Wonder Woman 1984

Year: 2020
Production Co: Atlas Entertainment
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer: Patty Jenkins/Geoff Johns/Dave Callahan
Cast: Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

There are so many examples of film franchises where the cast and crew obviously laboured carefully over the first entry but which the second one is the most cynical, studio-tooled crap I've lost count.

I was going to look for a few examples for context in this review – even mention a few that immediately spring to mind – but you know exactly what I'm talking about, and to be honest I don't want to exert any more mental energy writing about this putrid bucket of vomit than I have to.

For all the praise heaped on the original Wonder Woman by fans and critics it was still tightly shackled to the conventions of a superhero movie, and the extent to which you enjoyed it depended on how much you like that sort of thing. But you could see Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot pushing hard against those constraints to make it something personable.

No such luck this time around. It felt like Jenkins could hardly be bothered showing up and relegated most of it to ADs. Gadot seems to coast on her winsome smile. Chris Pine is a smug and self satisfied as he seems in every movie (and real life). There are scenes when the action is so chokingly blanketed by CGI it looks like Zack Snyder took over, a lot of it Sharknado -level awful. Pedro Pascal isn't the best actor in the world but here he mows the scenery down with a chainsaw.

And that's just on the surface. Structurally it's wrenched in different directions by the no-doubt studio mandated need to include two villains, the same way Spider-Man 3 (1.0, the Sam Raimi one, whatever the hell it's called) was. As well as Pascal as an industrialist who becomes the token global level despot, there's Kristen Wiig as a previously mousy and clumsy woman who yearns to be more dangerous, sexy and confident like her co-worker Diana Prince (Gadot).

The story, if you give a f&%k and can follow it (I couldn't), is that Diana is still working at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, solving crimes in her off hours as the titular heroine. But after half a century she's still missing the boyfriend she lost in World War One in Steve (Pine), dining alone in restaurants and moping over his photo in her apartment.

Some artefact comes along at work which both she and klutzy new girl Barbara (Wiig) take an interest in, but only Diana realises it's some ancient talisman that grants wishes if you touch it. How she knows that or how it works are just two details that were very clumsily explained and rendered nonsensical for a movie of this standing – say what you want about how simple blockbuster movies are, they're at least written and rewritten enough for general audience clarity.

The industrialist guy (Pascal), whose business empire is actually on the verge of crumbling, gets hold of the thing and starts to use it to amass power, vanquish his enemies, take over the world, etc, whereas Barbara gets a go at it too and starts to enjoy feminine wiles and inhuman physical strength, handily overcoming a sexual predator Diana's already protected her from once before.

She's only in a few scenes that drive her story forward in a staunchly pedestrian manner until her final fight with Diana, during which Wiig sits in her trailer while CGI engineers take over, and that's Cheetah's story done and dusted, the box checked.

Meanwhile the main villain turns into some sort of god figure, making the talisman somehow able to grant everyone's wishes and the story turning into a cack handed fable about the chaos that would ensue if we all effortlessly get what we want.

Oh, and I almost forgot. When Diana touches the thing and wishes Steve was back, he shows up again in the body of some random dude his spirit has apparently overtaken, and he's back in her life for romantic closure and comic foil as he tries on ridiculous 80s fashions (by the way, why even set it in 1984? The only concessions to the era are a few comic nods to clothes and hairstyles).

I kept asking myself if other people can see him, or just the guy he's possessed and only Diana can see him. Come to that, I found myself wondering what the deal is with Wonder Woman herself – without a mask or anything won't someone recognise her during her adventures, like the shopping mall heist scene? Or is the gag that she's partly invisible or something, never letting bystanders get a glimpse of her through stealth?

They're just some of the many glaring omissions to explain this world and how it works. The Wonder Woman from classic DC lore could always fly, but in the Lynda Carter TV series she never could. Now, in the second movie of the franchise, she suddenly can when she recalls some poetic description Steve once gave her about flying a plane? Really?

There's too much going on that makes too little sense, and without even distinctive set pieces or anything in the script to stand head and shoulders above everything else in this genre, it leaves you with nothing but confusion and boredom.

And here's a hilarious final thought. When Tony Stark is concepting the suit with his AI butler/helper Jarvis in the original Iron Man, one of the designs is completely gold, Stark making a joke about how ostentatious it is. When Diana shows up in the mythical golden armour from her magical homeland in the final dust up, it looked exactly like the Iron Man suit that never was.

Over the top, devoid of any substance and – if nothing else – ostentatious. Together with a lousy story, a jarring structure and nothing visually exciting, that's Wonder Woman 84 in a nutshell.

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