It's no surprise to admit the DCEU has been falling short of sales and cinematic fame in respects to its comic-book counterpart, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Having created an iconic dimension adapting the infinite deluge of material and characters to adapt, Marvel has innovated the idea of a shared universe between individual characters and their movies for a twenty-first century format, creating weaving tales that were all eclipsed by the majesty of Avengers: Endgame. In comparison, DC's cinematic forays have resulted in either terrible flops, average viewings, or occasionally a fun experience that could spell a bright future for their efforts. Overall, while the MCU has mostly enjoyed a positive moviegoing experience with a few mishaps here and there (plus a strong comic-book foundation given the original Spider-Man movies), DC's campaign to become a cinematic household name on par with their counterparts is becoming a more steeper goal by the day. Wonder Woman 1984, unfortunately instead of making DC's trepidatious path any easier, it's elongated it considerably. Despite having numerous good qualities and moments present within the narrative, WW84 seems like a veritable step backwards in terms of natural franchise progression. Gal Gadot's debut film was appreciated because it rejuvenated interest within DC by creating an interconnected story of compelling characters and provided a strong background for a core member of DC's Justice League, their Superheroic equivalent of the Avengers. In the movies since, primarily Aquaman and Shazam, DC has created some genuinely entertaining gems. However, they leer off from groundbreaking. They were entertaining and engaging, of that there isn't a doubt, but to say they jumpstarted a new cinematic era of DC triumphs over Marvel is far-fetched at best, and delusional at worst. They helped strengthen a core foundation that was building. The MCU can't be toppled in a day, and that's likely where a great deal of this movie's shortcomings originate from. Warner Brothers is growing desperate to produce a box office (well, streaming service now, thanks Coronavirus) success that can outpace their eternal rivals. With news surfacing that this movie's production included many reshoots, that theory is growing more and more believable. So what exactly degrades this sequel from its predecessor? Unfortunately, quite a few things.
Most noticeably is the plethora of plotholes throughout. 1984's plot centers around a mystical Dreamstone, sought after by oil tycoon and megalomaniacal business entrepreneur Maxwell Lord. Desiring to utilize the Dreamstone's unstoppable, wish-granting power to create an empire across the planet, Maxwell unknowingly drags Earth into a series of catastrophic incidents that will build up onto a total collapse of human civilization. It's up to Wonder Woman and her revitalized love interest Steve Trevor to prevent this and save humankind. A standard tale, until you begin looking into how the story is structured and particular details that don't seemingly add up. For example, Max becomes the main antagonist by wishing to BECOME the Dreamstone itself. Later on, the movie establishes that the Dreamstone is a force of evil that corrupts whatever wish made upon it. A man wishes for a farm, but it generates itself on a public park. The American President wishes for more nuclear weapons, but the Soviets see this as war and retaliate in kind. My question here is... why didn't Maxwell Lord BECOME a stone? That may seem silly, but there should've been a repercussion for him embodying the Dreamstone's supernatural properties. There is the fact his health deteriorates each time someone makes a wish, but this condition is so vague I had trouble understanding what the exact implications of such even meant. If Max had someone wish for prosperous physical health, would the entire point of 'be careful what you wish for' evaporate since Max would avoid the consequences of becoming the Dreamstone? Unrelated, but there's a sequence midway through the movie in which Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor hijack an airplane from a museum, and it's magically full of fuel and Trevor knows exactly how to pilot it. He's an ace pilot, but I wasn't aware he could instantly adapt to the control mechanisms and patterns of planes invented decades after his time. Must truly be a master of the craft...
There's dozens of other plotholes we can poke into this already destabilizing balloon (such as how Steve Trevor knew where to fly to reach Egypt or Wonder Woman's powers being quasi-thieved from her but not really thanks to her wish's consequences), but all pale in the comparison of the movie's most awkward and clearly shoehorned-in character; Cheetah. In DC's comic and animated television universe, Cheetah is a ferocious humanoid animal who acts as a foil and supervillain foe against Wonder Woman. The two constantly face off in battle and Cheetah struggles with Ares to take the pedestal of Wonder Woman's true arch-nemesis. In this movie, Cheetah is brought unto inception through Kristen Wig's character, Barbara Minerva (which is also the name of Cheetah in the comics). A timid, shy woman, Barbara comes across the Dreamstone and wishes to become confident and upright like her newly kindled friend Diana, ultimately going mad with the power she accidentally bestows upon herself when transferring Wonder Woman's superpowers onto herself. You'd think such an action would have an equally monumental consequence, but all it does is 'take away Barbara's joy and humanity'. It's an understandable detraction, given we need a segway to morph this character from a cautious and introspective woman into an egotistical supervillainess, but seriously? No physical repercussions? When she fully transforms into Cheetah to face Wonder Woman in (the awkwardly filmed and strange) climatic battle, there isn't any natural consequence for her wishes made then either. Comic book movies have a practical necessity to make their graphic novel counterparts come to life on the big screen, of that there isn't a doubt. Tony Stark became Iron Man through adversity and struggle after being captured by a terrorist organization. Captain America was a plucky, yet heroic U.S soldier that received biological upgrades to become an immortal supersoldier. In WW84, Cheetah's whole deal seems... forced. They needed a new nemesis for Diana to face off against and introduce a major character into their narrative without disrupting the plot much. While Ares in the first Wonder Woman was a concept brought in through reshoots (that's true, Google it), his arrival still felt natural and fluid, as World War One was a brutal conflict and it'd be understandable that Ares, the Greek God of War and major enemy of Diana, would be orchestrating such events to continue his reign of terror. Plus, the twist was well-executed.
This shaky foundation isn't helped by the rather awkward pacing that seems to dominate the movie's timeline. Much of the Second Act is rather boring, devoid of any action to showcase Wonder Woman's capabilities. There is a car-chase scene that's average in nature, a White House fight scene that's admittedly rather engaging, and that erratic final battle with Cheetah that seems jumpy and poorly lit. Wonder Woman did prevent a robbery at the beginning, but that was less of a fight scene and more an appreciation of her talents in the face of crime and the inspiration she imbues onto youth. The fighting in this movie just simply... isn't that good, especially for the few increments of when we actually receive it.
However, I shall compliment the casting choice. 84's faults are by no means a criticism of these wonderful, stellar performers. Gal Gadot, Kristen Wig, and Pedro Pascal play their roles the best they can in the face of such a stumbling script. In fact, Pedro Pascal (as he usually does with most properties that feature him) makes this movie. Each scene with Maxwell Lord, in spite of the plotholes surrounding the character, makes us still feel engaged with his plight and interested in his story. I'm glad they didn't end up killing off his character, because I'm quite excited to see him pop up in future DCEU installments, or the next Wonder Woman film, if such a production will ever be created after this relative flop, that is.
I could go on. They introduce a character named Asteria who gains an after-credits cameo, but primarily so Wonder Woman could don her mystical, unstoppable armor that was capable of holding back armies of soldiers. Apparently made of some indestructible, insurmountable alloy, it was torn into pieces akin to paper-mache by Cheetah in the climax. It's understandable they wanted to give their main physical threat a genuine presence, but in doing so, they undo a major plotpoint established earlier. Which is what this entire film is. A walking, talking contradiction that keeps destroying whatever foundation it set prior. Does everyone just remember that apocalyptic day in 1984 where riots, nuclear weapons, and natural disasters were commonplace? Since there's never any indication people's memories of this incident ever faded. Wouldn't that become a major, immortalized moment in the DCEU's history that is referred too even decades later as a turning point for civilized humankind? I dunno man. This movie is confusing, and while I genuinely wanted to grow interested with the characters and their conflicts, even the charismatic spearhead of Pedro Pascal couldn't salvage the immense damage constant plot contradictions introduced. 5/10.