The last time we saw Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, and Steve Trevor, her hunky air force pilot boyfriend, it was the 1940s. They seemed so cute, and the conceit of their long ago romance had a lot of charm.
Cut to 1984, a charmless time in history. Diana is still alive in the person of beautiful Gal Gadot, working in Washington DC for a museum of some kind and fighting crime on the side. Before the sequel to the hit, Wonder Woman, gets going we see Diana as a child on her magical island, trying to win a kind of Olympics. It’s very exciting, so you think director Patty Jenkins– the ‘it’ director of 2017 — is back in business.
Unfortunately, “WW84” is laborious, preachy, and long. Clocking in at two and a half hours it made me think how everyone wants to see the long version of “Justice League.” I’d like to see the short version of this movie. It is simply way too long, with too many plots and not enough story. Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor is resurrected from the dead, much like Warren Beatty in “Heaven Can Wait.” Diana knows it’s him, but he’s occupying the body of another hunk. (Don’t ask: we see Pine, quite wooden.)
How Steve is alive is because Diana has wished it after seeing an ancient artifact, a citrine that looks like a piece of Kryptonite. It has the power to grant wishes. Max Lord, a cartoon villain played by a miscast Pedro Pascal, knows this, so he wants to steal it. He does, but not before Kristen Wiig’s Barbara, a mousy researcher at the museum, holds it and wishes she could become Diana. She does, and eventually turns into a villain called the Cheetah, although I can’t say I know this other than reading about it.
My wish is that Jenkins and her two screenwriters had tightened this thing up, consigned Steve Trevor to history, and come up with a new story for Diana Prince that worked with this jigsaw puzzle. Not all the pieces fit in “WW84,” so they’ve just jammed them in randomly. The result is a picture that is not smoothly interlocked but jarring in its unfinished look.
For one thing, where has Diana been for 40 years? We don’t know. She’s pining (get that?) for Steve all this time? And why is her dialogue so stilted? Why is Steve’s? It turns out having Kristen Wiig– highly verbal, quick witted–as the villain makes Diana not so interesting. Forgotten, muttering Barbara is a far more colorful character when she blooms. She reminded me of Alfred Molina in the 2004 “Spider Man” movie. She’s delicious fun, and you’d like to know more about her.
What Jenkins does pull off, and this to her credit, are several terrific set action pieces including an “Indiana Jones” type race through the desert, and the final battle between Wonder Woman and Cheetah (as far I know no one calls her Cheetah, by the way, and there’s no explanation for that transformation). That was one of few sequences where Gadot had something to do with substance. But it takes a long time to ramp up into this film.
But “WW84” in a movie theater would feel like an eternity really had gone by. It’s a third act movie that could have used some agile cutting. There will certainly be a third one, and when there is, I hope that Jenkins et al can think of a reason for all of this. So far, I can’t.