with a female superhero?  Well, anyone awake enough….)

WW84 though, feels more like a filler film, a necessary but not all that exciting stage in the history of the character, prior to whatever is planned for the future.

The opening sequence, featuring the young Diana learning a lesson about truth and honesty is a fine sequence (though it did make me wonder about whoever created the Themysciran version of the decathalon); it shows us that not only is Diana a physical wonder, but smart as a whip, and fully human in her emotional expressions.

But then…

Look; there’s a way to add a light-hearted, humorous touch to action sequences;  Spider-Man does it with Peter’s verbal quips; GotG did by it going over the top (Groot smashing all of the soldiers to excess), Ironman with poorly timed tech failures.  However;  either you leave the bumbling henchmen to the 60’s Batman tv show, or you throw in the dialogue bubbles (POW!, BOFF!).  The opening sequence of Wonder Woman (in modern day 1984) using her powers to fight crime is just a long-extended sight gag that simply is not funny.  It’s camp and it’s jarring, setting the absolutely wrong tone for future events. You can’t show us a grown-up Diana engaging in non-serious action after that whole extended sequence of Diana as child that was presented so seriously.  It’s a let-down.  It robs the character of her gravitas, her import, her reality.

There were a few nice moments, even genuine tear-jerkers;  Pine does a fine job as Trevor, once again.  The villains, though – Max Lord as the wish-maker and Cheetah/Barbara Minerva were both given short shrift;  a lot of time is spend developing Barbara’s character, as Barbara, her motivations are clear, but then too little time is given to her as Cheetah.

Max Lord suffers from being a super villain with a weak-sauce super villain power.  He’s basically an ambulatory monkey’s paw.  What if you found Aladdin’s Lamp and your third and final wish was that you would have unlimited wishes?  Well, now we know, and – no one cares.

I think the stand-out sequence is when Diana and Steve steal a plane, and later, when Diana uses that memory to learn to fly without one.  Yes, Wonder Woman flies, which breaks with the original comic book character’s abilities (though in later incarnations she did fly).  It’s a heartfelt moment about love and loss and learning.

Now lets talk about that gun on the mantle.  You know, the one that’s there because in a later act it WILL be used.  The “gun” in this case is the mythical golden armor created by the Amazon’s for their legendary warrior Asteria, who sacrifices herself so that the Amazons can escape to Themyscira.  Diana has it in her office (she’s been searching for Asteria for decades but has only found the armor).  Its gorgeous golden armor with wings designed to serve as a full body shield or battering ram.

We know Diana will don it at some point, assuming Asteria’s mantle (mantle, get it?) but that doesn’t happen until the very end, and the armor is here and gone.  What a waste.

On the other hand, it’s a sorta nice homage to Gal Gadot’s assuming Lynda Carter’s mantle in the role, a point made much clearer in a teaser following the credits, in which Lynda Carter appears, displays her powers and reveals that she is Asteria.

Wonder Woman 1984 is a mixed bag and a let down from the first WW flick.  As set up for the next, it probably had to be done, but it could have been done better.

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