When it was announced that Wonder Woman 1984 was going to be released on HBO Max at the same time it was released in theaters, I knew this was going to be a very interesting movie to review. This was supposed to be one of Warner Bros. big blockbuster films for 2020 and, well, we all know how this year has turned out. So I can’t really blame them for trying to shore up their bets and use Wonder Woman 1984 get more people to subscribe to HBO Max. However, at the same time, as I was watching the film, I can’t help but think how much my overall experience would be if I did watch this on the big screen in a movie theater as it was intended.
But all of that is a moot point as I did manage to see the film at home, sitting lazily in my living room and all of the distractions of home life buzzing around me. Well, I can’t really do anything about that. What I can do is try to give my honest impressions of Wonder Woman 1984.
So, while I’m betting a ton of you have already seen Wonder Woman 1984 as it is readily available to view in the comfort of your own home. Still, on the off chance you haven’t, I will still be making this a SPOILER FREE review.
Anyway, Wonder Woman 1984, as the title suggests, follows Wonder Woman’s adventures during the year 1984. She has been fighting crime mostly in secret and not allowing anyone to get close to her since the death of her beloved Steve Trevor. While working in her secret identity persona as Diana Prince, she and fellow Smithsonian employee Barbara Minerva run across a mysterious stone that supposedly grants wishes. Diana wishes for Steve Trevor to return to the living, allowing his deceased boyfriend to come back to life. Meanwhile, charismatic oil magnate Maxwell Lord is also searching for the stone but has his own plans on how to use it…
As a whole, Wonder Woman 1984 is, well, it’s not great. Bearing in mind all the hype surrounding the film because of how good the first movie was, I was definitely expecting more. It has some really good action scenes but most of them are not executed right. When they do work, they work like gangbusters. This does shine through in the early scenes, like the Olympic-like event a very young Diana competes in at the start of the film as well as the one showing Wonder Woman stopping a robbery at a mall. Oh, the latter is incredibly cheesy looking but, when you consider it’s supposed to take place in ’80s, one of the goofiest times ever, it does given it that weird flavor to make you feel like you were in the time period. It’s like it’s paying homage to the Christopher Reeve Superman films.
One of the biggest issues of Wonder Woman 1984 is that they tried to cram so many of plot elements, fan service and ideas into the film’s 151-minute runtime. None of these concepts and elements are given any significant time to really breathe or leave an impact. Patty Jenkins, who both directed and help write the story for Wonder Woman 1984, really needed to cut out a lot of the more superfluous elements to allow more focus to the ones that were essential to the story.
Speaking of the story, this is another element that really flow as well as it needed to be. There are so many times when they would activate the deus ex “just so happens” machina to get the appropriate answer. Need to know the history of some mystical doodad? Well, the good guys “just so happens” to find a guy who knows that! Big bad guy needs some thingamajig to complete his nefarious ploy? Well, it “just so happens” to find the right guy to talk to at just the right time! Wonder Woman needs to do something she couldn’t and we’ve never seen even been hinted at before? Don’t worry because it “just so happens” she’ll figure how to do it at the exact moment she needs it to work! There are just too many plot conveniences and it makes it look like Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns, who wrote the overall story, needed to bring it to someone for an additional rewrite or two to keep the story tighter. Then again, maybe they’ll release a “director’s cut” of Wonder Woman 1984 in the future and maybe we’ll find out all the stuff that was cut out would actually make more sense than the original.
Also, this might be a nitpick but, while I appreciate the film being set in the ’80s, the setting isn’t really necessary for the plot. In fact, it kind of raises more questions than it should. I guess it just used to make a few jokes about life in the ’80s and the fashion but, honestly, if the film was set in present time, nothing would really change. Oh, and is it just me or did Warner Bros. just cheap out and not even attempt to get a single song that came out in the ’80s?
I will say that the acting is more than adequate. Pedro Pascal’s version of Maxwell Lord as a fast talking and suave oil tycoon is cartoony but you can see he’s having a blast. He does a fine job of walking that fine line of hamming it up and making him believable. Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva AKA Cheetah is also good, especially at the start when she has to act all mousey and timid. When she does gain more confidence thanks to the wish she makes, her performance does get better as the transition is slow enough to appreciate the change.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t enamored by Gal Gadot’s performance in Wonder Woman 1984 as I felt there were scenes when she was just phoning it in. There were some moments when she would show some really powerful emotions when necessary but there were also times when her line delivery was just too monotone and unconvincing. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor does bring a good amount of energy to his scenes but he feels very underwritten.
But as good as the acting is most of the time in Wonder Woman 1984, I just never bought into the characters and their motivations for doing certain things are never really explored in depth. A lot of the reasons, once again, has to deal with the sloppy writing and the pacing. This is very evident with the villains; you’re given a basic concept of why they’re doing but you never get to appreciate why they would go to these great lengths to do them.
I also have an issue with the special effects as some of them come off as unfinished, which is surprising when you realize this was supposed to be released a full six months before! Some of the special effect shots do work, like the aforementioned fight scene in the mall. But others, like the climactic battle and the scene when she’s running in the street (it’s in the trailer), came off as messy.
Despite all my rantings, I will give props to Patty Jenkins for trying out new things. I did think the final confrontation was very unique as it didn’t rely on a slam-bang battle to the death like most superhero movies have done so many times before. I also thoroughly enjoyed Maxwell Lord’s plan to use the mystical dream stone, even if it does come off as somewhat backward when you really think about it. While not all of them are home runs, at least they were trying to do something new here.
It’s hard for me to recommend Wonder Woman 1984 if you need to go out and pay money to see it in the movie theater. The performances of Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig and Gal Gadot are mostly enjoyable and a couple of the action scenes are really good. I also like some of the ideas presented here and Patty Jenkins did try to deviate from the standard superhero movie formula at points. However, there are just so many plot conveniences and story inconsistencies that I would just tell you to wait for it to be shown on HBO… oh, wait.
If you do have HBO Max already, I say it’s okay to watch it once if you have 151 minutes to spare. If you don’t have the service yet, I wouldn’t get it for the sole purpose of watching Wonder Woman 1984 and wait for more stuff to be exclusive stuff to be added. See, I told you this was going to be a weird one to review.
Have you seen Wonder Woman 1984? Did you see it in a movie theater or HBO Max? Let me know in the comments section below!