Produced by: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, Stephen Jones
Directed by: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen,
Runtime: 151 minutes
When Wonder Woman got her first taste of the silver screen treatment in 2017, the movie became a runaway success that lifted Warner Bros. & DC out of the slump that the studio had put itself in with its dark, gritty, and critically maligned film universe building exercise in the guise of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. It showed the studios that the audience was happy with self-contained stories that gave the characters flexibility to shine. This formula proved to be the correct choice as the studio witnessed further success with films like Aqua-Man, The Joker, Shazam, and to a certain extent Birds of Prey. Prior to the pandemic, Warner Bros. and DC hoped to build upon this momentum by releasing the film in cinemas in August but had to adopt a distribution strategy that caters to moviegoers and an audience that prefers consuming their entertainment through streaming platforms. No one knows if this approach will set a trail for others to follow, but what I am here to figure out, is whether Patty Jenkins return to the director’s chair ( she is also a writer on this project) for this sequel builds on the greatness of her previous work.
Wonder Woman 1984 (stylized as WW84) follows Amazonian Warrior Princess Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) who after the events of the first film, is now living alone in Washington D.C. in the 1980s. She now bides her time working as a senior anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, specializing in the culture of ancient Mediterranean civilization; Diana also continues to fight crime as Wonder Woman whilst maintaining anonymity. She meets Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) an awkward and clumsy geologist and forms a bond over a shipment of a gemstone that has the ability to grant its users their deepest desires. Both Women get their wish at a cost they are both unaware of, but things go awry when Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a charismatic businessman and oil magnate gets his hand on the artifact. His wish comes with consequences that catapult the world into chaos.
Diana through her wish is reunited with her long-lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who was believed to have died during their battle against Ares back in World War I. Their reunion is short as both parties set out to stop Maxwell and Barbara who has her own reasons for keeping the stone active. This particular battle will prove to be a very difficult one for Diana as it will force her to muster all of her strength and use all of her tools to stop the impending doom that the wish stone will bring to humanity.
- The film’s visuals, cinematography, and soundtrack are good for the most part. A visual highlight for me is the opening sequence in Diana’s home island of Themyscira. A neat touch that is prevalent through most of the movie is the grainy screen that captures the 80s era of films perfectly. At times the film emulates the feel of the Christopher Reeves films that premiered during the late 70s and early 80s. The film really commits to the era it is set in and shows the fashion, the cheesiness, and the music that is really associated with the 80s. Legendary film score composer Hans Zimmer lends the film his talents to create a soundtrack that is an ear-pleasing soundtrack.
- Gal Gadot takes the reins as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman for the fourth time in her career and is just as comfortable in the role as when she made it her own back in 2016 with Batman vs Super Man: Dawn of Justice. We don’t get the best from Gadot, though this is no fault of her own but rather the script which does not delve into the character’s psyche enough. Despite this shortcoming, she is once again is able to embody the Amazonian with authority and commands screen presence. Chris Pine returns as her former lover Steve Trevor and has fun with the time he gets and his chemistry Gadot is still great. Their romance provides the film with its warmest moments with the time but the film pushes that aside for some comedic fish -out -of water moments and the action scenes of the second act.
- Pedro Pascal performance as the film’s villain Maxwell Lord is probably the most entertaining performance of the lot. Taking pages from Gordon Gekko and Lex Luthor, Pascal has fun portraying the sleazy business man and fully commits to his descent to madness. The movie tries it best to give the character some layers that elevate him to a multifaceted character but the way the execution of his arc falls short, Pascal’s performance however ensures the character leaves an impression in a somewhat crowded affair.
- The film has severe pacing issues compared to its predecessor. This is made worse by the fact that the story fails to develop the villains it dedicated a significant amount of screen time to. In the case of Kristen Wiig’s character Barbara, she essentially swings from character trope A (the nerdy and bumbling loser nobody likes) to character trope B (the sexy, fierce and powerful woman). The movie tries a little more with Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord, but it doesn’t really succeed as the way in which his own story and motivation is shown is rather choppy and disjointed.
- The film also fails to capitalize on its down time to further delve into Diana’s central conflict, of the sacrifices she made and how she has failed to connect with another person due to her grief following the loss of Steve Trevor. By time Trevor comes into the picture the story prioritizes playing a reverse fish-out-of water scenario where Diana is teaching a man from the 1910s about the wonders of the 1980s. While its charming to a degree it mostly played for laughs and once the stakes increase around the 80-minute mark the film relegates this arc to the side so its conclusion doesn’t earn the impact that Patty Jenkins hopes to achieve.
- Kristen Wiig does the best she can with the script that she is given but her character doesn’t add much to proceedings and only serves to provide the narrative with a physical antagonist to push Wonder Woman to her physical limits (something Pascal’s Maxwell Lord is clearly incapable of doing). Even then, the battle scene that is pinned as the film’s pièce de résistance is simply terrible. The night setting hides the poor CGI effects and the choreography is incomprehensible.
- Building on the previous point, anyone expecting this movie to come with a portfolio of action sequences should leave their expectations at the door. The film is severely lacking in this regard other than the opening set-piece in Themyscira and the robbery sequence in the opening minutes the movie makes the audience wait for a significant amount of time before the action picks up again. While the scenes do their part in showing Diana’s prowess and skills with her lasso of truth, the choreography just doesn’t match or surpass noteworthy scenes from the original film like her march through no man’s land or the village siege in Belgium.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a bloated and ultimately disappointing follow up. Poor pacing, writing, and lack of memorable action sequences hide the charm, heart ad goodwill this movie has and holds it back from reaching the stratosphere of its predecessor.