Real Talk By: CMack The Don
*Some mild spoilers*
The public verdict is out, and Wonder Woman 84 is getting skewered by audiences and critics all over the place. I watched the latest DCEU movie directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, who returns as the Amazonian hero. Like many did when it dropped on HBO Max, (good looking out to roommate with that subscription, I’ll get takeout for you soon as payment) I gave it a look after Christmas and feel like the odd man out for actually liking it.
Wonder Woman 84 (just call it ‘Wonder Woman 2’, or come up with a better subtitle. Come on DC) still has some flaws, issues, and problems I noticed with the story, but nothing coming close to the trash heap that I’ve seen getting described by other sources. Then again, I knew people who treated BvS like it was the death of cinema as an art form. I just thought it was on par with some of the average-at-best superhero films of the early 00’s before the one-two punch of the Nolan Batman films and the MCU changed the landscape of comic book movies forever.
Unless you’re a diehard DCEU fan, the type of person to tell everyone to eat celery at a birthday party instead of cake, and pray at the Altar of the Snyder Cut, it’s pretty much agreed upon that the DCEU flicks are lower quality than the MCU and in fact most comic book movies in general. The previous Wonder Woman installment had truly awful villains, a storyline more or less lifted from both Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger (both movies feature a blonde guy named Steve crashing a plane during a World War to save the world, but one came first), and questionable CGI (the Ares scene required you to insert another disc into the PS1) and it’s still in the top tier of DC movies despite all of that.
Wonder Woman 84 is at least as good as the last installment, and in my opinion improved on some of those aspects mentioned that held back the first, so by default, I have to put WW84 towards the top of the DCEU despite what the public at large thinks. What’s the competition for its high rank next to its peers? Murderous, city-destroying Superman in Man of Steel? Kill-crazy Frank Miller Batman (who in the graphic novel was supposed to be at the end of his career and elderly) in BvS as the series’ first appearance of the Dark Knight? Nature-bro Aquaman? The flavorless, imitation Dollar Tree Avengers rip-off that was Justice League? Or maybe Suicide Squad and/or Birds of Prey AKA Harley Quinn The Movie with Cameos. The fans of those messes probably also think that Fortnite is the peak of art in civilization. If WW84 isn’t the best DCEU film by the rest of the contestants not finishing the race, it’s towards the head of the pack along with Shazam.
WW84 features some great action and fight scenes that make really cool use of Wonder Woman’s skills and abilities, and a storyline that sees her often not functioning at her full power, so she has to be more resourceful and tactical than seen in the last installment. Wonder Woman actually acts and behaves like her character from other material. She doesn’t resort to killing immediately, as clean-cut heroes like her and Superman are more about protecting others and giving inspiration rather than brutal punishment. Maybe that was what some people were looking for with this sequel since she killed so many people in the first, but it’s not right for her character and most of the DC characters. Check the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, which is the best adaptation of these characters in any media other than the comics. They aren’t the ruthless killers Snyder seems to want them to be. Wonder Woman is seen here rescuing kids and giving them a wink, holding back when fighting common thugs to make sure they don’t die, and even sparing major villains from death. If you don’t like this, I just don’t know what to say. There’s two Harley Quinn-focused movies now and more on the way, along with the animated series of her and who knows how much more content centered around her whether that’s a good idea or not. Give that all a look maybe?
The movie is brighter and more colorful than the last movie, and the look works better for a character with a costume like hers. The villains played by Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig work for the most part. I was especially surprised at Kristen Wiig as Cheetah, as I wasn’t sure how a serious, physical villain role would work for an actress with a solid resume of goofing. The CGI and look of her character is far improved over the villain from the last, and they don’t try to tackle themes of the nature of war, or the balance between man’s light and dark sides, which is philosophical territory DC shouldn’t bother with in their films (for now). The villains are selfish and misguided, there’s no bigger statement than that, and that’s fine, it stays within its lane.
Like I said, it’s still a DC movie, and that means it’s on the mid to lower end of MCU movies even if it’s one of their best. WW84 is slow in the middle of the movie, and the action while really well-laid out and performed, is far too sparse in a 2 and a half hour superhero movie (Marvel didn’t get to that mark or longer until epics like Civil War or Infinity War. This ain’t that big, come on fam.). I know action is tough and costs money, but maybe they could cut the many scenes of Steve Trevor getting adjusted to 80s culture and fashions, or his mostly pointless character completely, and have room for a bit more excitement. Speaking of, the storyline could take place in present day, so there’s zero point other than goofy clothing and music for it to be set when it is. Stranger Things has put the bow on 80s nostalgia, enough, we get it (and I’m from the 80s, man).
The start of the film sees us in a sequence I honestly liked about her childhood and training, but at the same time, we got a whole 1/3rd of a movie about that the last time, so even though I liked the scene, it was completely overlong and unnecessary to the overall movie. The childhood scene in this movie should’ve been all we saw of her early life from the first, since that all went on too long in the original also. At one point, she develops a new power out of nowhere to address how her and Steve are going to escape a certain scene, and although that in turn leads to them showcasing something from the comics I was wondering if they’d ever do, the set up made me roll my eyes. If there was less time spent on other things, we could’ve seen Diana working on and training this new power as proper set-up.
The storyline is a mix of good and bad, with the magical artifact the movie is based around not always operating in a way that makes sense in line with itself, but at the same time, it offers a mostly suitable explanation for the various threats and locations used in the film. The story reminded me of something you might see as a one-off storyline on a campy Saturday morning cartoon version of Wonder Woman, and I think that honestly works better instead of the grimdark stuff, even if it’s cheezy or a little underbaked at times.
Some people might think I’m a huge cheerleader for the movie or massive fan just because I’m not on the blind hate bandwagon. In truth, I just feel it’s a perfectly decent Wonder Woman movie, but not great or outstanding. Such is the current quality of the DCEU. It has plotholes, is too slow and has weak writing, but the action, performances, and scaled back tone won me over. Maybe some people were salty because they paid for an entire HBO Max subscription just for this, and it’s definitely not worth that.
I don’t have to Wonder long to give WW84 a 3 out of 5. Maybe the haters want more of Jesse Eisenberg putting candy in politician’s mouths, or Jared Leto’s “Joker”.