By now everyone knows Wonder Woman 1984 has been released on HBOMax and in theaters. Does it live up to the hype that has surrounded it for the past year?
(We’ve lassoed up some spoilers so we have to tell you the truth) After more than a year of delays and constant social media reminders of delays, Wonder Woman 1984 finally dropped on HBOMax and in theaters on December 25th.
The long and short of Wonder Woman 1984 is easy. A gem is stolen from a mall jewelry store along with a lot of other illegally obtained artifacts only to be recovered by Wonder Woman. The gem and artifacts find themselves at the Smithsonian. Why? We’re not really told why the artifacts wind up at the Smithsonian, surely not every stolen piece of art ends up at the Smithsonian. We’re also never told why the FBI is interested in the gem or why the FBI is never mentioned again in conjunction with the gem. What’s important is the gem has the power to grant wishes. The power of wish fulfillment is the crux of Wonder Woman 1984.
However, this is how director Patty Jenkins and co-screenwriter Geoff Johns chose to introduce Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) into Wonder Woman’s world. Minerva, a gemologist, is specifically asked by the FBI to investigate the gem. It doesn’t take long for Minerva to find herself wrapped up in Wonder Woman’s adventure to lose Steve Trevor, who died at the end of Wonder Woman, again and save the world from certain doom.
Before the movie gets to the destruction of the earth it has to make Minerva an outcast. One would think that we would have moved on from casting the very attractive actress to play the unattractive doormat. It was ridiculous in the 80s and by the 90s it was played out. However, here we are in 2020 and Wiig has been cast to play the unattractive doormat. It’s no more believable today than it was when we saw it the first time decades ago.
The audience needs to believe that Minerva has always been an unattractive doormat. If we don’t believe she was the doormat the wish to be like Diana will come off as hollow. It was always going to be a difficult task to convince the audience that Wiig is an unattractive doormat. Most of the reason is not Wiig’s fault. Anyone can see that she is a very attractive person. What’s not excusable is the fact that no one tried to use makeup or special effects to change Wiig’s appearance. It was possible in 2007 to make Brad Pitt look old, it was possible in 2019 to “ugly” up Wiig.
The lack of any makeup being applied to Wiig meant that her performance and the situations she finds herself would have to convince the audience that she had a miserable life before meeting Diana Prince. However, Wiig is saddled with ridiculous dialog like “You speak Latin?” when Diana reads the inscription on the gem. Technically Diana is reading Latin, but it’s not impressive as Minerva or the movie would have us believe. Most people in the science fields who would work at the Smithsonian would be able to read Latin. An uncomfortable lunch between Diana and Barbara doesn’t further the cause nor does her constant shock whenever someone talks to her. It’s all played for comedic value but there is nothing funny about any of the situations.
We should be fully invested in how horrible Barbara’s life was, whether in fact or in her head, before she made her wish to become like Diana. By the time she becomes the “apex predator” we should feel sympathy towards the character. However, the movie fails to meet the challenge. Barbara Minerva becomes just another cardboard villain in a long line of villains whose only purpose is to take up screen time.
A VERY LONG MOVIE
It’s not that movies with long run times are bad. Plenty of movies have a two hour plus run time. Pulp Fiction is two and half hours long. The Godfather and The Wolf of Wall Street are both almost three hours. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring also runs three hours, but the extended version clocks in at almost four hours. The length of the movie is not a bad thing, it’s what the director does with the time that counts.
Director Patty Jenkins doesn’t know what to do with the time in Wonder Woman 1984. Its two and a half run time is dedicated more to big action set pieces than anything to actually advance the story. The movie starts with a ridiculously long obstacle course featuring a young Diana getting the better of Amazons twice her age. Yet young Diana doesn’t win the race because she cheated. In Wonder Woman’s world cheaters don’t win.
There’s not one scene in its more than two and a half hour run time that would elicit any sort of emotional reaction in the audience. As heavy handed as it was watching Wonder Woman dash across “no man’s land” in the first Wonder Woman it was something the audience could cheer about. There is no scene in Wonder Woman 1984 that comes close. Instead Jenkins give us several minutes of Steve and Diana flying a stolen jet through fireworks and saving kids playing soccer in the middle of a street as a military type vehicles are ready to run them over.
We could blame the editor for the length of the movie. Most directors don’t have final cut of their movies. However, Jenkins seems to have had final cut on the movie which means she chose the scenes to be included and chose not to trim the movie’s run time.
A PERFECT COMIC BOOK MOVIE
For all its faults Wonder Woman 1984 may still be the perfect comic book movie to end 2020. Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t The Dark Knight or Watchmen. No questions are asked that challenge any belief systems. There are no deeper meanings to be found in Wonder Woman 1984 than what is seen on the surface. Wonder Woman 1984 is the shallow end of the comic book movie pool.
All expectations of an earth shattering movie should be left behind and your willing suspension of disbelief should be turned up to eleven.The movie is built on plot holes and tropes. If you go into Wonder Woman 1984 looking for logic, even comic book logic, you will be very disappointed.
The plot of most comic book movies are based on some variation of world domination. Wonder Woman 1984 is no exception. Maxwell Lord’s plan to dominate the world revolves granting and asking for wishes. The rules to the gem change to meet the needs of the plot. Minerva makes two wishes, other people can only make one wish, and Alistair, Lord’s son, doesn’t get his wish granted. At the end we’re meant to believe everyone in the world recanted their wish. It’s the only way the movie will work.
If you question things you will ask yourself “How did Wonder Woman get her lasso around Lord’s ankle?” She couldn’t lasso him during his grand speech. The magic had to happen off screen. It’s through the magic of the lasso and the script that Wonder Woman can beam her message of hope across the globe. Wonder Woman’s message of hope is what the movie has been building up to for more than two hours.
Is Wonder Woman 1984 a bad movie? It will depend on who you ask. Die hard Wonder Woman fans will hail it as a triumph. Other, more jaded, individuals will fault it at every turn. Maybe what we need at the end of a turbulent and tragic year is a movie we can switch off our brains, check out for two hours, and enjoy.