Movie Review: “Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84)”

“Wonder Woman 1984 (WW84)” has the air of a watershed movie moment about it.

With Warners and Disney and a pandemic chasing blockbusters out of theaters and onto smaller screens, and even the word “blockbuster” potentially banished from the language, you have to wonder if this woman isn’t heralding the end of the $300 million comic book epic.

Without the widescreen scope, the communal viewing experience with the like-minded and the “fan service” in every gigantic digital effects brawl, every little wink at the fans writ large, what is left?

In the case of “WW84,” the answer is a great big long movie that feels very small.

The most expensive “Be careful what you wish for” fantasy ever made has nods to runaway greed (avarice) and consumerism, a few jokes about ugly ’80s fashions and trends, a backhanded bitchslap at Ronald Reagan and guns and a lot of story beat tips of the hat to “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Director Patty Jenkins put a lot on the shoulders of Pedro Pascal as the villain, a con-man/oil scam hustler who isn’t charismatic enough to counter-balance our heroine. Even his maniacal laugh is lacking. Maybe “The Mandalorian” needs his helmet for that.

Gal Gadot handles the fight choreography well enough, but either she’s more model than actress or this hit-your-marks-in-front-of-the-green- screen enterprise bored the spark out of the actress playing the title role.

Little girls stand in slack-jawed wonder as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman lassos bad guys and saves the day, and as with the first “Wonder Woman” film, the cast is an emphatic statement on inclusion.

But the often dry script, funereal pacing and generic spectacle of the digitally-augmented set-pieces makes for a movie that’s like “Captain Marvel,” only about half as much fun.

A long prologue from Diana’s childhood teaches the little Amazon (Lily Aspell) that cheaters never prosper. “That is the only truth and truth is all there is,” Mom (Robin Wright) intones. “No hero is born from lies!”

Decades after her World War I interference in human affairs, Diana has taken a job with the Smithsonian where she meets the easily-ignored gemologist/geologist Barbara Minerva. She’s played by Kristen Wiig, pratfalling off her heels, correcting everyone who’s forgotten her name and harassed by every drunk who figures her for an easy mark on her walks home.

That’s D.C. for you. And that’s Wiig when she’s being typecast.

But a mall jewelry store heist that Diana interrupted had this one unremarkable stone that turns out to be a magic talisman. It grants wishes.

And this overdrawn, pyramid scheme TV pitchman Maxwell Lord (Pascal) knows that, and is willing to woo Wiig’s Minerva to get his hands on it.

That’s how he starts changing history, toying with the whole “Genie in a Bottle” quandary. What should you ask if you’ve been granted “three wishes?” Why, an endless supply of wishes, of course!

But before Lord stirs up Wall Street, the Middle East and the Cold War, Diana’s been around that rock long enough to think an upspoken wish. That’s how her dead WWI fighter pilot boyfriend Steve (Chris Pine) shows up in 1984, marveling over jet airliners, Pop Tarts and parachute pants.

“Does everybody parachute?”

Diana sees the mayhem unleashed and pieces together what caused it, which sends her and Steve half-pointlessly to Cairo (a stolen two-seater jet gets them there) and back to scenic Washington, nicely showcased here as she shows Steve the sights.

Only a showdown with villain Max and power-drunk Barbara will do.

Points about sexual harassment and the rush of sudden empowerment (Minerva wants to be like Diana), and the revenge that follows are among the many obvious sidebars “WW84” takes.

But that material at least relates to today, as on the nose as this opening bit of post-Trump voice over narration.

“Sometimes you can’t see what you’re learning until you come out the other side.”

That said, I think I can sum of this bloated, two and a half hour immersion in superpowers and half-hearted ’80s nostalgia with one comparison.

Remember what “Captain Marvel” crashed into when she showed up in 1995? It was a Blockbuster Video, and yes, it got a BIG laugh.

The biggest sign we’re meant to notice in that DC mall that bad guys rob? J.C. Penney. That’s not funny, that’s just sad. And that’s this somewhat dispirited “blockbuster” in a nutshell.

MPA Rating:  PG-13 for sequences of action and violence

Cast: Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen and Lily Aspell

MPA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence

Credits: Directed by Patty Jenkins, script by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham. A Warner Brothers release.

Running time: 2:31

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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