I had bought tickets to see this film in the theater with my siblings, but with the increasing coronavirus cases, I decided it would be best to refund my tickets and watch the film on my TV on HBO Max instead. And despite my passionate love of the theatrical experience, I don’t regret my decision.
Patty Jenkins returns to direct Wonder Woman 1984, a superhero movie that serves as a sequel to the 2017 film Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot reprises her role as Diana Prince, an Amazonian superhero living in 1984. The plot revolves around a Dreamstone, which can grant any wish. When the Dreamstone falls into the wrong hands, Diana must save the world.
Jenkins did masterful work with the first Wonder Woman film, which was easily my favorite film in the DC Extended Universe, and one of my favorite superhero films. However, somewhere down the line, this sequel lost its way and became a disappointing follow-up.
Superhero films have dominated the movie industry in recent years, and it’s easy to become tired of the same formula recycled in nearly every movie. We’ve reached the point where we no longer expect originality or freshness from superhero cinema, but instead, judge these films by the execution of their familiar ideas.
Unfortunately, Wonder Woman 1984 brings very little new to the table. At a meaty 2-hour-and-30-minute runtime, the film feels much longer than necessary, dragging at points and barely keeping us entertained with an uncompelling mystery.
After a quick action scene in a mall with a robber who kidnaps a girl (how original), the film takes its sweet time to get to its first major action setpiece related to the plot. The action is generally where the film excels, as Jenkins once again showcases her ability to stage a thrilling sequence of punches and stunts.
The issue is that every cool moment of every action scene is given away in the trailers. Hidden from the film's marketing is the details of the film’s premise, which revolves around making wishes, a cartoonish concept that feels cheap and stale for a superhero flick.
Good ideas exist within this premise, with Diane soon realizing that she will lose a lot if she fights the bad guy. Characters are pushed in different directions and have to make tough decisions regarding what they want to keep in their lives and what they have to let go of.
While there are great ideas with this storyline, the film can still feel like it’s juggling too much, with Kristen Wiig’s character and the return of Steve Trevor, which leads me to the topic of the film’s characters.
Gal Gadot is likable as usual in her role as Wonder Woman. She brings a fair amount of flavor to her scenes as the character. Chris Pine reprises his role as Steve Trevor. While I like the idea of him being a fish out of water in the future he never saw, there are missed opportunities for comedy, and it eventually feels like the writers ran out of things for him to do in the story.
Kristen Wiig portrays Barbara Minerva, a shy, insecure woman whom Diana befriends early on. While Wiig’s comedic sensibilities are always a welcome presence, she portrays this character as a complete cliché.
How many times have we seen the intelligent nerd with glasses turn to evil? Edward Nygma in Batman Forever? Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3? Max Dillon in The Amazing Spider-Man 2? When will this never-ending archetype end? It’s a villain backstory that has been done to death.
The film features another villain, Maxwell Lord, portrayed by Pedro Pascal, who recently starred in The Mandalorian. Lord is a charismatic businessman who wants to make his son proud of him. I enjoy this aspect of the character; his sympathetic, parent side.
However, Pascal portrays the character with a hammy, over-the-top performance á la Nicolas Cage, and the combination of a larger-than-life, mustache-twirling villain mixed with a serious backstory doesn’t work. And when the film gives us a greater look into Lord’s tragic childhood, it is an unfortunate case of “too little, too late.”
The film’s storyline is absurd, to say the least, with many having their wishes granted. Still, we never get a clear idea of the destruction of these events besides the occasional Washington D.C. street filled with people running. There isn’t enough to make us care about the events.
It’s unfortunate how derivative this film feels; we have flying sequences that feel right out of Richard Donner’s Superman. While the film nails its intended ’80s nostalgia-fueled retro vibe, the messy narrative leads to an underwhelming sequel.
Besides a few exciting action sequences (with one that reminded me of Raiders of the Lost Ark), the film can lack excitement and be very infused with romance that ultimately goes nowhere. These issues may be traced back to the fact that Allan Heinberg didn’t return to pen the script after the wonderful work he did on the first film.
This is a superhero movie that many will be able to watch and enjoy. However, fans of the genre may recognize the recycled ingredients and the cornball dialogue ripped right out of a VOD ’80s action movie. There are many competent people on this project, but when you have a film with six different release dates, it’s a wonder why nobody gave this script another rewrite.
Grade: ★★✬☆☆ [5/10, C]
Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence