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  • Martin Cheney

Wonder Woman 1984


★½


Caution: spoilers ahead (probably, I don't know)



CONTEXT DISCLAIMER: I am not a fan of superhero movies. I can count on one hand the ones that I've enjoyed (X-Men and X2, basically) and consequently usually avoid them where possible. This means that I have absolutely no understanding or appreciation of any DC or Marvel lore (I have not seen the first Wonder Woman film either) and therefore acknowledge that my inherent cynicism towards the genre likely played a part in my loathing of this film. However, I think there's also a case to be made that this film falls far short of any objective standard of a decent action movie, or indeed movie of any kind, since it sometimes fails to even be entertaining, and worse, coherent. Allow me to elaborate.


Let's get the positives out of the way first.

  • Gal Gadot's effortless charm is undeniable.

  • The opening 'Amazonian Olympics' sequence is pretty spectacular, and features the only noteworthy work Hans Zimmer does throughout the film (it's in 7/8 - whee!).

  • Lucian Perez, who plays Alistair Lord, the son of the primary antagonist (and is on screen for approximately 8 seconds) gives one of the only truly affecting performances.

  • That scene where they fly through a fireworks display (pictured above, in a completely silent jet) is pretty.

  • There's quite a cool fight scene in the White House, which reminded me how much I like X2. (Seriously, go and watch the opening White House breach scene in X2 from 2003 (!!) and tell me it's not embarrassing that WW84 isn't better than it is.)

The thing is, even I can acknowledge that this film really could have been great. The cast are all uniformly excellent in their other work and there is a loyal fanbase that was willing to wait for a gargantuan-budget follow-up to what seems to have been a well-received first instalment. So what went wrong?


Put simply, the screenplay is absolutely atrocious in every perceivable sense. The dialogue is so one-dimensional it's almost invisible. Literally none of the jokes (if you can call them that) land, which is really saying something since most of them are delivered by Kristen Wiig, whom I usually find hilarious. The characters ask each other stupid questions, not because they don't already know the answer, but because the screenwriters either a) couldn't figure out another way of imparting exposition without words, or b) didn't trust the audience enough to be able to figure it out for themselves. And even for a film that's quite knowingly basking in 80s nostalgia, there are so many thunderously lame cliches that the initially endearing attempt at homage passes from winkingly self-referential to blatantly clumsy.


And don't even get me started on the story. I will now get started on the story. In spite of all the times the characters tried to explain it to me, I did not understand the story. There's an aforementioned Amazonian goddess trial which opens the film, where we see a young Diana holding her own among her adult competitors. Don't worry though, this sequence will literally never be referenced again, except for one single line uttered by Robin Wright (why is she in this film?) which bookends the movie in a blind stab at profundity that merely reminded me that the rest of the film couldn't keep up with the excitement it promised at the beginning. Then we jump forward to a shopping mall where Wonder Woman saves a young girl (whom I don't believe was in danger) from armed bandits by sliding her into some teddy bears. The thieves were after a collection of historical artefacts, one of which is an ancient mythological stone that grants wishes.


The FBI needs help identifying this stone, so they enlist Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), the Smithsonian's newest dweeb-who-spills-the-contents-of-her-briefcase-on-the-floor-so-you-know-later-she-will-be-one-of-the-villians. The tension between her and Diana (who also works at the Smithy) is hinted at immediately because SHE IS TOO BUSY TO HAVE LUNCH WITH HER. Obviously, this starts Barbara down a path of jealousy and resentment towards Diana and she eventually teams up with oil magnate and TV zealot Maxwell Ford (Pedro Pascal) to harness the power of the stone and turn into a large, angry cat, while Ford casually hijacks an international emergency broadcast system to grant the wishes of everyone in the world simultaneously in exchange for a nicer complexion. (I have since gotten quite a bit of joy at the thought of Cheetah infiltrating the world of Cats and creating some carnage there. THAT'S a cat-related musical I could get behind.)


Speaking of this motley pair, WW84 didn't really deserve the performances that Wiig and Pascal gave. Wiig was pretty effective, especially in her early sequences of clumsiness and gradual transition towards a formidable foe, although I'm not quite sure she managed to sell it towards the end. Nevertheless, I know she is a lot of people's least favourite thing about this film, but I actually think a comedic actor of her calibre and repute had no business being as a good an action boss as she was. Pascal, however, really operated at an appropriately cartoonish fever pitch of lunacy for the duration, but the rest of the film was too busy taking its morality tale too seriously to keep up with him. Consequently, Max Ford ends up coming across way too unhinged by comparison (even considering the utterly ludicrous nature of his deeds), when in fact his level of energy and commitment might have saved the rest of the film if it'd been more universally adopted.


WW84 also has the unenviable ability to somehow imply that there is a more coherent version of the narrative sitting on the cutting room floor, as there seems to be some crucially important exposition missing, while also managing to be about 45 minutes too long. I felt like I spent an hour between action sequences wading through scenes confirming what I already knew about all of the characters and actively avoiding giving me any more insight. Additionally, I feel like there is a plethora of plot holes, but I'll avoid discussing them here lest I embarrass myself for calling out something that I would have understood if I knew something (anything) about Wonder Woman. But even as a total noob, there's an incredibly convenient deus ex machina moment that raised my eyebrows. Ta daa!


The biggest unintentional laugh of the film comes right towards the end, at what is surely supposed to be the most tender, emotional moment. I won't spoilt it here, but MAN can Chris Pine project his voice.


Despite some genuinely exciting (albeit infrequent) action sequences, fleetingly enjoyable performances and an impressive visual style, Wonder Woman 1984 is an interminable mess. I rescind my ticket.


Wonder Woman 1984 is in cinemas now.

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