Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) Review
WW84 IS OKAY. BUT IT CAN BE BETTER!
In 2017, after the decisively mixed reviews and thoughts on 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. Studios and DC Comics released Wonder Woman, the fourth entry in the studio superhero cinematic universe of the DCEU (DC Extended Universe). Directed by Patty Jenkins, the film, which starred Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, and David Thewlis, follows the Amazon princess Diana, who sets out to stop World War I, believing that the conflict was started by the longtime enemy of the Amazons, Ares, after American pilot / spy Steve Trevor crash-lands on their island of Themyscira and informs her about it. While some grumbled criticisms on the over-usage of CGI in various points of the film or borrowing the narrative structure from Captain America: The First Avenger, Wonder Woman was met with largely positive reviews, with most praising Jenkin’s direction, the visuals, action sequences, musical score, and the feature’s cast, especially Gadot’s performance of the titular superhero. The film was a box office success; garnishing over $821 million worldwide, making it the tenth highest grossing film of the 2017 year as well as the highest-grossing film by a solo female director (to this date). Given the amount of success that feature won from both critics and moviegoers, it was almost a forgone conclusion that a sequel to the movie would be eventually greenlit in the following years; continuing the adventures of Diana Prince / Wonder Woman in a new installment. Now, three years after the release of Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. Studios and director Patty Jenkins prepare for the journey of Diana Prince with the release of Wonder Woman 1984 (or WW84 for short). Does this sequel prove to be a solid follow-up or does it get weighed down by the atypical problems of the sequel syndrome?
Having lost her one true love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a lifetime ago, Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has maintained a low profile, appearing to help those in danger when evil strikes and her godly powers are required for humanity. Employed as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., Diana keeps her distance from the staff, but finds Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) to be a curious hire; making friends with the woman of low self-esteemed and encouraging her to think bigger. Tasked with identifying a special Dreamstone that grants wishes, Barbara decides to test the magic herself, asking to be “special”. Diana also gets to have her moment with the magic rock, soon reunited with Steve, who’s inhabited the body of another man, eager to learn the world of 1984 around him. Unbeknownst to Diana, a sinister man named Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a broke oilman who quest to become the rock itself, infused with the power as he collects the wishes of others. As Diana races to foil Maxwell’s plans, she discovers more about herself, her love with Steve, and Barbara’s inner turmoil.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I’ve always said on my blog, I’ve been more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan. That’s not to say that I’ve enjoyed several DC Comics movies out there (both live-action and animated ones), but I prefer the MCU verses the DCEU. That being said, I did like 2017’s Wonder Woman, especially coming off of the problematic Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice release. Though Wonder Woman perfect and did have some problems (i.e., a bit too much CGI and a few narrative elements that don’t work quite right), I personally liked the whole “fish out of water” structure for the character and the WWI backdrop. Plus, I loved actress Gal Gadot as Diana Prince. She’s amazing beautiful (no doubt about that), but she played a very strong and convincing Wonder Woman; embodying such profound ideals for female superhero characters, especially in today’s superhero film landscape of male dominate leads. Additionally, the film’s message about love can save the world is quite touching and profound, especially in today’s world. So, while the DCEU doesn’t have the large catalogue of installments compared to the MCU, Wonder Woman stands as one of the more popular and successful entries in this DC cinematic universe.
This brings me back to talking about Wonder Woman 1984, the sequel film to the 2017 Wonder Woman movie. With the success of the first film, it was almost a forgone conclusion that a second installment was ultimately gonna be greenlit by the studio (Warner Bros), which it eventually was sometime after the release of Wonder Woman. With expectations building, I was definitely interested to see where Diana Prince’s next chapter would go; eating up several morsels of tidbits that I would find on the internet and all the movie website that I frequently visit. Soon the film’s movie trailer dropped and showcased plenty of new footage for the next film and the anticipation continued to build for me. I even placed Wonder Woman 1984 on my “Top 15 Anticipated Films of 2020” list at the end of 2019. So, it goes without saying that I was pretty excited to see the film, which was originally set to be release in theaters back in 2019 before it was eventually shuffled a few times and set firmly as a summer blockbuster release in June 2020. Unfortunately, with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic rattling Hollywood, Warner Bros. Studios decided to delay Wonder Woman 1984; switching the date once again to October 2020 and then again for a December 25th 2020 release. With various movie studios delaying their movies and closing of several movie theater chains, Warner Bros. decided to release Wonder Woman 1984 (in a unprecedent move) decided to release the movie theatrically (i.e., in theaters), but also on the streaming service of HBO Max. While I have a nearby theater that’s still open (and a few movies I’ve seeing there over the past couple of months), I decided to watch Wonder Woman 1984 in the comforts of my home (on Christmas Day) on HBO Max. And what did I think of it? Well, it was okay. While the movie pays homage to the 80s and superhero tales from the past, Wonder Woman 1984 struggles to find its place in today’s superhero landscape. It has charm and heart, but its overwrought and a bit silly / campy at times.
Returning to the director’s chair for Wonder Woman 1984is filmmaker Patty Jenkins, whose previous works includes directing the first Wonder Woman (of course), but also directed Monster and Exposed. Giving her familiarity by doing the first film (and reaping its success because of it), Jenkins seems like the most suitable choice for directing this Wonder Woman sequel and justly so does an effective job; thrusting viewers into the world of Diana Prince once again with a whole new adventure. Perhaps the very best that Jenkins does is in the film’s first ten minutes; opening the feature with a flashback scene of a younger Diana on Themyscira, which certainly gets us (the viewers) re-familiar with that Wonder Woman feeling as well as the next scene that seems emulate the old 80s superhero movies of yesteryear, including the Christopher Reeves Superman era features. Both these regards, Jenkins capture these scenes beautifully and gives WW84 great introduction piece to “grab” viewers. Jenkins also continues to manage to make the character of Wonder Woman a very strong and powerful female superhero character lead (a combination of her direction as well as Gadot’s performance), but also one that sympathetic and as plenty of emotional struggles in love and compassion; something that I liked in the first film and that is carried over into this sequel. In that regard, Jenkins succeeds.
What also WW84 succeeds in is in its strong messages and themes that feature displays throughout the story. The movie crafts and reinforces plenty of fundamental ideas of love, compassion, and loneliness (and dealing with it) as well as projecting several commonplace messages such as be careful what you wish for, being happy with what you have, and the truth reflection of your soul. All of these are quite palpable and are well-used in the movie, despite the missteps that the narrative does in befuddling its story. There is one particular scene that captures the strife and love / loss that the character of Diana faces and is perhaps one of the most emotional scenes in the entire movie and it is handled beautifully. Altogether, while there are problems with the film (ones that I’ll mentioned below), Jenkins still makes WW84 a fun and enjoyable superhero movie that carries plenty of familiar nostalgia, uplifting themes, and important empowerment in the blockbuster genre.
In terms of presentation, WW84 certainly fits right in-line with the rest of the DCEU blockbuster nuances; projecting a large-scale adventure that features a lot of expansive and overall “bigness” throughout the feature. Of course, the film’s biggest “visual” aspect would definitely have to be the usage of the film’s time setting; utilizing 1980s era for the feature’s background / backdrop. From the clothing attire, hair styles, art work and other cultural references, WW84 seems to focus on these aspects for the film’s background, which are mostly capitalized in the film’s first half. Thus, the movie’s “behind the scenes” team, including entire art direction team as well as Aline Bonetto (production design), Anna Lynch-Robinson (set decorations), and Lindy Hemming (costume designs). Much like before, the film’s cinematography is greatly utilized in the movie to enhance some of the more dramatic / cinematic moments, which are all again provided by Matthew Jensen, who worked on the first Wonder Woman movie. All of the other aspects are pretty much spot on, so, even though the film has problems throughout, the production / presentation for WW84 is what I would expect from a superhero movie. Lastly, the movie’s score, which was composed by Hans Zimmer, is quite beautifully; projecting an arousing heroic themes throughout the movie that help compliment the film’s various sequences….be it action or character dialogue moments. Again, some of the themes feel reminiscent to the uplifting 80s superhero music of old (kind of noble and heroic).
Despite its promise for a fun sequel entertainment, WW84 isn’t quite the solid gold next chapter that rises above its predecessor, with a few points of criticisms that do certainly hold the feature back from reaching its full potential. How so? Well, the most prevalent problem that the movie has is how super long and drawn out the film is. With a whopping two hours and thirty-one minutes (i.e., 151 minutes), WW84 is quite long and, while the first Wonder Woman was roughly ten minutes shorter, it still offered more and never felt as elongated as this particular film does. Why? Well, for most part, WW84’s story is quite simplistic and, while there are multiple narrative threads to follow in its various main players, the movie could’ve been immensely reduced down to a two-hour runtime without sacrificing character or storytelling beats. One perfect example is in the film’s flashback opening sequence, which I really love and captures the spirit of the first films so-called “magic” (as mentioned above), but it ultimately proves to be unnecessary in WW84’s grand scheme of things. And there is a lot of that throughout WW84; creating a very bloated film that could’ve easily shaved off 30 minutes of its runtime for a much leaner feature. In addition, because of this, the movie also suffers from pacing issues, especially in the first half of WW84, which is, more or less, filled with talking sequences and character-built plot device moments (i.e., expositional dumps).
Part of this perplexity comes from Jenkins herself, who knows how to create such a well-balanced and palpable feature with the first Wonder Woman movie, but seems to struggle in managing this sequel’s story. Yes, it’s quite clear to what Jenkins wants from the movie, but her overall execution of it all seems quite superfluous; bloating WW84 in an unbalanced way. A point of this is in the film’s action sequences, which are quite sparse in the movie. Heck, beyond the few moments in the opening 10 minutes of the feature, the film’s action doesn’t kick in until the midway point. Even the film’s climatic ending battle seems a bit lackluster, especially considering “big reveal” fight between Diana and Cheetah is rather weak and is mostly shrouded in the dark nighttime setting. Speaking of which, the film’s visuals are okay-ish. Yes, some parts do work, but there are moments (Cheetah’s visual appearance) seems subpar, especially considering how much production money was put into WW84.
As for the story itself, the WW84’s narrative, while promoting a meaningful message, is quite silly to be honest and probably the biggest disappointment I personally have with the film. The whole Dreamstone thing and the “be careful what you wish for” nuances seem to fall flat and almost come across as a bit cartoony, which don’t really jive well with today’s superhero movie. Thus, it all comes across as a tad goofy and doesn’t really add much “awesome” feeling to the feature’s content; letting the corny nature of wishing giving to be less stellar than intended. Even the film’s climatic ending never amounts to anything to be “wowed” over (narrative-wise). In this regard, the film’s script, which was penned by Jenkins as well as Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham, need to be overhauled. Again, I get what they were trying to do with the story of WW84 and how it reflects upon both today’s world as well as wanting to bring that 80s superhero nostalgia with it, but it only partially works and never quite gels correctly, especially considering how silly the premise is (and how it all plays out. To be sure, the final product of WW84 wasn’t exactly the movie I was expecting and I think many will agree with that.
As a minor criticism point, the ending of WW84 has several plot holes that are not fully addressed. While the ending itself is still quite satisfying and uplifting (in the reasons that I mentioned above), there are two or three WTF moments that movie never fully addresses by the time begins to rolls its credits; leaving a few dangling narrative threads uncomplete or not said, which is definitely a bit of headscratcher and / or perplexing. Are they going to be addressed in the next film? Who knows?
The cast in WW84 is pretty good several prominent / recognizable faces populating the major players in the movie with some returning from the first film. However, as I mentioned above, the feature’s script handling shortchanges some of these particular characters and makes less-than stellar, even for a superhero movie. Although, the acting talent certainly helps elevate them. Leading the charge in the movie (and justly so) is actress Gal Gadot, who returns to reprise her role of Diana Prince / Wonder Woman. Known for her roles from Fast & Furious, Ralph Breaks the Internet, and Death on the Nile, Gadot has definitely proven herself to be Wonder Woman; a combination mixture of a fierce superhero nuances, striking beauty, and humanity softness. Without a doubt, she made the first film incredible and definitely the best fit for the titular character. WW84 continues that particular trend, with Gadot showcasing the badass superhero that she is with Wonder Woman as well as showcasing the loneliness and sympathetic tenderness that she portrays within Diana Prince. For better or worse, Gadot carries WW84 on her shoulder and she does a great job in doing so. The flip side, however, is there is not much growth to her character. While the first movie allowed Diana to experience a journey of self-discovery and the world around her (i.e., experiencing love and other new things), WW84 doesn’t give much for the character to grow beyond a few parts here and there, which makes Diana Prince a rather static character (even keel plateau from start to finish). Yes, she learns a lesson in the movie, especially one of love and loss, but its not enough as the script could’ve gone a bit deeper. Still, regardless of that, Gadot is still one of the best things about the Wonder Woman movies and I certainly hope that she will continue to play the lead superhero movie in the future installments to come.
Behind Gadot, actor Chris Pine returns in WW84 for his character of Steve Trevor. Known for his roles in the new Star Trek trilogy as well as Outlaw King, This Means War, and Hell or High Water, Pine was good as the supporting lead man in the first Wonder Woman movie; making Steve have plenty of heroic daring-dos, but also having a chemistry with Gadot with his screen presence. In WW84, however, he’s okay. That’s not so much on Pine fault as Pine certainly lays on the charm with his acting talent and his screen presence definitely works. So….what’s wrong? Well, there’s not much to his character in the movie. He really doesn’t have of a character journey and Steve Trevor is very much just along for the ride in the film’s narrative. There are a few comedy gags that his character has in experiencing the 80s culture and definitely plays an instrumental role of Diana’s emotion bits, but that’s pretty much it. Thus, while Pine is still solid in the part of Steve Trevor, his character doesn’t really bring anything to WW84 rather being a plot device aspect. As a side-note, actor Kristoffer Polaha (Life Unexpected and Jurassic World: Dominion) plays the man who Steve Trevor inhabitants in the movie and is credited as “Handsome man”.
The villain category in WW84 is another mixed bag of sorts; one that is played by fine talents, but the character constructs and the overall tone of the movie fails to deliver in a memorable way. First off, there is the character of Maxwell Lord, a charismatic business man who is in desperate need of “change” in his failed life predicament, who is played by actor Pedro Pascal. Known for his roles in Game of Thrones, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and The Mandalorian, Pascal has certainly become a more recognizable name over the past several years, especially in these particular character roles such “Obyern Martell” and “Mando / The Mandalorian”. This is probably why he was awarded the role of the antagonist in WW84; providing a very charming persona and brining his distinct sounding voice to the character of Maxwell Lord. Unfortunately, in terms of villainy, the character comes up short. Yes, he’s considered the antagonist in the movie, but he ultimately seems more like a weak baddie in superhero villain architypes. Granted, the movie gives Maxwell a very human notions and a sympathy few machinations behind his ultimate plans, but it somewhat falls under the overall silly tropes that I mentioned above. Plus, even though I like him as an actor, Pascal hams it up, especially during the second half of the feature. Thus, in the end, Pascal’s portrayal of Maxwell Lord is decent, but its not the best villain I’ve seeing and I personally would’ve liked to see something different. As a side-note, young actor Lucian Perez (The Bonfire of Destiny and Klaus) plays Maxwell’s son, Alistair, who actually does a good job in the role.
The other antagonist in the movie is the character of Barbara Minerva (Cheetah), a low self-esteemed and underappreciated geologist / gemologist, who is played by actress Kristen Wiig. Known for her roles in Bridesmaids, Saturday Night Live, and Despicable Me 2, Wiig has proven herself to be a good actress and become a memorable character within several films. Thus, her involvement in WW84 is pretty good and I liked her as Barbara Minerva and Wiig certainly handled herself well. Unfortunately, like majority of the movie, the character journey for Barbara is one of cliches, especially the whole “zero to villain” antagonist machination transformation. Yes, it works within the context of the movie, but it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table; treading a lot of familiar ground from other superhero villain transformations, including Max Dillion / Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3. Speaking of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Barbara turning into Cheetah for the climatic fight is rather short and its almost like when Harry Osborne transformed into the Green Goblin fight in TASM2 ending. In short, Wiig is good as Barbara, but (like Pascal’s Maxwell) never truly shines as a superhero bad guy.
Additionally, reprising their Wonder Woman roles from the first film are actresses Connie Nielsen (Gladiator and Basic) and Robin Wright (House of Cards and Forrest Gump) as Hippolyta, Queen of Themyscira and Diana’s mother, and Antiope, Hippolyta’s sister / Diana’s aunt and general of the Amazon army. I loved both Nielsen and Wright in the first movie, so it was good to see them in those characters once again. Unfortunately, their involvement in the film is only in the opening flashback scene and that’s it. Though….I kind of expected that.
The rest of the cast, including actor Amr Waked (Syriana and Lucy) as oil tycoon Emir Said Bin Abydos, actress Natasha Rothwell (Love, Simon and Insecure) as Barbara / Diana’s boss named Carol, actor Ravi Patel (Long Shot and Wrecked) as spiritual man Babajide, actress Gabriella Wilde (The Three Musketeers and Endless Love) as Maxwell’s assistant Raquel, actor Oliver Cotton (Shanghai Knights and Beowulf) as Maxwell’s rival Simon Stagg, and actor Stuart Milligan (Hunter Killer and The Assets) as the President of the United States, are delegated to minor supporting players in the movie and, while their screen is somewhat limited, most of these individual acting talents get the job done in their respective roles. Plus, there is a special cameo to be made in the movie and, while I won’t spoil what it is, it’s a fun and amusing “zinger” that I was kind of expecting to be feature in WW84 of which I liked.
A new age of “wonder” begins as Diana Prince continues her never-ending struggle of saving the world and learning matters of the heart in the movie Wonder Woman 1984. Director Patty Jenkins’s latest film sees the return of the DC Comic superhero; propelling Wonder Woman into a new age of combatting enemies and finding out more about herself within a cinematic tale. While the story is lighthearted, fun, and has plenty to reflect upon as well as seeing Gadot return to the character role of Diana Prince, the movie struggles to find a proper rhythm; becoming problematic due to its pacing issues, sparse action sequences, conventional characters, and somewhat goofy plot premise. Personally, I thought that this movie was somewhere between okay and good. I enjoyed it and it plenty of that 80s superhero nostalgia, but it elongated runtime and silly premise kind of hampered my expectations, which were pretty high and also contributed to my slightly disappointment in the film. To me, I still prefer the 2017 Wonder Woman movie compared this one. Because of this (as well as the various mixed thoughts from many), my recommendation for the film would be hard “iffy choice” as some viewers will like it, while others won’t. While it already has been confirmed that Warner Bros. has greenlit Wonder Woman 3 with both Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot returning to their respective roles, it remains unclear what the next entry will be about and how the “spilt decision” amongst critics and moviegoers will about this particular sequel will influence the future Wonder Woman movies. Regardless, Wonder Woman 1984 is a fun movie, but never truly shines and never really feels as epic as promised. Similar to Maxwell Lord’s saying in the movie…. Wonder Woman 1984 is okay, but it can be better!
3.4 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice)
Released On: December 25th, 2020
Reviewed On: December 29th, 2020
Wonder Woman 1984 is 131 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence