In 2020, this year has put a strain on the entertainment industry as found new avenues to provide new content that they have created and produced. Big studio blockbusters have found a new home in the upcoming year, but Warner Bros has changed their strategy by releasing their new films on HBO Max at the same time as the theatrical release. The first movie of this strategy is the superhero sequel, Wonder Woman 1984.
While it was great to see Gal Gadot return as the Amazonian warrior princess and iconic superhero, watching her in action in some spectacular parts that are great to witness, Wonder Woman 1984 is not without its shortcomings and problems.
Set in 1984 during the Cold War, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is living quietly in Washington, D.C., working during the day by curating ancient artifacts. Diana must jump into action with all of her strength, wisdom, and courage as she squares off against Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and the superhuman villainess, Cheetah (Kristen Wiig) while also reunites with her past love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
First off, I will say that the film is not entirely bad. I like director Patty Jenkins’ take on the 1980s. After a brief, albeit unneeded, flashback to a young Diana on the island of Themyscira, we flash forward to Washington D.C., 1984. Sleek, filled with vibrant colors, artwork, and television commercials pushing the message of wanting more, life seems pretty good. From there and one other gag about 80’s fashion, the setting is mainly just background. There is that level of 80s camp and cheesiness that isn’t really needed at times. This film could have been set in the modern day and could have chugged along just fine.
It doesn’t take long for audiences to catch up with Diana Prince as we see her in performing heroic acts as Wonder Woman. By day, she’s living a quiet but lonely life, keeping to herself. Getting that established was a good start for the film. Gal Gadot certainly maintains that connection with her audience as the titular superhero. She’s still the same woman we met in the first film, filled with hope and believing in the best of people. Diana is still a wonderful person and hero, but her arc is non-existent, keeping her by the numbers as far as being a hero.
The best character of Wonder Woman 1984 is Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord. From the moment you meet him outside of the commercials, Max Lord is the most grounded and human character you meet. Despite being one of the villains in a bonkers story about your personal desires and wishes, his character never seemed to stray from his path in terms of motivation: power and his son (that son thing hits us all in the Mandalorian feels, right?). The interconnection between those two desires explains every decision made by Max as he never strayed from that path. Like so many others in the 1980s, he wants to be a man of power, no matter the cost. While not Pedro’s best work lately, he played his part excellently.
Kristen Wiig. Kristen Wiig. I really wanted to like her role in this movie. As an actress that has moved her way up the ladder in entertainment; from a long run on SNL to cult classics like Bridesmaids, Kristen has done her best to rise up the ranks to a wanted actress. Sadly, this movie doesn’t help as it exposes Wiig’s inability to show dimensionality in her characters. In the beginning, Barbara Minerva is Kristen Wiig: adorable, dorky, loveable, not bad looking and an honest-to-goodness amazing person. She’s the type of character you wouldn’t mind being friends with. Then came the downfall. It took Barbara’s interaction with the MacGuffin of the film to truly realize what she had. Having a ‘She’s All That’ transformation in losing the glasses and changing her look, it felt forced that we, as an audience, had to see that as a complete change for her character’s personality along the way. The fact that she had to transform into a Cheetah to realize her own worth felt forced as well. The worn out trope of nerd to mean girl went out of style a few years back. If you had a character with confidence issues and can be reassured about what they already have as a person, that would be more believable, especially in today’s society. Cheetah is such an amazing villainess to Wonder Woman and I felt like she was done a disservice here with missed opportunities.
Chris Pine reprising his role as Steve Trevor was okay for me. I enjoyed the chemistry between Pine and Gadot a lot in the first film and that chemistry is what helped carry this sequel, providing some of the best character moments in the two and a half hour runtime. Whenever we were with them, the movie was allowed to breathe and we could take in that moment outside of the action before returning to it. The Steve-Diana moments were my favorite of the movie. In my opinion, Trevor’s return could have been done better (WW84 missed on a possible game-changing, multiverse moment) and he could have had a bigger role rather than just being there. He’s a man that understands how strong Diana is and doesn’t hinder her at all and can handle himself as well, but he didn’t provide much else to the film. While I’ll miss the chemistry, if Steve doesn’t return in the third movie, I’ll be okay.
The runtime of two and a half hours was too long. I struggle with what could have been taken out of the film to reduce the time and tighten the story, but if I had to choose, the Themyscria scene could have been reduced into a flashback to help Diana in her struggles and some of the ending battle could have been trimmed. The writing of the plot didn’t help pacing of the movie and similar to other struggling superhero sequels like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this movie had some great scenes and moments but they bookended some slow parts that didn’t work for me as a fan and movie watcher.
Overall, Wonder Woman 1984 does struggle with sequel overload and taking the character in a new direction with different thematic avenues, it does offer enough vibrant and colorful escapism that we desperately needed this year that will satisfy fans of the first movie and its classic central character that shines when she needs to.
What are your thoughts on Wonder Woman 1984? Where do you fall on your feelings for this superhero sequel?
Did you try to go to theaters to see this visual spectacle or did you stay home and watch it on HBO Max like I did?
Leave a comment and don’t forget to give my Facebook page some love! Until next time, readers! Stay safe and enjoy a movie!