After shifting around the calendar all year due to the ever continuing coronavirus pandemic, Warner Bros. ultimately decided to give Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 a simultaneous release strategy. An ambitious, if yet to be determined successful, move. The studio confirmed most overseas markets would be among the first audiences in the world to see the highly anticipated 80’s flick ahead of its U.S. theatre and HBO Max release on December 25. This bold move will have an unprecedented impact on the cinematic landscape and the way in which we consume film. The potential for this film was near limitless. So was it as wonderful with all the hype surrounding the flick?
The film opens strong enough, with the prologue set on Themyscira, with young Diana (Lilly Aspell), who is competing alongside adult Amazons in an intense and spectacular gladiator challenge. Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and Antiope (Robin Wright) both return with small but effective cameos for this scene, to (while a tad too heavy-handed) teach young Diana the lesson that greatness cannot be born from lies. A moral Diana will grapple with later.
Fast forward to 1984, almost 70 years on from the events of 2017’s Wonder Woman, Diana (Gal Gadot) is working in cultural anthropology and archaeology at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., and is heartbreakingly lonely and uncharacteristically mopey. Her life littered with memories of her past – she’s mostly thinking about her long lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who sacrificed himself and died at the end of the first film.
When a newly discovered historical artifact (one would be hard pressed to find a more ridiculous and obvious McGuffin) is brought into the museum, Diana befriends an cringingly awkward archaeologist, Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristin Wiig), the artifact is in fact the Dream Stone, which has been infused by the Old Gods with the power to grant any wish that is made in its presence, because of course. So the two new friends individually make a wish, because again, of course.
Soon after, their wishes are magically granted. Barbara’s desire to become… pretty and confident just like Diana… that will eventually morph into the villainous Cheetah. Because she wasn’t cringingly two dimensional already with her inability to walk in heels until her dream is granted. Diana’s wish is even more disappointing… to bring back Steve. Which results in just that: Steve comes back to life in the body of another man.
Meanwhile, failing businessman Maxwell Lord/Gordon Geeko/Donald Trump (Pedro Pascal) is determined to get his hands on the object. Why? How is a low level Wall Street thug the only one who knows of this magical stone? Anyway, he takes the said stone and as all 80’s money driven oversized suit wearing men do let’s greed spiral out of control and thusly causes a disastrous ripple effect, plummeting the world into chaos and (all of a sudden, literally in less than a scene) hurtling toward total doom.
Wonder Woman 1984 strengths lay in its emotion. And the weight of the characters choices, namely the three leads. The emotional scenes between Diana and Steve are breathtaking. Weighted and dramatic, just enough to alleviate the rest of the films shortcomings. The moments between Gadot and Pine are heartbreaking. Its neon-bright ‘80s visuals and Hans Zimmer’s retro soundtrack are an awesome fun addition. Pedro Pascal plays Maxwell Lord with intensity, embodying the entrepreneur’s unravelling stability with a chaotic energy but his scenes don’t exactly land for Pascal, however this is a script issue. Which brings one to Cheetah. Kristin Wiig’s gradual transformation and downward spiral into becoming Cheetah is filled with cheese and not enough empathy or even camp fun to make it enjoyable. Wiig, a talented actress who tries her best with what she was given, manages to give audiences a solid performance. Perfectly cast for an imperfect role.
But Gal Gadot, the film’s beacon of hope, is what makes it really special. The difference between Gal and Diana seems intangible. She’s born to be Wonder Woman. The problem here is that we don’t get enough of just that, WONDER WOMAN being WONDER WOMAN.
Despite the fact that Diana could lasso lightening without breaking a sweat, Wonder Woman 1984 and Gadot give us a very human hero. She’s vulnerable, lost and at times self-interested, showing an exposed side you rarely see in superhero films; and throughout it all her belief that humanity is good and her need to help others prevails. It’s heart-warming, uplifting and more than anything, filled with a comforting sense of hope… much needed in these strange times.
Even though the film is missing action… gravely lacking action to be frank. The small few sequences we get are beautifully shot and styled. The showdown between Diana and Cheetah towards the end is brief, but outstanding and and a letdown. And while Gal literally soars in her stunning golden eagle armour suit it’s simply not enough, marketing has hoodwinked us all perhaps. The CGI and make-up effects used for Cheetah is dark, and at times frightening. But again, felt underused and missed.
As much as Wonder Woman 1984 has some incredible moments, the film is not perfect and disappointing. Patty and Gal have taken some bold steps here…but a lot of these choices don’t pay off. The plot and most of the writing is very lackluster and dare we say it, not wonderful.
(The lasso of truth also at times makes no sense at all with the way it works and is overdone) In the attempt to soften the character and given different nuance, we are sadly left extremely unsatisfying. WW84 seems like a step back compared to the first film. Just because the film has some weak parts, doesn’t mean it’s BAD, there are enjoyable moments and it’s pleasurable viewing.
Overall, no matter if you’re seeing this in theatres or the comfort of your own couch, seeing Wonder Woman back in “action”, with tears and mascara marks running is enjoyable. Is it as wonderful as the first? No. Is it perfect? No. Is it a cheesy 80’s film to be enjoyed? Absolutely.
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