The first “Wonder Woman” film had its flaws, as most bombastic blockbusters do, but was a mostly enjoyable romp on par with other superhero flicks. The same cannot be said for “Wonder Woman 1984.”
All superhero movies, to succeed within the genre, require a few bare-bones elements. First, they need a simple, straightforward plot that is easy to follow. In a genre so packed with action, the viewer should never be left wondering why characters are fighting or where they are going. Second, they need believable, competently-produced stunts and special effects. Viewers’ suspension of disbelief should never be broken by bad green screen or muddy computer-generated imagery (CGI). Third, and perhaps most importantly, they need good, funny writing. Humor is crucial to breaking up the action sequences, and making the audience laugh can make super-powered protagonists more relatable and grounded.
“Wonder Woman 1984” has none of these elements.
The plot of the film, while relatively simple overall, takes quite a few nonsensical twists and turns and will likely leave viewers disoriented or confused. The story begins in Washington D.C., where Diana Prince — Wonder Woman’s alter ego — has found a job at the Smithsonian. There, she meets Barbara Minerva — a frumpy, klutzy nerd who works in the same department. She also finds the “Dreamstone” — a magical rock that can grant any wish the holder requests, on the one condition that it may take away the wisher’s most valued possession.
Before knowing the full scope of the stone’s abilities, both Prince and Minverva make wishes from the stone. Prince wishes for her dead love-interest from the first film, Steve Trevor, to return. Minerva wishes to be like Prince: powerful, confident and beautiful.
Things really start to get out of hand when the true antagonist of the film, Maxwell Lord, steals the stone. Rather than wishing for something material, Lord wishes to become the stone itself, and he gains the ability to grant anyone’s wish as long as they’re touching him. This premise is simple enough and allows for some decent emotional stakes, but the adventure seems to go down plot paths just to abruptly end them, like a brief and out of place sequence in Egypt or the introduction of real-world ‘80’s politics — like the United States’ fear of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Overall, the story is a bloated, confusing mess, and these detriments remove the impact from largely well-choreographed fight sequences.
Though the action is mostly fun, especially in the smaller-scale hand-to-hand combat moments, the bad green screen, wire work and computer-generated props and characters weigh down the hard work from stunt performers. Wonder Woman’s whip looks less like a golden weapon of the gods and more like a sentient wet noodle.
The villain, Cheetah, which Minerva eventually transforms into in the final moments of the film, looks like a video game character from the early 2000s. On more than one occasion, it is obvious that the actors are in front of a green screen. Perhaps, this campiness was intentional, as an homage to superhero films of the ‘80s, but if that’s the case, the campiness is inconsistent, and that intention is not clear in the final product.
Finally, the writing falls flat. The humor, when present, is forced and stilted, and the characters are one-dimensional. This isn’t helped by the fact that Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman feels lazy at best, and her character has none of the charisma or depth from the first film. Even the better actors, like Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal, struggle to deliver some of the more clichéd lines with any impact.
“Wonder Woman 1984” is still fun to watch but is a major disappointment after the success of its predecessor and, ultimately, ends up feeling like a glorified fan film. Director Patty Jenkins has already signed on for another “Wonder Woman” sequel, though, so there may be hope for the franchise yet.
“Wonder Woman 1984” staring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal, can be watched right now on HBO Max.