By Nicholas Cervania, January 24, 2021—
I think most people would agree that the first Wonder Woman is a pretty solid movie, and one of the few decent DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movies that have come out so far. However, while not as bad as some of the other DCEU movies, Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84) is not very good.
Spoiler warning for WW84.
To start with the positives, I think that Diana — portrayed by Gal Gadot — has more of a defined arc in this movie. One of the issues I had with the previous film is that she doesn’t really develop or learn much. After spending time with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), she learns that her black and white ideology of good and evil isn’t always right, but the third act consists of her fighting a villain that’s entirely evil with a big dumb CGI action climax. In WW84, she has to come to terms with the idea of giving up the things you want the most in the pursuit of truth. Truth is an obvious motif for her character as noted by her iconic lasso of truth, and I’m glad that this movie focuses on that.
Pine and Gadot’s chemistry is still easily one of the best aspects of these movies and every scene with them together is enjoyable. Furthermore, the action is still pretty exciting. The effects can be pretty hit or miss at times, but the action choreography is something that the DCEU movies usually manage to get right. Even though the effect on Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) looks disgusting and more like something out of Cats (2019), I still found the fight between her and Wonder Woman in the third act to be pretty exciting.
However, it blows my mind that a movie can have promotional posters that are so vibrant and visually striking and yet the final battle is dark and desaturated, with no interesting colours on screen at all.
When I think about the DCEU, a few common issues always cross my mind. Bad pacing, boring plots and the way they try to shove as many characters as possible into each movie. For example, the first quarter of Suicide Squad is entirely comprised of non-stop exposition for each of the main characters. Batman V Superman has almost no action after the first act until the final battle and has Doomsday shoehorned into the plot during the last 15 minutes of the film. Removing Black Manta from the plot of Aquaman changes nothing from the overall narrative. But after the release of Shazam! and the mediocrity of Birds of Prey, I thought that the studio was finally beginning to outgrow these mistakes. After watching WW84 however, these issues have sadly been reintroduced all over again.
With its two-and-a-half-hours-long runtime, the pacing is atrocious, with tons of pointless scenes that could’ve been cut. The opening scene in Themyscira is pretty fun, but it goes on for a lot longer than it needs to, and the same goes for the next scene of Wonder Woman saving civilians out on the street in 1984. For instance, one scene has Diana turning a plane into the invisible jet, which doesn’t serve the narrative in any way and only exists for fanservice. Additionally, this movie has the plot split between its two supervillains, Cheetah and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), which is an immediate red flag. While having more than one supervillain can sometimes work, most notably in Christopher Nolan’s, The Dark Knight, the DCEU movies have never managed to do this right. Both villains have to share the spotlight, leaving the narrative unfocused and making the movie feel much longer than it actually is.
Maxwell Lord’s motivations aren’t very clear and as such, he isn’t a very compelling main villain. Most of the plot revolves around him, and outside of saving his company, I didn’t understand his plan at all. The second and third act of this movie has him travelling around the world granting wishes to world leaders and politicians, but they don’t really explain what he’s trying to do or why he’s doing this. On the other hand, Cheetah’s motivations are built up to and make sense, but she doesn’t actually drive the main plot in any way — the only reason for her existence in the movie is so that Diana can fight something cool in the third act.
I personally think that the narrative would’ve been much better if Cheetah was the main villain and Maxwell Lord wasn’t in the movie at all, and that the studio probably could have trimmed the movie down to two hours, or even an hour and a half if this was the case. Cheetah should be the one using the wish stone and playing the (no pun intended) cat-and-mouse game with Diana. Unlike Maxwell Lord, she has a personal connection to Diana, and her descent into evil could have been more interesting if it was written well. Furthermore, it would’ve solidified Diana’s arc if she was the main focus. Cheetah’s character serves as the foil to Wonder Woman — a strong woman like Diana but without her unwavering sense of right and wrong — and she represents what Diana could become if she was ever untethered from her pursuit of justice. So when Diana has to give up her life with Steve in order to regain her powers, it would’ve made that decision a lot more powerful.
With a small, self-contained story like this one I went into it thinking that it would be a perfectly enjoyable movie. I don’t see any reason why it had to fall victim to so many of the problems that plague these DC movies. I have no idea what the next DC movie will bring but I know I shouldn’t go into it with any sort of expectations.