A Lasso of Truth: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) - Reviewed

image courtesy WB

A second Wonder Woman movie! As many of you already know, despite the character’s longevity, and cult-like fanbase, WW has been featured in a live-action starring role only a few times, officially  with Lynda Carter in the 1970's TV show, and presently, Gal Gadot for the DC cinematic universe. To say that this movie was an anticipated event for Wonder Woman obsessed fans (myself included) is an understatement. Not only because of the scarcity that we’ve experienced with seeing our heroine on the screen- large or small- but also because this year was unexpectedly hit with Covid-19, pushing and pushing the release date of WW84 almost out of sight. As we waited and wondered, the summer saw an overflow of merchandise and promo items that rivaled that of the wild and seemingly untethered merchandising of Batman ‘89. From posters, beauty products, sneakers, dolls in numerous outfits and armours, clothing lines, jewelry- you name it, WW84, Cheetah, and that cool '80s neon aesthetic has been EVERYWHERE for the past 6 months. As a Wonder Woman collector, I couldn’t keep up. It was like the first movie x100.  

I remember when I saw the iconic WW84 poster for the first time. There was Wonder Woman- in full gold winged armor, reminiscent of the Gold Armour she wore in Alex Ross’ “Kingdom Come”, with a rad-looking neon color background. Right away, I was expecting and hoping for this sequel to contrast in appearance to the drab WWI setting of the first one. This fun '80s aesthetic holds up for the first 20 minutes or so and then sadly peters out. This made me wonder why the movie takes place in the '80s in the first place. I just didn’t understand WHY the '80s. If this is because of some larger story arc that I’ve missed because I didn’t watch the other DC movies, then that’s not good enough. Even comic books have the decency to explain a little bit what happened in the crossover series you may have not read and then reference the issue for a reader to seek it out if they wish. 

photo courtesy WB

From the moment I watched the first trailer, I couldn’t stop thinking about HOW are they gonna get Steve Trevor into the '80s…??? Avoiding spoilers, when that question was answered, I kind of wanted to shut the movie off and if I weren’t as invested in Wonder Woman as I am, I would have. Steve Trevor can be a difficult character to write because sometimes he comes across as a male “damsel in distress”, but in this iteration, he comes across as a manic-pixie-dream boy. And let’s face it, lazy writing is lazy writing regardless of a gender-swap.  

Kristen Wiig is immediately likable as the exceptionally sympathetic Barbara Minerva. What’s surprising to me is how much potential is wasted on this character and her relationship with Diana. I’m shocked that in a movie that is two and a half hours long, the building of the lead’s relationships and the subsequent “turning” of Barbara into Cheetah was rushed. The dullest moment of the movie is the big fight scene between Cheetah in her final form and Diana in her golden armor. The gold armor’s biggest function seems to have been an excuse to make an extra toy. In fact, both Diana and Barbara’s character development feels rushed, and instead, there were a handful of fan service moments that while I was pleased to see, in my opinion, they lingered too long, and I think the movie relied on them too much.

In what seems to be a time-honored superhero movie tradition, first heralded in by the classic superhero film “Batman Returns”, there has to be TWO super villains. So, not only does Diana have to battle Cheetah, but more importantly, she must stop Donald Trum- OOPS. How silly of me. I mean -Max Lord from a world domination plan so he doesn’t look like a loser to his neglected son. Pedro Pascal does a great Trump impression that he tries to lay off of, but it intensifies in the middle of the second act. This portrayal was too spot on and so heavy handed that I couldn't help but groan and roll my eyes. This story line has no nuance whatsoever. 

The best thing about this movie is a fabulous cameo by none other than the original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter. Seeing her on screen was amazing but not worth the rest of the two and a half hours. Carter’s presence also does a lot to remind me that Gal Gadot just does not radiate that certain Wonder Woman vibe. 

What I would have liked to see was something more like what I expected when I heard “'80s”; fun costumes, larger than life characters, brilliantly handcrafted sets, a simple plot, and charming characters that make you believe in magic. This movie delivers bland sets, boring costumes, and humdrum, sad characters. What starts as a promising fun comic book movie turns into a dull, tedious, and vapid special effects toy commercial, and that’s pretty disappointing to me. I had higher hopes for this one. What a cool poster. If you’re a DC completist looking to watch all the DC movies, you’ll like this one. If all you’re looking for is to see a couple iconic Wonder Woman moments interpreted in this particular cinematic way, you’ll like this one. If you’re looking for some substance, a good story about Wonder Woman, or even a good screen adaptation about what her character is about- stay away. Spend two and a half hours binging the 70s Lynda Carter TV show on HBOMax instead, then check out the episode of “Scooby Doo and Guess Who?” with guest Wonder Woman.

-Mara Powell