Believe it or not Wonder Woman 1984 had issues besides its unforgivable and wholly avoidable tacit rape endorsement. You can read about that quagmire in my Wonder Woman 1984 part I review.
Problem 1: The Invisible Jet
It’s obvious Wonder Woman 1984‘s marketers and writers needed to shoe horn in the invisible jet because it’s an easily marketable piece of Wonder Woman lore. However its inclusion was stupid and poorly executed. In this scene Steve and Diana need to get from Washington DC to Egypt. Steve’s a pilot and they’re already at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, why not steal one of their planes? They jump into the cockpit of a random plane outside the Smithsonian hangar and Steve immediately starts button mashing. Any button will do, after all he’s a pilot… right?
There’s no reason to suspect flight instruments or aircraft mechanics would have changed at all in the 60 years since his death… unless you consider the most advanced aircraft in WWI had propellers and the plane they steal is an F-111 Aardvark jet with a maximum range between 3,100 and 3,500 nautical miles. For those geographically ignorant like me, that’s just enough to fly them halfway to Egypt before they pull an Earhart in the Atlantic. None of that really matters because before we can accept that this midrange jet can fly halfway across the world we’d need to accept it can fly at all. Unfortunately for Steve and Diana very few if any aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum are prepped and ready to fly! Think about it for a single second! This place is for displaying aircraft not flying them! Can you imagine how messy and expensive it would be to keep every vehicle on display at that instillation in working condition? The Smithsonian’s curators are amazing but it’s not like they work for Jay Leno.
There isn’t even a runway at the Udvar-Hazy center! Sure Washington-Dulles International Airport is right next-door but the security vehicles chasing Diana and Steve across the runway directly outside the museum are very clearly marked as Smithsonian security! But the jokes on us again because the Udvar-Hazy center didn’t even open until 2003! Logically this scene must’ve happened at the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility where the National Air and Space Museum stored their works in progress before 2003 … except that there’s no runway there either!
That covers the improbability that the aircraft in question could or would fly but I’m not finished! Now let’s talk about how it turns invisible! As they’re barreling down the (nonexistent) runway Diana concentrates, uses the force, and somehow the jet disappears. A confused Steve wants to know what’s happening and like Princess Leia assuring us that she’s always known Luke was her brother, Diana insists that she’s always been able to turn things invisible but hadn’t tried that power onscreen or on anything as big as a jet before. What!? Did I block that stupid part of Wonder Woman out of my memory? Why don’t you make yourself invisible all the time then? It’s clearly not a taxing exercise because you can clearly maintain the effect for the full 11 hour flight across the Atlantic so why are we just hearing about this now? Don’t get comfortable thinking the scene is done being idiotic just yet because as soon as they take off they fly directly into a fireworks show! Our intrepid master airman Steve Trevor’ll know exactly which maneuver’ll get us out of this jam like… flying around the explosions? Nope. Steve flies right through them whilst tenderly gripping Diana’s hand. Stick a fork in this movie, it’s dumb.
Problem 2: Grab ’em by the Cheetah
Pedro Pascal’s performance as Maxwell Lord seemed deliberately designed to criticize Donald Trump. He’s a conman with illegitimate wealth who manipulates the vulnerable and perpetually fails upward. This type of social commentary appeals to me, and Pascal’s performance conveyed the pitiable depths of despair that must torture such a person. That characterization paired with Diana’s drama surrounding Steve’s resurrection could’ve been a fantastic story all on its own. Unfortunately superhero sequels have a habit of forcing too many villains into one script and Wonder Woman 1984 is no exception.
Kristen Wiig plays Barbara Minerva who’s Diana’s coworker at the Smithsonian Institute. She’s the frumpy and awkward character perpetually awaiting her She’s All That meet cute and makeover combo. And no sooner than you could easily predict her character arc, she runs into Pedro Pascal who manipulates her into getting him the Dreamstone. But before Lord takes the artifact away and continues his story, Barbara makes a wish of her own. She want’s to be like Diana, beautiful, strong, interesting… taller? Unfortunately wishing with the Dreamstone comes at a price. Barbara transforms into her dream-self but at the cost of her humanity. Slowly throughout the film she becomes a monstrous werecat called Cheetah. Her wish and its consequences poetically mirror Diana’s.Diana gets Steve Trevor back in her life but she begins losing her superpowers and becomes weaker eventually needing to wear a golden suit of armor for the final confrontation against the inhuman Cheetah. In a better movie this parallel would’ve been more emotionally significant but I honestly barely remembered why Diana’s power weakened or why she needed the suit of armor at all. These problems result in a watered down subplot that I’ll estimate added 40 or so unfulfilling minutes to the running time. So why include this tripe and who’s making these calls?
Part 3: The BBEG
The rain pitter-patters on the cracked pavement of a Warner Brothers backlot somewhere in the bowels of Los Angeles. The sky’s a gray blanket smothering the city in a welcome downpour. I strike a match and light the cigarette in my teeth like I’ve got no plans to be in a TV ad. I’m here to solve a string of murders. Why here exactly? Because someone at Warner Brothers has been killing their own movies.
I don’t know exactly when it started but the trail picks up around 2016 when the studio announced David Ayer’s Suicide Squad would undergo massive reshoots after Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was widely criticized as overly melancholic. That’s only part of the story, it’s obvious now that Warner Brothers moved forward with the reshoots in an attempt to ape the tone (and ideally the success) of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This decision fundamentally destroyed whatever version of Suicide Squad David Ayer originally produced and resulted in a disjointed movie full of awkward anachronisms leftover from an earlier version we’ll never see. Warner Brothers eventually got what they wanted and hired Gunn to direct the Suicide Squad sequel The Suicide Squad which was overwhelmingly embraced as a fun superhero romp. Even the sequel’s title suggests Warner Brothers wants you to forget about the first movie, but we remember.
The next murder happens in 2017 after Zack Snyder’s abrupt (and completely understandable) exit from Justice League. Joss Whedon, another marvel scab, replaced Snyder at the helm and produced a movie as tonally incongruent as Suicide Squad. But something is off, both films’ plot and tone inconsistencies are ironically too consistent, they appear to happen for the same reasons and in similar situations. Both films seem to avoid every opportunity to make meaningful character growth in favor of quick jokes and overproduced action set pieces.
This same lack of cohesion and pops up again in Wonder Woman 1984, now we’ve got a pattern. Three films with different directors but all with the same problem, they suck. What’s the common denominator? Who’s been involved in all of these movies?
Let’s go through the suspects. First let’s talk about Diane Nelson who’s President of DC Entertainment from 2009 to 2018. Her tenure eliminates her, our culprit must’ve been in an influential position between 2014 during Suicide Squad‘s production, 2017 for Justice League all the way through December 2020 when Wonder Woman 1984 premiered. Nelson’s out, who’s next? Greg Silverman lost his job as Warner Brothers President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s icy reception… while he’s guilty up to a point he’s not on the hook for Wonder Woman 1984 so let’s move on. Jon Berg replaced Greg Silverman but only served until 2018 when he too was replaced by the current President, DC-Based Film Production Walter Hamada. Neither Berg or Hamada had anything to do with Suicide Squad so they’re in the clear… for now.
That brings us to the last two suspects, Charles Roven and Geoff Johns. Charles Roven’s been producing DC superhero movies since 2005’s Batman Begins and has had his hand in nearly every DC movie since then including the three films at the center of this investigation. Geoff Johns is perhaps the most influential creative voice in DC Entertainment over the last 20 years. Mentored by Richard Donner, Johns climbed the creative ladders in the film industry before establishing himself as a preeminent writer for DC comics including stints on The Flash, JSA, and his career defining eight year run on Green Lantern. In 2010 Johns became the Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment and has worked on DC TV and Film projects including contributing to the infamous Suicide Squad rewrites, producing Justice League and Wonder Woman 1984 which he also co-wrote.
Barring any dark horses it’s down to these two guys. One of them is responsible for destroying the movies these films could’ve been. Or maybe it’s both, there’s not enough evidence to finger either for all three crimes… it’s too circumstantial… and there’s too many others who could’ve been involved and we’d never know it. An unknown big bad evil guy still pulling the strings from the shadows. It’s still raining, like heaven is trying to wash away all Warner Brothers sins. What to do next? Do I take the hint and stop watching DC movies because they’re bad on average? I loved SHAZAM! and I’ve heard only heard good things about The Suicide Squad and Zack Snyder’s Justice League but if I’m being honest the reason I haven’t seen them is because I’m not over how much Wonder Woman 1984 sucked. How can I trust that I won’t get burned again?
Just then the left pocket of my 1930’s style brown trench coat buzzes. I look down at my phone as rain drips from the front of my fedora. I’ve gotten a text from an unknown number. Maybe it’s from God, maybe it’s from the mysterious big bad evil guy… maybe they’re not so different in the end. I read the message. It’s an absolution. It gives me permission to forgive Warner Brothers’ trespasses and surrender my concerns to the almighty forces of Hollywood’s whims with five simple words…
“Forget it man, it’s Tinseltown.”