‘WW84’: Wonder Woman’s Weak 80s Adventure

She basically fights Donald Trump as the leader of the Resistance or something

Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), forever-young Amazonian with an old soul, is the de facto moral conscience of the current cinematic DC Universe, an otherwise conflicted and tortured place where even squeaky-clean Superman went dark. It’s Diana’s job to fight for what’s right. And as long as this deific princess from the hidden island of Themyscira chooses to live among mere mortals, she’ll dedicate her life to saving humans from themselves. And there’s no worse human in Hollywood’s mind than Donald Trump, whose presence dominates WW84, the ultimate document of the Trump-gaslit entertainment business.


WW84: WONDER WOMAN 1984
★★(2/5 stars)
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Written by: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, David Callaham
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen
Running time: 151 min


WW84 is the Trumpiest anti-Trump cautionary tale of this fading Trump Era. Wonder Woman is the only one with the courage to #resist. The whole movie is an update of the 1902 “Monkey’s Paw” supernatural dilemma grafted onto a Yuppie mindset of pop-culture “greed is good” graft. Message: Be careful what you wish for. Especially if you’re shady businessman Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), a Trump manqué right down to the gold-plated logos, the branded helicopter, the gaudily opulent office building, the aura of manufactured fame, the power suits, and the cheeseball thumbs-up gestures.

You want flashy excess? Welcome to WW84, not an improved variant of WD40 but definitely a corporatized iteration meant to keep the wheels greased. You could call this Wonder Woman 1984, but WW84’s snappy contraction really fits better. The abbreviation is literally the film’s opening title. Why settle for a generic name when you can go for stylish opacity?

Although WW84 isn’t so much opaque as it is empty. There’s really no mystery here, just earnest vapidity, presented with veneer of purpose. “No hero is born from lies,” preaches the film. “Nothing good is born from lies.” It’s a predictably on-brand ethos for a story that features a Lasso of Truth. “Truth is all there is,” insists the movie. “The truth is bigger than all of us.” And just for good measure: “Truth is beautiful.” Actually, truth can get pretty ugly. And brutal. But, yes, of course, candor beats deceit any day. Let’s just not lie about the nature of truth. But I digress.

In the previous film, Diana pitched in to win World War 1 by defeating a god. Impressive. In this sequel, we see an old framed pic of her helping liberate Holocaust survivors. Righteous. Not too sure what she did between 1945 and 1984, except get a job at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. as a cultural anthropologist. Seems like a downgrade. She does have a slick Watergate condo, though, and runs around the metropolitan area keeping wedding-day brides and joggers safe from hooligans. Plus, she’s apparently an occasional mall cop in Fairfax. Take that, petty theft!

She’s trying to stay on the down-low, which is weirdly easy since people don’t make a big deal out of her lightning reflexes, unnatural strength, ancient armor, and glowing whip. Oddly enough, the only public remark is a local news description of a “mysterious female savior.” Washington has a distinct lack of wonder for this woman.

Until she has to battle Donald Trump, in the form of Maxwell Lord.

“I am not a con man!” exclaims Lord. “I am a respected television personality.” Yes, we get it, he’s Trump. “I am not a loser—He’s a loser,” says Lord. Yup, Trump. “It’s a conspiracy against my success!” he cries. Yes, I know, Trump. “I’ve never been one for the rules.” “The answer is always more.” “We want what we want.” Sheesh! All right, already. The Trumpian soundbites are relentless. Except for one, actually: “I’m a pretty messed-up loser guy.” If only.

An exciting bit of action from WW84 as Wonder Woman and The Cheetah engage in a little light bondage at the White House.

Lord covets an enormous crystal gem called the Dreamstone, an antique that dates back more than 2,000 years and supposedly grants the wildest desires of its bearer. But that Dreamstone is at the Smithsonian, in the hands of mousy gemologist Barbara Minerva (Kristin Wiig). She wants to be just like her colleague Diana, and says as much while holding the stone. Behold: virtually overnight, she turns into a confident, sexy, and physically powerful glamorpuss. Diana fondles the stone while offhandedly yearning for her dead lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Presto: a bewildered Steve Trevor appears the next day, sporting a Members Only jacket and a fanny pack.

After seducing Minerva, Lord finally gets his hands on the stone, invoking a kind-of-clever twist on the trope of asking a wish-granting genie for unlimited wishes. Lord in turn becomes wildly wealthy and ominously successful, becoming a sort of transactional djinn who makes sure to reap benefits from other people’s fortunes. Only hitch: he has to be physically touching them for it to work.

So continues the film’s plot, the structural integrity of which spirals more and more out of control as more and more wishes come true—and the stakes get absurdly higher and higher. There’s an escalating dream logic to how heroes and villains suddenly pop and out of scenes with omniscient ease. It’s as though the screenwriters use their own wish-fulfillment to ignore gaps in space and time.

At one point a Ronald Reaganesque president tells Lord about a clandestine satellite broadcast network with the ability to touch everyone on earth. “Touch them?” says Lord. “It’s a figure of speech,” says faux-Ronnie. Except, I guess, it’s not, because then, according to this elastic script, Lord uses it to harness his wish-granting to everyone one earth at the same time.

By, the way, in an unrelated development, Diana learns to fly. Like, literally. How? Because former pilot Steve Trevor explained flying to her. “It’s easy,” he says. “It’s only wind and air.” That does sound easy, Steve! Also incredibly stupid. Anyway, Wonder Woman can fly now because wind and air.

Come for the promise of a fun comic-book distraction, stay for the go-go ’80s aesthetic of popped collars, pink Polo shirts, and pushed-up jacket sleeves. Props to the props team that managed to pull off the deep-cut reference to Wisconsin Ave’s beloved New Wave boutique Commander Salamander. And kudos to the music supervisor who dug up Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Welcome to the Pleasure Dome” for the glittery gala benefit. At least some folks on WW84 still found time to mine genuine surprise out of this overworn, overheated, overblown material.

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Stephen Garrett

Stephen Garrett is the former film editor of 'Time Out New York’ and has written about the movie industry for more than 20 years. He is also the founder of Jump Cut, a marketing company that creates trailers and posters for independent, foreign-language, and documentary films.

5 thoughts on “‘WW84’: Wonder Woman’s Weak 80s Adventure

  • December 26, 2020 at 10:21 pm
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    Loved the movie. Loved the music score.

    Reply
  • December 27, 2020 at 12:53 am
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    The great irony is you see Trump in everything. You sad sad little single man. Happy new year!

    Reply
    • December 27, 2020 at 11:10 am
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      Right!! This comparison never crossed my mind

      Reply
      • December 27, 2020 at 1:04 pm
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        Never crossed your mind that a guy with Trump’s hairstyle ranting about making all your wishes come true in front of the Presidential seal might be a comment on Trump?

        Reply
      • December 31, 2020 at 6:05 pm
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        Welcome to the definition of TDS, everything you see is Orange man bad 😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣😂 omg dude this is a superhero/comic book film don’t make shit political when its not, get a real job.

        Reply

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