I want to show you a list of movies and their runtimes, and see if you notice a pattern.
Doctor Strange – 1hr 55min
Thor – 1hr 55m
Ant-Man – 1hr 57min
Guardians of the Galaxy – 2hr 1min
Captain Marvel – 2hr 3min
Captain America: The First Avenger – 2hr 4min
Iron Man – 2hr 6min
Spider-Man: Homecoming – 2hr 13min
Man Of Steel – 2hr 23min
Aquaman – 2hr 23min
Wonder Woman 1984 – 2hr 31min
Batman v Superman – 2hr 32min
Avengers: Infinity War – 2hr 36min
Avengers: Endgame – 3hr 1min
With that list in mind, I can summarize this review with one question: Did Wonder Woman 1984 really need to be as long as Avengers: Infinity War?
The answer, it may surprise you, is no.
DC movies seem to have an issue with being too long. Of course, runtime doesn’t necessarily correlate to a good movie, but if you’re going to make a bad one, or even a mediocre one, the least you can do is trim that thing down.
I hear your thoughts. Some of the biggest comic book movies, like The Dark Knight Rises and Avengers: Endgame, go well beyond that (2hr 44min and 3hr 1min, respectively). But those are, let’s say, exceptional exceptions. One is The Dark Knight Rises, and the other is the culmination of 10 years of character and world building in what turned out to be one of the biggest movie franchises of all time.
Wonder Woman 1984 is, well, a sequel to Wonder Woman, and part of what’s turning out to be one of the most muddled and confusing movie franchises of all time.*
The point is: How long does it take to disappoint an audience?
The first trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 was great. Rocking out to New Order’s Blue Monday, a cliche but fun choice. The 80s setting promised more Stranger Things-esque nostalgia, and seeing Wonder Woman ride lightning with her Lasso of Truth was just the right amount of B-movie goofiness to pique my interest.
However, the actual movie turned out to be quite a different experience, and that’s mostly because it was just so long.
The film begins with a flashback to Themiscyra and a young Diana that ultimately has little to do with the events that follow (though I still enjoyed it). Then, we’re whisked to the far-off future of 1984, where we get to see an America of a different age, back when shopping malls were the place to be, and you could always find a Rampage cabinet at the back of every arcade.
It’s at one such shopping mall that Wonder Woman jumps into action as a jewelry store heist turns dangerous, and the movie veers straight into Superman III territory.
That said, to be honest, if the film had been a tight hour and a half of Wonder Woman swooping around town and stopping random crimes, I think I would’ve enjoyed that just fine. Preferred it, even.
But then we meet Barbara Minerva, and later Maxwell Lord, and the film begins to evoke more failures of comic book movies past. Barbara begins as a quick friend to Diana, but later becomes jealous and lashes out. Max Lord, meanwhile, is a conniving conman who finds a way to cheat a magical Dreamstone, and plots to gather everyone’s wishes for his own benefit, bringing the world to chaos.
The villain side of Wonder Woman 1984 is equal parts Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Batman Forever.
Other problems lie in consistency, believability, and reasonability. Maxwell Lord must touch a person in order to grant their wish, but by the end of the film he’s using the magic of TV to suck in everyone’s wishes into a vortex that exists now only as a confused blur in my mind.
Wonder Woman wishes for the man she loved most to return to her, and he does, but in exchange he must inhabit the body of a random stranger. She also loses her powers, but not in any meaningful or consistent way. At one moment, she’s having trouble breaking open a lock (to which a reincarnated Steve Trevor quips, “That’s a strong lock!”). The next, she’s pulverizing a hand gun into dust.
There are other points of strangeness, like Diana’s sudden ability, right when she needs it, to conjure up an invisible force field around a jet. But I can’t go on listing these things.
There are just too many of them.
The biggest problem for me, though, is the film’s lack of focus. Max Lord didn’t need to be in this. Or Cheetah didn’t need to be in this. Someone didn’t need to be in this. Cuts could have been made to really trim out the fat and focus Wonder Woman 1984 into something potentially great.
For example, the presence of Cheetah seemed completely redundant. And by that, I don’t mean the presence of Kristen Wiig or Barbara. There’s a little gem here — the idea that a woman uses a wishing stone to become as popular and beautiful as Diana Prince, only to find out that her wish comes with much more than she expected, namely superhuman Amazon powers. And it goes to her head, because unlike Wonder Woman, she has neither the training nor the temperament to wield such power.
That’s great. I like that a lot.
But did we really need her to turn into a cat person afterwards? Did we need Max Lord to be the one performing the cat person transformation?
This movie is filled with questions like that. It’s filled with potential, but like a wish to the Dreamstone, it becomes twisted.
Truthfully, the most interesting thing about Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t even the movie itself, but the drama behind Warner Bros’ decision to take it directly to streaming on HBO Max. Will this be their move going forward, by choice or obligation? Will other studios follow, despite cries of foul from creatives? I guess we’ll find out.
I’ll tell you what: Despite my complaints, Wonder Woman 1984 has lingered in my mind. It’s just so weird, and some of the performances (namely Pedro Pascal) are extremely entertaining. I think it has the potential to become something of a cult classic. Maybe. That, or my brain has turned into such mush from watching it that I’m having trouble forming coherent thoughts. Either is a possibility.
I give Wonder Woman 1984 two out of five monkey paws.
*Ironically, the one DC film that probably could have used more time, Justice League, has a runtime of only 2 hours 1 minute.