Review: 'Wonder Woman 1984' (2020) Dir. Patty Jenkins
The much anticipated sequel to 2017s 'Wonder Woman' was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but battled through delays to land a theatrical and PVOD streaming release into 2021...
America, 1984. Diana Prince (Gadot) continues to act as a protector in Washington D.C in a time that sees the rise of tycoon Max Lord (Pascal) and the Cold War brewing behind the scenes.
When a mystical Dreamstone is discovered and brought to Diana for investigation, Lord knows of its power, and sets out to steal the stone and use it become the most powerful man in the world.
As Diana investigates Lord's crimes, a new threat emerges in the guise of Barbara Minerva (Wiig), who uses the Dreamstone to become as powerful as Diana herself....
After an opening sequence that is one step away from being as lampoonish and comical as 'Superman III', this 1984 set sequel introduces Wonder Woman once more as a fighter and protector of the good, staving off criminals to keep the world safe. Gal Gadot brings her natural beauty and brawn to that of the Amazonian demigoddess, working alongside director Patty Jenkins again for further exploration of the DC lore.
This time we look into a world at the height of the Cold War and explore what the darkest, deepest desires of mankind offer as a threat when fantastical forces unleash them on the world. The returning crew and (some) cast of the benchmark original do their best to balance humour, action and drama in helping shed more grandeur to the DCEU. And it certainly provides escapism from a dark 2020 within the world of superheroes and villains.
While 'Wonder Woman 84' is somewhat louder, prouder and bigger than the 2017 original, it often loses the core of what made Diana's big-screen debut so unique and engrossing.
Maybe it's the lack of original characters now seen in superhero movies - let's be honest they've been ever present since the mainstream 'Superman: The Movie' since 1978 - but 'Wonder Woman 1984' still fails to present anything (or anyone) new in that respect, especially when it comes to Kristen Wiig's Barbara Minerva, aka supervillain Cheetah.
Minerva starts off as a typical put down-upon nerd. Puffy hair, mismatched clothing, glasses, clumsy...she's this generations Selena Kyle from 'Batman Returns', and other strong female villains who start off like this and then transform throughout. Her debut lacks originality and her decent into villainy is by the books, starting off as wishing to be someone great just like her idol Diana Prince. She then slowly working on her looks, style and persona to make it appear being a badass with a volatile attitude, animal print and make-up is better than being a quiet, harmless, peaceful and pleasant introvert.
Still, Wiig as Minerva is more enjoyable to watch than her lacklustre full-blown CGI beasty counterpart.
On the flip side to this is Pedro Pascal, riding high from his success with 'The Mandalorian', as tycoon Max Lord. He is a man with no powers and no abilities; just a burning desire to be the richest, most powerful man on the planet. He's Diana Prince's Lex Luthor and DC's own Donald Trump; slick, sleazy and with fingers in many powerful pies. Pascal pulls of this blend of figures well and is enjoyable to watch during the first act as he rides high, to then add more dangerous desire to his plan during the second. His descent to comic-book level tycoon madness is the crux of this film, when humanity and morality come into play during his hunt for greatness and greed.
It's a shame the two "villains" never gel, and never get the chance to become something memorable together to stand off against Diana.
This time, there is less wonder and just more woman, as Gadot gets more time on screen as alter-ego Diana than she does our Amazonian heroine. It's a shame that she isn't really given much to do except fawn over the returning Chris Pine (a plot point that feels completely unnecessary) and frown at the shady doings of Minerva and Lord as they escalate their own nefarious doings. While Gadot is charming as Diana and Wonder Woman equally, she still doesn't have a huge screen presence amidst the CGI that dominates her and her action sequences.
Pine's return as WW1 pilot Steve Trevor was always up for debate following the events of the original film, and while the MacGuffin here gives room for his return, it never the less is a cheap and pointless exercise to give Diana her sidekick back, and her main storyline of wanting to be loved and love in return. Pine may have the charm and looks of the all-American war hero, but he plays much of his time as the comic relief, fish-out-of-water type, bewildered at the 1980s era around him and always questioning narrative points including art, fashion and weapons. The power both he and Gadot forged in 'Wonder Woman' should have ended there without it being recycled again here, however emotive it turns out to be.
But at least when Wonder Woman does get time to shine, we are treated to everything from seeing a prototype invisible jet, a lasso of truth (that goes above and beyond the laws of its original use), plenty of super speed and strength in glorious slow-motion and, at one point, learns how to fly. Stand out moments of sheer comic-book action come from a Cairo convoy assault and a White House takedown where, like all good heroes, Diana CGI leaps and bounds and punches and pummels everything and everyone to get the job done.
An entertaining aspect is the return of Hans Zimmer providing a stellar, if unsurprising, DC score to add to his roster of might and fantasy. Also, the rousing opening Amazonian sequence evokes all the might and glory of the people that Wonder Woman encapsulates, and you'll be surprised to find you probably want more from this ten minute sequence than most of the over-long two hour plus main film.
This outing is an empty shell compared to the 2017 for Gadot and Jenkins as a creative force. There is a real lack of emotional context, character development or memorable moments for Gadot and her co-stars to get stuck into. And as said MacGuffin turns out to be a mystical stone that grants wishes in the guise of Aladdin's genie gone crazy, it feels a little less 'Wonder Woman' and more 'Indiana Jones' - just with a lot less adventure, excitement or stand out action and characters to bring it all to life.
Kudos to Jenkins for making Lynda Carter the original Amazonian hero, too.
Wonder Woman still shines as a top-tier DCEU hero, but amidst the wealth of CGI, by-the-book characters and a silly story, this sequel falls below expectations.
'Wonder Woman 1984' is a co-production between DC Films, Atlas Entertainment and The Stone Quarry