Well, it’s been a while since we’ve been to the theaters for a superhero movie. “Birds of Prey” and “Joker” were the last two, and neither fit the bill exactly. While some of you might have been able to go see “Wonder Woman 1984” on the big screen, most of the audience will be watching at home, thanks to Warner Bros. deciding to release the film, at no charge, on HBO Max. We will never know if this small screen first impression changes the film’s overall opinion?
Let me preface this by saying I was able to watch the film with relatively few interruptions. Aside from a few buffering moments, I was able to see the movie in all of its 4K HDR splendor. And visually, for the most part, it is impressive. Some of the effects, though, really could have been improved. I’m thinking of the scene where Wonder Woman must rescue two children from a rush of oncoming armored vehicles. The effect would barely have been passable in a video game on the latest generation of consoles. In a ‘big screen’ spectacle, however, it looked poorly done. Maybe the children’s obliviousness to their peril made it stand out more – it’s pretty inconceivable they wouldn’t have noticed the trucks barreling toward them – but her rescue appears to be coming from a different movie entirely. To me, this scene is the biggest offender, though there are many other moments where the effects look rushed. Perhaps I was looking harder to judge the performance of my at-home setup. I can’t imagine, though, it would have looked any better in a theater setting.
I Feel For Wonder Woman 1984
The plot in any superhero movie needs to overcome the limitations (and even the lack thereof) of the special effects. If the story can’t connect to its audience, then the visuals won’t matter at all. “Wonder Woman 1984” might have benefitted from waiting until the pandemic that saw its release delayed numerous times before coming to home screens was over. Without going heavily into spoiler territory, the central theme is getting what you wish for isn’t always the best thing. The idea isn’t a bad follow up for the previous film in the series. Diana wants nothing more than to see Steve Trevor again. Many people wondered how the film would achieve that since his character died in the first film, and the wish mechanism is the key.
Careful What You Wish For
The problem is that in a year where it seems like every day has more bad news, a lot of people probably wish that things were different. Preaching that you should accept what you have might not be the most relatable message this year. That aside, Pedro Pascal’s Max Lord’s motivations would have been better suited by an earlier reveal. Of course, everyone always wants more, so you get the character. Before the reveal, though, Lord is nothing but a textbook villain. He bears some to a 1980’s Trump, and while many wish he could have learned a valuable lesson before getting to today, the message ends up tone-deaf in the film. If anything, I wish the film would have stopped saying wish before the wish revealed it was the problem.
The other moral of this tale is to not desire for what others have. Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva gets the brunt of this content. Starting as a mousey gemologist who wishes for what Diana Prince has, she becomes the ”apex predator,” the Cheeta. Ok, so not all superhero/villain origin stories are the best. It’s just the leaps that we make with this character come with little context. Yes, we can understand wanting what Diana has and the intoxication that results from getting it. She never gets the space to explore that drunkenness, though. We see her making some new friends and admirers, but we never see her realize the power of what she is becoming. Unlike Max Lord, we don’t need a back story to know why she’d want more from life. Time passage might also be a problem with this movie because it’s unclear how long she lives with her wish results. A few hours, a few days? In any case, it doesn’t seem long enough to be fully gripped sufficiently to become an animal at the end.
Mandatory Bathroom Breaks
Still, none of this is ‘the biggest problem’ with “WW84.” The film mostly suffers from its lack of brevity. Weighing in at a hefty 2 hours and 35 minutes, I was glad I had the comfort of my couch and could take breaks as needed. However, it’s difficult to understand how no one character ever really develops much with that length. Diana ends up a bit stronger, realizing she should treasure what she had with Steve in the past, but her growth effectively leaves her where she started. Neither ‘villain’ gets space to be suitably menacing. Instead, it feels like we get a lot of filler waiting for an anticlimatic finale.
The Smog Returns
After the breath of fresh air that was the original “Wonder Woman,” “WW84” feels like breathing the atmosphere of the decade it’s set in. If you let go of every expectation, you likely will be mildly entertained. That is a pretty big ask, though, especially when it’s so easy to have a back to back marathon. The movie doesn’t necessarily hurt the franchise, but the audience is left wishing that it hadn’t happened.