Okay, we’ve had about a day now to process the hot mess that is Wonder Woman 1984 and come to terms with the utter letdown Patty Jenkins left us with after slogging through the 155-minute sequel. I posted my initial reaction review here yesterday and enough people have read/linked to it to make me think that you all would like to know what I’d have done differently. So here it goes.
First, let me preface this with one important point: I was a huge DC comics fan back in the 1970s. Never got into Marvel until the first Iron Man movie in 2009. My three favorite DC superheroes are: Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman. I never was a big fan of Superman, he was too much of a boy scout for my tastes. I loved the first season of Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter back in the mid-1970s, although the second season when the jumped from the 1940s to the 1970s was gawd-awful.
So when DC finally decided to give Wonder Woman her own films I was ecstatic. The first one in 2017 was as close to perfection as I’ve seen any movie get. And when yesterday rolled around and I could stream WW84 I was jazzed. Within the first fifteen minutes, I was disappointed and over two hours later I was annoyed.
So, how should the second Wonder Woman movie have played out, Mr. Know-It-All, you ask? Well, let me sort you out, I reply.
First, the premise of a villain gaining possession of a powerful stone that threatens to end the world is not new (hello, Avengers Infinity Wars and Endgame) but it is a pretty good vehicle for a superhero film. Max Lord would have worked much better if he were the only villain Wonder Woman was facing in this film. But Jenkins decided to go full Tim Burton on us and tossed in a second villain, Cheetah (Barbara Minerva), and we wound up with the ladies version of Batman Forever.
The time setting was also a big miss. The only reason for setting it in the 1980s was to take swipes and two Republican Presidents, Ronald Reagan (who was actually POTUS in 1984) and current POTUS Donald Trump, who was a bit of a hustler/business man in 1984 who Lord is clearly based upon. If you wanted to have a bumbling idiot President making a crisis involving Russia and the Middle East worse, as happened in WW84, you set the film in 1978 with Jimmy Carter in the White House. Four decades later and the world is still dealing with the fallout of Carter’s idiotic policy decisions in Iran, Afghanistan and Russia. But the simple truth is this film should not have been set 30-40 years in the past.
So the first fix is to set the film in the present day, shortly after the end of Wonder Woman when Bruce Wayne has recovered the old photo of her with Steve Trevor and the rest of the gang in WW1. The second fix is to jettison Cheetah from this film entirely and save her for the third installment and allow her to be the sole villain that tests our heroine.
By making Max Lord the sole villain, we get more time figuring out what is driving him. Also, instead of saving vital information for the ending, we should see Max’s troubled childhood early on. Showing why he is driven to appear to be more than what he actually is. I’d have liked to have seen him start out as a man struggling to succeed but never seeming able to get the right break at the right time. In striving to give his son a better life than the one he has, he seizes upon the Dream Stone with good intentions, but the stone has its own dark side and that infects Max, turning his intentions into evil deeds instead. At the end of the film, Wonder Woman is able to show him where he has gone wrong and helps save him, and the world. Not only would this have been a better film, it would have been a good 40 minutes shorter.
As for the opportunities to have some great action sequences and a fight scene where Wonder Woman goes one-on-one with the bad guy, Max could be a most powerful foe, thanks to the stone, by the end of the film and gives her a good battle. Again, the sequences with Cheetah were unnecessary in this film and only served to detract from the overall film. Especially since the final fight sequence between Wonder Woman and Cheetah was a muddy mess of poor CGI that was not helped by it taking place at night.
I’m ambivilant about the gold armor costume. My first inclination would have been to jettison it altogether but that would deprive us of one of the greater moments in the film, the appearance of Lynda Carter. So, I’d keep it in and use it to be what tips the balance in Wonder Woman’s favor in the final battle with Max Lord. But my main issue with the costume is this: She didn’t take it with her in the first film when she left Themyscira and she supposedly has never been able to return to the island since. So, how does she wind up with the armor in 1984? Plot holes abound in this film.
(EDIT: A reader pointed out a line of dialogue I appear to have missed, likely because at the point it was uttered I was contemplating seppuku to put myself out of my misery. Diana found the armor elsewhere as Asteria’s battle did not take place on the island. Still, it seemed awfully convenient that she had that handy. I’ll stick with my revision below to explain how she gets possession of the suit.)
I’d also jettison the Steve Trevor coming back by possessing another dude’s body bit. If you’re bringing Steve back, bring him back! I spent a good portion of the film trying to figure out what happened to the guy whose body was possessed? What happened after Steve no longer had possession? Did the guy suddenly pop back into his body and wonder how the heck he wound up in a D.C. street that looked like a war zone and why was he missing several days of his life?
My other issue was the “renounce my wish” bit at the end. Call me cynical, but I’m thinking that not everyone on Earth renounced their wishes, especially those with evil intentions.
So, here’s how the second Wonder Woman film would have played out with me writing the screenplay:
We open on Themyscira, as the film does, and I leave that entire sequence as is, adding only the bit about Asteria and the armor while in the flashback instead of waiting until later in the film.
We then come forward to present day, with Wonder Woman coming to the rescue of people in harms way – the bride that nearly falls into a river, the woman jogger than nearly gets run over by a speeding car, etc. – before breaking up a robbery attempt of a standalone jewelry store (Malls are so not in fashion anymore) that serves as a front for stolen art objects.
The stolen items are brought to Diana Prince, who is temporarily at the Smithsonian in D.C., to be identified. In her office we see several photos of Steve and WW1-related stories to show she is still very much in love with Steve Trevor and pining for him. While cataloging the items she discovers the Dream Stone among the items and she makes the wish for Steve to be returned to her, which happens that very night (and Steve is fully returned, in his own body).
Max Lord, a businessman on the brink of complete ruin, had commissioned the theft of the store in order to recover the Dream Stone. Seeing that the items were taken to the museum, he cons his way into the building and steals the stone. Back at his office, he thinks back to his troubled youth, his issues with his father, being poor and his business efforts never quite succeeding. At this point he makes his wish to become the Dream Stone and starts using others to make wishes that improves his power but comes at a terrible cost to the wish makers.
Unaware of the pending disaster, Diana shows Steve the wonders of the new century. Only when she is injured saving a little girl from being run over does she realize she is starting to lose her powers. At this point an elderly man appears. It is her father, Zeus, who has survived down the centuries since the great battle with Hades and has watched over all of mankind and his daughter as well.
Zeus warns that the Dream Stone has caused the collapsed of many civilizations, Rome, the Mayans, etc., but this time it threatens to end everything on Earth because Diana used it. As a daughter of a God, the Stone has become dangerously powerful and the one wielding it will not be able to control it much longer before it consumes him and all life. Zeus does not have the power to overcome the stone now. It is up to Diana to stop it.
She and Steve head after Lord at his Black Gold HQ, but he has already left for Cairo. They steal a jet, which Diana turns invisible and the sequence of events in Cairo play out much the same way as they do in WW84. The duo are always a step behind as Lord uses more and more wishes to gain power and the world teeters on the brink of all out war as Lord takes over the White House. Lord gains access over all of the telecommunications networks and social media platforms and is about to unleash the Dream Stone’s powers on the entire planet.
A weakened Wonder Woman and a battered and bruised Trevor plan a long-shot attack on Lord in the White House, but before they go inside, Zeus provides Diana with the armor Asteria used and transfers his powers to her. While Trevor keeps Lord’s Secret Service guards occupied, Diana faces off against Lord.
The armor prevents Lord from inflicting any damage on her until she finally gets her lasso on him and shows him the truth about the Stone and what he has become while reminding him of the son he loves. Lord renounces his wish, undoing everything he’d done in one fell swoop – including the return of Steve Trevor.
Zeus takes possession of the Stone and destroys it. Then as he dissipates into a vaporous cloud, uses the last of his powers to give his daughter one last gift – he brings back Steve Trevor so that his daughter will not be alone.
I would have two cut scenes. The first, would be the one actually used in WW84 with Lynda Carter. The second would set up the next film and would be of a new hire arriving at the Smithsonian, Barbara Minerva, who discovers an interesting artifact that resembles a cheetah among the stolen items Diana was cataloging. As she holds it, it starts glowing and we cut back to the last of the final credits.
So, tell me what you think. Would mine be better than the one that debuted yesterday?