Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

Director: Patty Jenkins

Rating: 2/10

Review by: Raghav Raj

Official movie poster for Wonder Woman 1984

After the rousing success of Patty Jenkins’ 2017 reboot of Wonder Woman, the idea of a sequel held the sort of promise that DC hadn’t honestly seen since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy warped the superhero film into something far more morose and brooding. 

In the face of films that followed Nolan’s formula to perpetually diminishing returns — take Zack Snyder’s obnoxiously self-serious, comically pathetic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as this approach’s nadir — Wonder Woman presented something to actively rally behind. Not just in Gal Gadot’s titular character, whose uplifting nature felt far more interesting than the stone-faced scowls she played second fiddle to in Dawn of Justice, but in the franchise as a whole, which felt like a bright spot amidst DC’s perpetual floundering post-Nolan. Wonder Woman, much like the character of Diana Prince herself, exuded hope: the hope that DC could finally offer up a franchise worth paying attention to.

Of course, after sitting through the seemingly never-ending slog of Wonder Woman 1984, this hope is all but destroyed.

For a film with a whopping running time of over two-and-a-half hours, it’s almost remarkable how little WW1984 has to say. Hamfisting its way into obnoxiously gaudy stakes through the use of a magical wish-granting stone — a decidedly ridiculous way to shoehorn in the Cold War setting and instability in the Middle East — the plot is outright absurd at turns, a return to the sort of formulaic drivel that Wonder Woman felt like such a palette-cleanse from.

Take, for example, the entire subplot revolving around Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) — who suddenly shifts from Diana’s awkward geology-loving museum coworker sidekick to a super-strong, power-hungry, cat-like (catty?) antagonist. It manages to be this grotesque combination of painfully teased out and confoundingly immediate; every single moment of sitting through it brings pained memories of Halle Berry as Catwoman

Then of course, there are the more inexplicable decisions, like love interest Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) suddenly returning from the first film, in which he sacrificed his plane in a blaze of glory. The fact that he’s actually back in another person’s body (?????) is, to put it mildly, poorly explained, and I’m barely able to register when he leaves with a half-hour left to go.

Now, while there’s no shortage of absurdity here, I find it somewhat amusing how the only really entertaining part of WW1984 emerges from really leaning into how downright silly this film is.

Pedro Pascal’s performance, as Maxwell Lord, an inept oil magnate whose acquisition of this wish-granting stone allows him to effectively become the stone, is the solitary bright spot here, mainly because of how entertaining his greed-driven histrionics are. With a tragic backstory and a desperate desire to look cool for his son, his plans for world domination manage to combine a misguided goodwill and sheer insanity in a way that’s actually somewhat fun to watch unfold.
I think it’s profoundly funny that Lord, a man who spends almost all of his screen time very clearly on the verge of death (apparently becoming the stone just does that to you, please don’t think about this too much), is the only semblance of life this film has. When he’s not going delirious while screaming about the power of wishes on a TV stage, Wonder Woman 1984 is floundering, an endeavor that’s far too paper-thin to justify such big-budget bloat.