#8 in my ranking of the DCEU franchise.
This movie was awful. I really wasn’t a big fan of the original Wonder Woman, but it was competent enough to sustain two hours. This feels like a workprint, the first cut of a movie made from all the footage shot and with any inclination to keep in before any judicious editing has occurred. Now, judicious editing wouldn’t have saved the film, but it would have certainly saved me some time. There’s no way in God’s green Earth that this movie should be two and a half hours long. This is an hour and forty five minute movie stretched to the breaking point at two and a half hours. However, that problem largely goes after an hour when the boring slog of a first hour transforms into the dumbest kind of super hero movie you can imagine. I didn’t expect this movie to be competing with Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey as the worst movie of the DCEU, but that’s what I got.
This movie begins wrong, with an extended sequence in Themyscira where the young Diana competes in some kind of Olympic Game for Amazons. The special effects are all wrong here where physics don’t work right with these super warriors making impossible moves way too smoothly. Also, it’s really long at over ten minutes and does shockingly little considering what comes after. Diana is leading this race thing when she gets knocked off her horse and then takes a short cut. Her trainer prevents her from winning the race, and you’d think the point would be that short cuts don’t get rewarded, but the point ends up being that there is objective truth and that is that she lost. For the time and financial investment in the film, that’s a shockingly small way to use this time, especially since Diana ends up introduced twice in this film.
Yeah, this movie makes a surprisingly classic mistake of loving introductions so much that it introduces its main character twice. The second time is in the eponymous year of 1984 where she comes across a random robbery of a jewelry store in a mall that she thwarts. Again, it’s far too long for what eventually gets accomplished (what a later line of dialogue accomplishes which is that the store is being used as a front for illegal purchases of rare items), but it’s an action scene, and only one of two (the other being the stupid starting scene in Themyscira) for the entire first hour and a half of the film.
Now, it seems like a weird complaint coming from me, but this movie is really bogged down in character stuff for the rest of its first half. How could that be possible? How could a bevy of character stuff setting up a film be bad? When it’s all boring. When Barbara Minerva is a mousy woman who wants to be popular and that’s the extent of her character but that dominates a solid fifteen minutes. When Max Lord is a con man (and very thin Donald Trump caricature) who presides over a pretend oil empire at the end of his rope with a son who looks up to him, and the movie spends about fifteen minutes explaining this to the audience. Where a magic rock that grants wishes (oh, dear lord, I wish I was making this up), makes Diana’s long lost love Steve come back and inhabit another man’s body (a question that gets shockingly little attention) so that Diana and Steve can finally do it and have a fish out of water bit about a man from the past marveling at the reality of the 80s, and dominates the film for about fifteen minutes.
After the first two action scenes, the movie spends at least forty-five minutes establishing boring, thin characters and a cute fish out of water bit that gets old fast. It’s boring.
And then the movie gets stupid once it develops an actual plot.
You see, this magic stone was in the back of the jewelry store, and the FBI picked it up, sent it to the Smithsonian where Minerva works, along with Diana, in order to analyze. Never mind that there’s a slip of paper at the bottom of the box linking it directly to Max Lord that the FBI never found, I guess, but people start accidentally wishing for things and getting them granted (having Steve back is an accident, along with Minerva’s wish to be like Diana which ends up giving her superpowers). Now, much like in Wonder Woman, there is an interesting idea tucked away under all of this nonsense. That idea is that these wishes will give, but only in exchange for something held dear. It’s not a terribly original idea (Rick and Morty played with it brilliantly in the episode “Something Ricked This Way Comes”), but it’s still an idea, but the movie bungles it horribly.
You see, Lord wishes that he becomes the stone itself. Why would he wish that? What led him to believe that that was the best option? You know what the movie should have done with the fifteen minutes establishing him? Answer that question. With the power of the stone to grant wishes, he gains the power over all the oil in the world, but the rules around this wishing are unclear at best and inconsistent at worst. Sometimes, after he grants a wish people do as he bids, like after he gives the least convincing Reagan impersonator ever hundreds of more nuclear missiles, Reagan does as he demands. But other times, like when he builds a wall around Egypt for an oil prince, the Arab royal laughs in his face when Lord demands something. This makes no sense.
Plot develops stupidly, and we end up where Diana has to willingly give up her long lost boyfriend in order to reclaim her powers (good), and Truth Lassos her way across the world to a secret site where the US government has equipment to override television signals worldwide (ugh). Lord has gone there because Reagan used a turn of phrase (“touch people”) to describe talking to people on TV, and since Lord’s newfound powers only work through touch, he decides that this television doohickey is the way to go. I mean, I’m sure the god who created the stone in the first place had local colloquial turns of phrase as a means of touch in mind when he crafted the stupid thing, I guess. No, really, this movie is really this stupid.
There’s a CGI heavy fight with Minerva who has turned into a cheetah, I guess, that’s sort of okay, and then the movie makes a common mistake. You see, there’s a population of writers these days who don’t want their superhero stories with superheroes winning traditional ways, with their fists, so they write in ways for words to do the winning. That’s fine in concept, but it ends up really hard to execute. Lord has spent the movie gaining power by granting wishes, and along the way he has completely ignored his son. He’s the bad guy, I get it. However, Diana’s Truth Lasso gets a new power where she can show people the truth through it (I can imagine where this would have been helpful in her previous adventures, but whatever, comics), and she uses this to somehow talk Lord into giving up everything and run tearfully to his son. This…does not work. It ends up feeling like Diana’s talking to herself because the visuals and the sound design clash with the sound going quiet but the visuals looking like there’s a torrent of noise between the two. On top of that, though, I find it hard to believe that the right words would have made the man who did everything he did in the first couple of hours of this movie turn around do just that. He’s the most reasonable antagonist ever in a superhero movie if so. I guess Diana’s gonna have a hard time with any bad guy who doesn’t even need to throw a punch, just blow some tough wind at her, and won’t be talked out of something.
This movie is awful. It’s truly terrible. A tighter cut would have made the first hour much shorter and less boring, but it would have done nothing for the sheer stupidity that dominates the last ninety minutes. I do have to mention one more idiotic thing, though.
Steve, the WWI era pilot whose consciousness as it was on the day he died now occupies a random dude from Washington DC, gets into a jet fighter that’s a museum piece at the Smithsonian with Diana. He not only knows how to pilot this vastly different piece of equipment from what he’s used to because of some dumb explanation about how flying is all about wind and air, but this museum piece has enough fuel to go from DC to Egypt…and then back again. This movie is mind numbingly dumb.
That’s it. I’ve given up any hope for the DCEU. Many people do actively crap all over what Zack Snyder did in Man of Steel and Batman V Superman, but I have a hard time believing that anyone would prefer this two and a half hours of dreck over the flawed but intelligent ambition of Snyder’s attempts at the franchise. I didn’t have high hopes for Wonder Woman 1984, but it failed to meet even those.
Originally published here.