For the better part of a year, movie studios have implored us to hold out for their projects.

"They deserve to be seen on the big screen," they seem to say, yet this has birthed a conundrum for the cinephiles: We're asked to pay more for worse quality while studios hound us about the sanctity of cinema. Come on.

Following up on Patty Jenkin's 2017 milestone Wonder Woman is Wonder Woman 1984. Fast & Furious alum Gal Gadot returns as the iconic Diana Prince, fighting against a magic rock that grants wishes (okay, sure—I mean, Avengers has a magic glove). Faux tycoon Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal, giving a bit more than anyone asked for) is a wannabe oil baron, and he pairs with Diana's friend-turned-foe Barbara Minerva (Kritsen Wiig) to bring the world to the edge of disaster via the aforementioned magic rock. Jesus Christ.

WW84 isn't so bad it's good—it's just bad. It's bizarre. The logic is haphazard. Its portrayal of Arabic peoples alone is so inaccurate and stereotypical, it's downright offensive. There are AI machines and bots that scan bad screenplays from Lifetime to build their own, and even those scripts would still give you a more enjoyable experience than WW84. It's so hard, in fact, to call it a film when it's really just a collection of unrelated scenes stitched together with forgettable performances from literally everyone and repeated instances of Gadot of saving enough children to fill an orphanage. Don't worry, action fans— the kids are alright.

Even among a bloated field of similar comic book outings, WW84 doesn't even try for quality. It's a pickpocket at a carnival trying and mostly succeeding to get into your wallet; Tom Hooper's Cats was at least fun-bad—this is almost criminal.

Mainly it's like a reminder that superhero films feel really dated of late. The sad part is, they don't have to be. They could be so much better, but so fragile is their makers' desire to appeal to the broadest possible audiences that fans have to drag the genre kicking and screaming for the most minor forms of representation. It took over a decade to get a single line from a gay character in the Marvel universe, and don't forget that 2017's first Wonder Woman outing remains the first-ever woman-led superhero movie in history. That's only three years ago. Yikes.

We're left to assume studios have such little faith in us, aren't we? Such films seem to chant "You are a moron, but we have your money—what're you gonna do about it?"

Of course, the century-long history of blockbusters hasn't exactly been highbrow. But it feels like the studios at least used to have the courtesy to pretend audiences were at least a little sophisticated. So if there's any truth in the forecasts that everything will move to streaming (a massive slate of Warner Brothers' upcoming movies will find their way to HBO Max), let's hope corporate crafted calamities like WW84 might become of the past. Because we need theatrical cinema. Is it too much to ask for the films to be decent?

4

+ The magic rock is shiny

– Self-important; incoherent; bland; a bad kind of madness

Wonder Woman 1984

Directed by Patty Jenkins

With Gadot, Pascal and Wiig

HBO Max, PG-13, 151 min.