Carried on the strength of its cast, Wonder Woman 1984 knows how to deliver on heartfelt moments. Unfortunately, it does not reach the inspiring heights of its predecessor, and an uneven script and a less-than-stellar story prevent it from being great.
Directed by Patty Jenkins, and featuring the return of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, the highly anticipated sequel finally comes to audiences on Christmas Day, after multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Set in a period unbeholden by any other DC superhero, WW84 felt very much disconnected from the wider universe, a decision that worked for this story. With a far less violent setting than its World War predecessor and a family-friendly tone, Wonder Woman 1984 created an environment reminiscent of the era the film resides in.
2017’s Wonder Woman had a Richard Donner feel. Between the multiple callbacks to Superman: The Movie, like Diana putting on her best Clark Kent impression in the second act, and a tone that balanced drama with hope, the first film quickly became a fan-favorite and one of the better comic book films of the modern era. For Wonder Woman 1984, the tone of Superman: The Movie was exchanged for that of Superman II and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman series from the 1970s. While Jenkins’ clear love for Donner was still at full display, this film felt like a love letter to Carter’s Wonder Woman most of all. From the brighter color palette to the inspirational messages and family-friendly tone, Wonder Woman 1984 felt like a literal blast from the past, which worked in some moments, and fell flat in others.
Wonder Woman 1984 reached its highest highs through its cast. Gal Gadot continues to shine as Diana Prince. In many ways, she has never truly played the same version of Wonder Woman twice, a testament to how well she can fill the character’s traits. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Wonder Woman is a warrior, rivaling Superman in strength and Batman in intellect. She is also worn down and in a darker stage of her arc. In 2017’s Wonder Woman, she is battle-trained, yet naive to the wider world. Unfortunatly, this film does not establish her motivations, greatest triumphs, and needed sacrifices as well. In WW84, we Diana is heroic but also not as interesting as before. While not as action-packed as her previous entries, her interactions with children in particular scene being high-point of this trait. Despite not carrying her iconic sword and shield, and being powered-down for the majority of the film, Diana is still engaging as a character.
Joining Gadot is co-star Chris Pine. Pine reprises his role as Steve Trevor, a character who sacrificed himself to save the world in the previous film. Without going into spoilers, the handling of Trevor in the sequel was a mixed bag. While it was nice to see the role reversal of Trevor now being the fish out of water that Diana once was, some of the humor did not land like it did in the first film. The humor of Wonder Woman 1984 did not stick at all. Many moments felt too on the nose, almost as a way to constantly remind viewers that we are in the 80s right now and the script was borderline hilarious in the worst ways.
Every comic book movie is as great as its villains and Wonder Woman 1984 brings two to the table. The first is Maxwell Lord, played by Pedro Pascal. Pascal’s Maxwell Lord is a chaotic, almost caricature-like villain at times, and it doesn’t work a lot. Pascal has been on a roll between his stoic performance leading The Mandalorian, and it is nice to see him flex different muscles during Wonder Woman 1984. The tone of Wonder Woman 1984 inspires the villains and heroes that are spun off it. Lord comes off as half-Lex Luthor, half Donald Trump at times but with the tone, the film set to create.
Wiig’s performance as Cheetah was strong and she played well off of Gadot’s Diana. The two had natural chemistry on screen and it translated well to the character. This was one of those cases where Minerva was a more compelling character before she made the full supervillain transformation. While this was done clearly to create a fight scene between the hero and villain, some of the villain motivations felt very flat towards the end. The highlight moment between both Wiig and Gadot came during a crucial moment at the White House, serving as an introspective moment for the title character.
In a year of the pandemic challenging the world in new ways, Wonder Woman 1984 will be refreshing but a far fall from what the original film was. Overall, Wonder Woman 1984 will be fun for fans of the character and cast. But with a tone that takes all the cliche’s of the 80’s setting and bloviates it for two hours, the movie left more to be desired. Wonder Woman 1984 is not 2017’s Wonder Woman, and while it was not trying to be, it did not inspire in the same light either.
Note: If you are in a cinema-safe area and socially distanced, consider seeing this film on the big screen as the cast and crew intended. If not, the film is available via streaming on HBO Max