Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Wonder Woman: A Warrior for Peace. That’s a strange title to bear. It’s contradictory. You fight to stop others from fighting? These opposing virtues are a delicate balance to maintain in Wonder Woman’s character and not a lot of writers capture it well. Some writers portray Wonder Woman as a brutal warrior while others portray Wonder Woman as a loving Mother Teresa with a sword and shield. Patty Jenkins attempts to capture this balance in WW84 but sets the film up to fail with a conflict that doesn’t resonate with Wonder Woman’s character.
We start off in a flashback to a time in Diana’s childhood. It’s a race of skill, strength, and agility. Diana is a little girl at the time but her demigod status (unknown to her) put her against Amazonian warriors. Diana leads through most of the race until she falls off her horse. She decides to cheat and takes a shortcut to the finish line. Before she finishes the race, Diana is pulled out and taught a lesson: No True Hero Is Born From Lies.
Fast forward to 1984, Diana is living an isolated life. She’s still mourning the loss of Steve Trevor over 60 years ago. Diana works as an archaeologist by day and a mysterious vigilante in her downtime. She has no friends and seems to be going through the motions of her daily life. She befriends Barbara Minerva, an awkward but lovable anthropologist at the same museum. Barbara is in an envious relationship with Diana who she believes to be everything she wants to be. The main antagonist, Maxwell Lord is a desperate con artist. His failed Ponzi scheme left him penniless and in debt to investors.
All of their lives change when an ancient artifact is found that grants the beholder one wish. Unwittingly, Diana wishes for Steve Trevor to return (Spoiler: and he does!), Barbara wishes to be just like Diana (also unwittingly getting her powers), and Maxwell Lord wishes to become the wish artifact itself. As all of the wishes come true, we learn that in order to remove the effects of all the wishes, you need to either destroy the artifact or get all users to rescind their wishes.
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Things get increasingly complicated when it turns out the artifact doesn’t only grant wishes, it takes something from you as well. For Diana, it gave her Steve Trevor and in return took her powers. Maxwell uses his newfound powers to take over the world and in the process throws the world into chaos. To stop him, Diana has to decide whether she wants to stay with Steve Trevor or regain her powers to stop Max.
The opening scene of WW84 is easily the most engaging part of the film. Afterward, the film becomes an outlandish mess. It attempts to juggle between the storylines of Diana, Barbara, and Max Lord but does so awkwardly. It has an extremely slow pace and takes half of the film to build the conflict. The rules of Diana’s abilities, as well as the wish artifact, is unclear which makes it difficult to become invested in their world.
In both Wonder Woman movies, along with many films released today, the last act fails to deliver a compelling climax. WW84 does not turn into a CGI explosion fest, it puts more emphasis on an emotional resolution but the emotional moment fails to resonate because it doesn’t feel earned. Even after 2 ½ hrs, the investment we should have in the story is not there and that’s largely due to the mess of a journey we took to get there.
Cast and Characters
The focus of two or more villains in a superhero film has been the downfall of many. You and I might be thinking of the same film… Spiderman 3. WW84 has a similar problem. It’s unfocused and chaotic. Performance-wise, I was surprised by Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva. Wiig brought expert comedic timing as the socially-stunted Barbara and her transformation into the vicious cheetah was fun to watch.
Except for when she actually turned into Cheetah, that CGI felt like a Cats fever dream. Pedro Pascal’s played Maxwell Lord as a sleazy con artist well. He never comes off as a cliche evil villain eager to take over the world but instead as a desperate man eager for power to right the wrongs of the world. Gal Gadot, again, stands out as Wonder Woman. She captures Diana’s compassion and also her fierceness brilliantly. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is still there but less captivating than in the first film. The script doesn’t give them much to work with either.
Should You Watch it? - Yes (if only to see Gal)
Wonder Woman shines brightest when set up to stop a war, not to stop a power-hungry man from destroying the world with an artifact that grants wishes. That’s a conflict that almost any superhero could face.
In fact, that probably is a conflict every superhero has faced in the comics or on the small screen. It feels like it’s out of a filler episode for the DC animated universe and usually, filler episodes use powerful ancient artifacts that magically change the world because, by the end of the episode, everything is reverted back to the way it was.
Unfortunately, WW84 was very similar to a filler episode. A lot of things happened but by the end of the film, it’s almost like nothing has changed. For Wonder Woman’s first trilogy, the conflict needs to be unique to her character. She is a Warrior for Peace. Now, I’m not saying all Wonder Woman movies should be limited to conflicts of war but the conflict should attack core beliefs in a compelling way.
When a criminal organization takes control of a city, you call Batman. When an alien armada is invading Earth, you call Superman. When two superpowers are on the brink of a war, you should want to call Wonder Woman.
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