Remember way back last year when the WW84 trailer came out? It was fantastic, full-pie perfection! To a thumping remix of New Order’s “Blue Monday,” the trailer was a perfectly cut teaser giving us glimpses of our beloved Diana Prince kicking ass interspersed with her in glamorous 80s outfits, cut down to here and up to here (swoon!). And, OMG, did she just freakin’ swing from a lightning bolt using her golden lasso? Whatever other big-shot trailer debuted that same week (was it James Bond? Fast and Furious XX? I can’t remember) quickly fizzled in collective memory, because WW84 looked so… AWESOME.
Then 2020 happened.
After a supremely sucky year, in more ways than 300,000 (dead) or tens of millions (unemployed) or tens of thousands (shuttered stores) … Wonder Woman seemed more and more like the hero we all needed. After theaters shut down and the summer release date got bumped… and bumped again and bumped again, it was some sort of freakin’ Christmas miracle when director Patty Jenkins and Warner Bros. announced that the film would debut streaming on December 25th, as a much-needed gift to everyone who has been stuck at home for over 9 months. Yay!
Then we saw the movie. In 2020 style, we should not have been surprised that the film turns out to be a shrug rather than a fist pump in the air—after all, 2020 has pounded into us over and over that we can’t have nice things, can we!
It is 1984 and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), supremely gorgeous and literally ageless (since it has been over 60 years since we last saw her), is a multi-tasking modern woman saving children from jewelry thieves at the mall while holding down a job as an artifacts expert at the Smithsonian. She is also of course still super-nice, going out to dinner with her dorky, friendless co-worker Barbara Minerva (Kristin Wiig) who, like all of America and probably the world, obviously has a crush on her. When a weird crystalline penis-and-junk-shaped artifact appears at the museum, a wealthy TV huckster named Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) takes a sudden interest in donating to the Smithsonian (in turn wooing the awkward Barbara), so that he can get his hands on it. The artifact, of course, is as old as dirt and has some sort of power of the gods behind it—literally, your biggest wish is its command—and Max Lord wants some sort of world domination.
Rather than explaining how this all works (because it is kind of inconsistent and not explained well), let’s just say that Barbara wants to be like Diana and thus her alter-ego, the sexy Cheetah is born; Diana still (Chris) pines for Steve, so previously-dead Steve Trevor somehow materializes back into her life into 1984; and Max, well, I guess he wants all the things so, boom, there ya go. We all know that once everyone gets greedy, things go bad. (At least I suppose that is the high-level moral of WW84.)
But here’s the thing… well, multiple things. The movie just draaaaaags. At 2 1/2 hours, it could have easily had about 45 minutes trimmed from the running time to tighten things up. There is a long prologue from Diana’s youth on Paradise Island which just serves as an exciting but irrelevant-to-the story Amazon Olympics scene. Action scenes, talking scenes, and even a scene with Diana and Steve flying through fireworks on the 4th of July just go on too long.
Then you have the classic DC problem of multiple villains. I know that Max Lord’s antics with the artifact are what unleashes the whole nonsense central to this particular story, but he is really uninteresting. Barbara/The Cheetah had much more potential. Like that tease of sexual tension from the trailer? Completely ignored. If we have to snooze through Diana and Steve constantly professing their love and loyalty to each other, why not toss in some competition with another character who has more chemistry with Diana? So much promise! Then nothing.
The 80s was way more than fanny packs and questionable fashion jokes. The Cold War is briefly hinted at in the movie, and yes, of course there is a token shopping mall scene. But perhaps the biggest (and most easily solved) untapped potential: The soundtrack. If the trailer felt awash in 80s, it was due in a big part to the incredible use of the music, timed down to New Order’s thumping electronic beat matching Diana’s deflecting of bullets. Think of how well Atomic Blonde did 80s music! There is endless opportunity with classic pop/rock/soul hits from the era…. instead, we get another sludgy, dark self-important score from Hans Zimmer.
Everyone readily admits that they swoon over Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She IS the superhero that we need right now. Unfortunately, we also need a better movie for her. Then again, it is 2020, so it is sadly unsurprising that this is the movie we get after waiting all year. Sigh.