For those who have been with me for a long time, you probably know I’m…lenient when it comes to reviewing movies. I have loved some notoriously bad movies. And I’m not even talking about bad-on-purpose movies like Mortal Kombat.
I liked The Rise of Skywalker, if that tells you anything.
But every so often, a movie just…irritates me. And for anybody who knows me, you know that a movie has to make some egregious mistakes for me to start getting annoyed.
The first Wonder Woman movie is by no means bad. It’s fantastic, actually. I really enjoyed it. Even praised a particular moment in a single post. To say my hopes were high for Wonder Woman 1984 would be an understatement.
Which is maybe where all my dissatisfaction with the film stems from.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a letdown, mired in terrible story elements and plot holes, while simultaneously tantalizing viewers with the wonder that might have been.
Brief Synopsis (In Which I Might Sound Irked)
After the events of the first film, it’s clear that Diana Prince still pines for Steve Trevor. Never mind the fact that she met him for about a week in 1918 and more than fifty years have passed since then. She has never let go of her feelings for him, as indicated by this ham-fisted scene where the gorgeous Diana dines alone at a restaurant.
Diana is introduced to Barbara Minerva, a coworker who works specifically with gems. Barbara is an awkward woman who speaks rapidly and is clearly in awe of Diana’s grace and beauty.
Barbara works with this specific gem/stone/artifact that turns out to be a wishing stone. That’s right, you heard me correctly. A wishing stone. Barbara inadvertently wishes to be like Diana, and when Diana briefly holds the stone, she wishes for Steve to come back.
We are then introduced to this guy named Max Lord, who is aware of the stone’s powers and wishes to possess it. He gets ahold of it by cozying up to Barbara, then wishes that he could be the stone. The stone disappears and Max Lord now has the power to grant people’s wishes.
However, the wishes come with a price, and everyone who has made a wish (by the stone or by Max Lord) needs to pay, be it unintended bodily consequences or ambiguous moral depravity.
Diana and the newly resurrected Steve Trevor (who is in another person’s body) have to find a way to resolve things, and they figure out the solution is to have everyone renounce their wishes.
I rushed through that synopsis. My bad. But I’m mainly here to cite my grievances.
Shall we get started?
That Beginning Flashback
At the beginning of the movie, there is this flashback to Diana’s childhood on Themyscira. Some Amazonian Olympic-games event is happening, and young Diana is eager to participate and win. She cheats a bit toward the end and is caught, and the moral of this flashback is to not lie.
Looking back, I can’t even see the purpose of this flashback. I suppose that since the climax of the movie is when Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to convince Max Lord to renounce his own wish, whoever wrote the movie thought a flashback about her cheating in her youth would tie in with her getting someone else to see the truth of a situation.
But even as I type this, it feels like such a tangential connection. If that flashback had been removed from the movie, the story would not have been affected at all.
Barbara And Diana’s “Friendship”
Of all the aspects that intrigued me the most from the trailer of Wonder Woman 1984, the relationship between Barbara Minerva and Wonder Woman was at the top of the list.
If you’ve read the comics, you know that Barbara becomes the villain Cheetah, and her history with Diana is actually tragic and interesting. I was looking forward to seeing how that would be iterated onscreen.
Terribly, was the answer I got.
Barbara and Diana do not seem to spend any meaningful time together. At times, it feels like Diana is only hanging out with Barbara to learn more about the wishing stone. It never feels like she cares about her. And who can blame her, I suppose. Their “friendship” encompassed one meal shared together.
And to make things suckier, we as viewers are introduced to this early dinner by a quick cut to Diana laughing and saying “I don’t think I’ve laughed this much in a while” or some such shit like that, which is the laziest way to indicate that two characters are getting along.
Like…just show me them getting along. Show me Barbara telling Diana the thing that made her laugh so much. Show, don’t tell. Writing 101.
Steve Body-Snatching Someone
So, remember how Diana wished on the stone that Steve would come back to her?
He did come back, in a way.
Except he comes back in the body of another man.
And I don’t know why this happens.
So, initially, I thought that was the price Diana had to pay for getting Steve back. The two of them would have to confront the fact that they have effectively erased the consciousness of the man who originally inhabited the body, and Diana would have to confront how selfish she wants to be, keeping her long-lost love in a body that wasn’t his.
But then, it’s revealed that the price for Diana getting Steve back was that she lost some of her powers.
Which means some guy losing his body for days is not part of the wishing stone’s consequences.
Is this movie telling me that the stone can make nuclear warheads appear where there were none, make walls rise from the earth that span miles, subvert a person’s will to someone else’s, but it can’t recreate a dead Steve’s body?
Plus, it is heavily implied in the film that Diana and Steve-Who-Is-Not-In-Steve’s-Body have sex with each other. Which basically means that the guy whose body got stolen had no say in the matter. Which essentially means he was raped.
What Are the Rules for Wishing Anyways?
The exact rules for wishing are never explained, so things that are wished for can just happen, no matter how strange or nonsensical.
At first, you might think it’s simple enough. You hold the stone and say a wish out loud. But Diana never actually spoke what her wish was. She just wished it in her head and it came true.
And then toward the end of the movie, after Max Lord has become the stone, it’s revealed the the definition of “touching” the stone is wider than the Grand Canyon. (I don’t know about you, but I never thought that watching television counts as me touching whoever is on the screen.)
The movie plays it so loosey-goosey with these magic rules, and I loathe magic that isn’t explained properly.
Diana’s Invisibility Powers
Oh, yeah, Wonder Woman can turn things invisible now. When she and Steve are trying to locate Max Lord, they steal an airplane together. They get noticed by authorities, so Diana just busts out this newfound power that we never knew she had. Turns the whole plane invisible.
And then they see a pretty fireworks display, which I don’t think they should have flown right through.
Diana’s Decrease in Power
After wishing for Steve, Diana suffers a small decrease in her normal power levels. However, this feels wildly inconsistent with what we’re shown. She can flip a car over and lasso bullets out of the air without any trouble or scratch on her, but she starts getting cuts and abrasions from punches and stuff.
Plus, something about her movements in this movie seem…off. I can’t put my finger on it, but it feels like her body does not move the way it should given her motions and the motions of the world around her.
Max Lord Broadcasts Wishes
Back to the stupidity of the wishes.
Max Lord visits this top-secret government broadcasting station because he wants to gain as much access to the population of the globe as he can. He’s not satisfied with giving people wishes (and naming their consequences) one at a time as they grip his hands.
And the reason this method is viable as a source of wish-giving is because those broadcasting signals contain particles that touch the people watching.
If you show me Max Lord grabbing the hands of people he wants to give wishes to for hours and then expect me to believe that him on a TV screen will accomplish the same thing, I’m going to have a little trouble believing it.
Max Lord messes shit up by giving everyone wishes. Some people wished for others dead, a lot of people wished to be rich, and government officials wished for nukes to appear out of thin air.
And even if I were to swallow that everyone on the planet renounced their wish, you can’t tell me that the world forgot this day of madness. Those people who got murdered, were they brought back to life? And if they were, do you think they’d forget the fact that someone wished them dead?
If this movie exists in the DC movie universe, it should be as well-known as the day Thanos snapped his fingers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Everything having to do with Barbara I was disappointed with. I feel like it could have been so much more if they didn’t treat her as a sideshow character. She ends up becoming Cheetah by having Max Lord gain a wish and use its consequences to benefit her. (At least I think that’s how it works. The wishes are so screwy in this movie.) And when everyone renounces their wish, it’s never made clear if Barbara renounced hers.
And after she is defeated by Wonder Woman, that’s the last we see of her.
Normally, during a super hero movie, I never question the science of things. At no point during Iron Man do I start breaking down how the arc reactor shouldn’t work. At no point in Batman Begins do I question how the Batmobile leaps from rooftop to rooftop.
Wonder Woman 1984 had me questioning everything. Her lasso seems to have a mind of its own, and it does not obey the laws of physics even when it comes to something as simple as swinging a robber around. I could spend days dissecting how inane it is for a lasso to grab onto a bullet or how strange it appears when it reaches indefinable lengths to grab onto a plane.
But I don’t want to be mad for days.
A lot of the fight scenes did not make sense to me as they were happening because I could not figure out how objects and people would move.
You know how if someone throws a tennis ball toward you and it bounces on the floor, you can more or less anticipate where it will be so you can lean forward and catch it? Wonder Woman 1984 physics feel more like trying to anticipate where a deformed American football might bounce to.
I can usually recommend a bad movie to a person based solely on it being a fun bad movie.
I can’t do that with Wonder Woman 1984 because it is so frustrating how potential was just wasted.
Conceptually, Max Lord as a villain is fantastic. Imagine a villain who could grant people wishes. That would lead to some great conflict, perhaps on par with the Purple Man from Jessica Jones.
The backstory of Barbara and Diana could have been the stuff of tragic legends, especially with so much comic book source material to draw upon.
But these things fall flat in the execution.
I rate Wonder Woman 1984 a disappointing-sequel-that-I-would-never-recommend-even-if-I-was-holding-onto-the-Lasso-of-Truth.