‘Films roll out like potatoes’; as one commenter put it last week, movies just seem to be turning up in 2021, with no hoopla, no ads, no press access, and no vibe at all. At least Warner Brothers pulled half the billion worldwide box office expected with their release of Tenet; Wonder Woman 1984 has pulled a miserable ten percent of the same projected box-office total. While director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot are giddily reading from pre-pandemic scripts about more instalments and spin-offs, it’s uncertain whether this kind of blockbuster will be made at all in the future. On the basis of Wonder Woman 1984, it’s hard to care.
TBF, I was never enamoured by Wonder Woman in the way that everyone else seemed to be; something of a slog, it builds to a non-event scrap between Gadot and David Thewlis, a scrawny British thespian who previously fought, and lost, a bout with an ironing board in Mike Leigh’s Naked. That wasn’t much of a spectacle, but Wonder Woman 1984 has even less essential viewing to offer. A pious lecture on why it’s best not to cheat. Chris Pine modelling terrible 80’s fashion. A lousy body-swap sex plotline that’s ethically disturbing. A lot of kid-unfriendly waffle about oil. A funny comedienne in Kristen Wiig completely missing the mark. Parsimonious use of action scenes and green-screen effects so shoddy that look like they came from the 1970’s. Maybe this might have entertained on big screens on July 4th 2020, but that train has well-and-truly flown and Jenkins’ misbegotten sequel now tastes like the thinnest of gruel.
A plot summery is required. Diana Prince (Gadot) is working in the Smithsonian alongside a frowsy co-worker Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig) who seems to have a gal-crush on her. Diana prefers to think of her dead lover Steve (Chris Pine) and gets her wish when he’s re-incarnated in the body of a passing stranger at a party. Barbara also gets her wish to gain super-powers, while aspiring tycoon Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) does the same; the power comes from one of the mysterious ancient stones that abound as plot-points with monotonous regularity in these films. Everyone rushes to an Egypt casually painted with a racist brush for some punch-ups in the desert. The end.
Wonder Woman 1984 probably had 2020’s best poster, that jagged day-glo number, and the best trailer, cut to New Order’s Blue Monday. Such promises are made but not kept here in a joyless mess without much music (Welcome to the Pleasuredome, anyone?), wit or style. America’s absence from the world-stage during a global pandemic will make the recent, hugely successful Marvel cycle something of a nostalgia piece; the US seems incapable of saving itself rather than anyone else right now. This Wonder Woman still seems to be fighting pointless and trivial battles with no relevance now, and those who fork out for premium access are likely to feel ripped-off, not boding well for the rest of Warners’ 2021 slate. This Wonder Woman movie is a joyless dud, a bucket of sludge when we’re crying out for a refreshing glass of escapist water, and raises the question of where cinema can possible go from here? Expensive product rots on the shelves, there’s no means of recoup, and there’s no point in making anything new until the backlog is cleared, which will take longer with each passing day. We’re going to need a hero, or heroine, and on this evidence, it sure won’t be Wonder Woman. Gadot says she cried watching this, and I felt the same, although probably not for the same reasons…
Wonder Woman 1984 is supposedly released to streaming in the UK from Jan 13th 2021 although it’s January 11th and I can’t find a shred of evidence that this is actually happening. It’s supposedly on Sky Cinema but there’s less-than-zero about it on their landing page.
Oh, here is is, finally, on Amazon, only £15.99. Good luck with that.