Not Life Changing

Nothing comes easy. At its outset, Wonder Woman 1984 makes that message clear. A young Diana isn’t allowed to cheat her way through an Amazonian obstacle course; elders prevent her win when she’s caught skipping portions of the course.

Flash forward. It’s the 1980s, a time of bloated wealth and greed, where many didn’t work to earn their way. That’s Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) who lures in rich investors, soaking them for dollars and a promise of oil fields that don’t exist. Wonder Woman 1984 is meant to be about honesty, doing right, and accepting things will work out. A true capitalist fable – work hard, and good will trickle down.

Tone isn’t something Wonder Woman 1984 settles on

Except, Wonder Woman 1984 ignores that its heroine started stronger, faster, and with superpowers. For her, she can fight, nigh invincible when sporting winged armor (continuing DC’s gratuitous superhero comparisons to gods and angels). Diana (Gal Gadot) wishes for lost love because she needs nothing else. A waitress wishing for a million dollars – rather than a billion, or trillions – in exchange for their life force seems fair to them. To see Wonder Woman as heroic as the world suffers (“It’s great as it is,” she says) only shows her naivety, from her own blissful world perspective.

This is a bad movie. It’s too long, dull, there’s hardly any Wonder Woman until midway through, and the obnoxious cartoon camp happens in excess. Tone isn’t something Wonder Woman 1984 settles on. Pascal’s caricature of TV showmen is insufferable in the first act, and Kristen Wiig’s dorky museum worker seems pulled from a lazy rom com. Those colorful glimmers of ‘80s culture feel less historical than stuffed to nostalgic extremes. It’s remarkable how inviting this looks before a wishing stone/monkey’s paw rips it away, as if the only problems facing society were mowhawk-sporting teenagers riding the subway.

Worse though is Wonder Woman 1984 refusing to stop hammering the theme into this story. It’s almost smug about its own moral intellectualism, beginning by chastising those who cheat their way to victory, segueing into an utterly pointless mall robbery (reiterating the theme), then spending two further hours emboldening the same, putting no trust in the audience’s ability to grasp something simple. Eventually, Wonder Woman delves into an elementary, pure Hollywood understanding of Cold War nuclear annihilation as only American cinema can (and will) do.

Then, imagine a ludicrous idealism saving the world as everyone comes together, giving up their most ardent wishes when this woman they hardly know tells them to on TV. Maybe it’s Lord’s own nearsightedness, or he’s an idiot who doesn’t ask someone to wish his opponent out of existence, negating the need for all of this in the first place.

Yes, Wonder Woman 1984 came out in 2020, and yes, the world needed a story about setting aside differences. Yet the final images show Diana at Christmas, celebrating a snowfall’s beauty. Wonderful, almost kitschy in its sanguine Hallmark Channel finish. But meanwhile, there’s that waitress struggling to get by while those same Wall Street goons shift numbers to make themselves richer. Where’s the beauty in that?

Wonder Woman 1984
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An overwritten, overlong message film that ignores its hypocrisy to a smug degree, Wonder Woman 1984 collapses on itself.

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