Here we are, at the end of a year that essentially crippled the blockbuster season. Then HBO Max essentially decided to implode an entire slate of Warner Bros. films to surge subscription numbers. The litmus test of this experiment came with Wonder Woman 1984 and I chose to forgo the theatre and watched it at home Christmas morning. But I’m not here to discuss the idiotic or ingenious plans of a corporate conglomerate, that day might come.
Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins were riding high off the immense success of their pervious entry in the DCEU and had a lot of goodwill built up. Not to mention the extremely mixed results of those other films it only added to the hype surrounding Wonder Woman 1984. So how does this film play out? Does it build on the success of Wonder Woman or is it going to land in the chasm of mediocrity currently home to Justice League? Or worse, the pit of waste where Suicide Squad permanently resides?
“Nothing good is born from lies. And greatness is not what you think.”
Almost 70 years has passed since Diana Prince’s (Gadot) last high profile adventure. Settling into obscurity while fighting crime on the (kind of) down low she’s leading a life that feels a bit unfulfilled. When a chance encounter with a magical gemstone resurrects her long lost lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) she now has everything she’s desired. In the meantime Diana’s quiet, but kind hearted co-worker Barbara (Kristen Wiig) and disgustingly charismatic oil charlatan Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) also use this gemstone to make their deepest wishes come true. All three face the unintended consequences of what comes with their wishes. So yeah, that pretty much sums up the story.
This all sound ridiculous and at times feels a bit goofy, but we are talking about a comic book film. Some have criticized the tone of the story and it does have issues. A lot of Diana’s story does feel sidelined at times in order to give Barbara and Maxwell more screen time. What story Diana does get feels half baked and really doesn’t lead to any character growth. I was also let down by the lack of interesting supporting characters. The first film gave us the team of Etta, Sameer, Charlie, and Chief Napi who all added charm to their scenes. Here I cannot remember anyone outside of the four main characters. Even the Amazonians are pretty much MIA with the exception of a prologue that barely has any relevancy to the plot. This and the film has a run time of two and a half hours! There is definitely a bit of redundancy and wheel spinning.
“I want to be an apex predator.”
That said Wonder Woman 1984 is lucky to have some talented actors turning in very elevated performances. Pascal’s take on Lord is obviously inspired by many colorful people of the 80’s. He is challenging televangelists with a dash of everyone’s favorite ‘real estate mogul’ and it is fairly entertaining. Wiig is also hamming it up taking a page from previous actor’s renditions of characters that are good hearted if socially awkward, but flourish when they get a taste of being evil. Gadot is still good in the lead, but the frequent lack of much to do does keep her from really shining. It is nice to see Pine back in the role of Steve. His charm makes it easy (for me) to overlook a lot of questions that many have been asking about his return.
In the action department the film is a mixed bag. After the previous film had the iconic ”No Man’s Land” fight it was going to be tough to measure up. Both the mall fight scene and the car chase/fight are pretty fun, but much like the first film the final face off is underwhelming. Seeing Barbara in her Cheetah form was something that had worried me since news broke of the character’s inclusion. Trying to mask the somewhat dodgy VFX in a night fight probably wasn’t the best course of action. And once again there was no tension in the fight as it felt like Diana wasn’t fighting a nemesis who was a match for her.
“My life hasn’t been what you think it has. We all have our struggles.”
All of this does sound a little negative, but in all honesty I enjoyed the film flaws and all. Either you’re going to go with Jenkins’ more colorful and a little cheesy 80’s vibe of the film or you’re not. It is a slight step down from the previous film and unfortunately I don’t know if I’ll feel the urge to revisit it anytime soon. If the first film had a tone that was in the vein of the Golden Age of comics (larger than life heroes fighting real life villains) this film is more in line with the Silver Age (Brighter colors, lighter stories, and essentially fluffy escapism). I do hope that Jenkins and Gadot can take a break and make a third film that is a Bronze Age story (a dark return to more real world issues). We shall see.
Overall Score 3/5
Wonder Woman 1984 is now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.
The Shameless Plugs
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