Back in 2017 Warner and DC changed the genre by introducing the world to Diana Prince / Wonder Woman. This was the first non-white male led superhero film and DC’s first real win in the infant shared universe that was off to a rocky start. Wonder Woman for as good as it is does have some flaws despite being an emotional and powerful superhero film. It was a step in the right direction for DC and the successor films like Aquaman, Shazam, & Birds of Prey kept that forward progress and momentum up.
Warner and DC’s new plan for these last three films have been less about the shared universe and more focused on the story at hand. It’s the characters that are right in front of us that are the most important not what is happening off screen. With the major success of Wonder Woman there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that a sequel would be green lit and on its way. Due to the unpredictable year that is 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 was delayed from its original release date and delayed again about 4 more times to when Warner and AT&T (parent company) made a bold and risky decision to release the film to HBO Max and theaters on the same day.
Finally, that day arrived for one of the most anticipated movies of the year. With a majority of the theaters closed across the country, the audience would have to experience this blockbuster on a 75 inch or less screen – not the ideal Imax or Dolby screen a theater provides plus the experience of viewing the film with a group full of strangers; those days are sorely missed. Diana (Gal Gadot) is living in Washington D.C in the year 1984 while keeping an eye on things and keeping everyone safe. She stops a robbery of rare artifacts at a jewelry store in a mall which one of the artifacts called the dreamstone catches the attention of the FBI.
“Diana, one day, you’ll become all that you dream of and more. Your time will come, Diana. And everything will be different.”
Diana’s colleague Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) looks into the stone where they work at the Smithsonian Institute. Unbeknownst to Barbara and Diana a third person is interested in the stone. TV personality and owner of Black Gold Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) has been searching for this artifact as well and steals it from Barbara’s clutches using the stone for his own selfish gain at a gala event for the Smithsonian. Little does Diana know that once she touched the stone what she “wished” for came true, the same as Barbara and Max.
Wonder Woman 84 is tasked to set up a lot in its 2-and-a-half-hour span. The film’s substance doesn’t get going until at least 22 minutes in. The opening scene transports us to the past where we see young Diana (Lilly Aspell) in a competition with other amazons. This has nothing to do the overall plot of the film. Maybe it’s a way to reintroduce us to Themyscria and tap into the special feeling of seeing this beautiful island but its wasted in an overly long sequence that never should have made the final edit.
It doesn’t make any sense the same way the title and setting of this film don’t make any logical sense. Other than set designers, costumes and hair and make-up having a blast, there is no explanation as to why this film is set in the 80’s let alone 1984. The 80’s backdrop is used as a gimmick with the cheesy humor in the mall scene that doesn’t add any relavant substance to where the story is going. Sure, the costumes, make up and sets are pleasing to look at but its ultimately nostalgia porn.
“The world needs you. You know what you need to do.”
The first Wonder Woman features a more grounded in reality edge to it despite it being a Superhero film. Wonder Woman 84 is campier and lighter in tone and in the realm of a comic book feeling. Each scene can be taken straight from a page of a comic book with its bright colors and large action set pieces. For a film that’s called Wonder Woman, the focus isn’t really on her at all – instead, Diana is featured more prominently. Gal continues to impress as Diana and further cements her legacy as the demigoddess. Gal embodies the heart and soul of this character and her performance as the demigoddess has improved over the origin.
Wonder Woman 84 feels messy most of the time. The writing is lazy in the way Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) returns. His return is probably the most anticipated return of any dead character besides Superman and its fumbled and cheaply used. This was their best idea? A wish, really? Pine makes up for this by his performance. The pure look of joy and wonder on his face as he discovers pop tarts, break dancing, spacecrafts, stationary bikes and anything involving the 80’s reminisces back to Wonder Woman when Diana discovers the world outside of Themyscria. That childlike excitement is what makes this film feel special and connected to the origin. Give us more of Steve Trevor discovering technology and then maybe that will make up for all the missteps in this film.
Speaking of performances, both Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal give stellar performances. Wiig’s Barbara feels too much like herself with her personality so it’s hard to distinguish between the actress and the character. Her villain turn doesn’t feel organic and natural to the story because Barbara is a genuinely nice person. Pascal without referencing it directly is a subtle version of the current administration. He’s bold and abrasive and will stop at nothing to be the most powerful human on the planet. Pascal makes Maxwell Lord his own with his charm and charisma.
Wonder Woman 84 is ambitious in the grand scheme of things. The pacing is excruciatingly slow, and much can be trimmed to give a more respectable running time. One thing that stands out that doesn’t feel right is the music. Hans Zimmer is one of the best composers working today but the Wonder Woman score, and theme was absent in 3 quarters of the film. Its perhaps the best superhero theme in the DCEU and MCU besides The Avengers music and it wasn’t even used properly. Was Rupert Gregson-Williams not available? The music is easily identifiable with Wonder Woman after the major success of the first film – to say it’s a missed opportunity is an understatement.
Just like the first Wonder Woman, 84 features a poor third act and even poorer CGI. The fight between Diana and Cheetah looks too cartoonish and is sometimes hard to see what is actually happening with the at night setting.
We also cannot ignore the continuity issues that Wonder Woman 1984 lays out. Diana learns to fly but she can’t in Justice League or Dawn of Justice? Where was the invisible jet in those films? They take place years into the future so why weren’t they available? The tone shift from Snyder’s films to these last few have really muddied the waters in establishing the overall feeling and tone to this shared universe.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a disappointing mess but has its few moments that try to make up for it. The storytelling feels lazy and the poor pacing makes the film feel like its dragging but the moments where this film shines is with Steve and Diana. Watching them together on screen again is emotional filled with heartbreak and happiness mixed into one. It’s a shame in the way he was brought back because their chemistry is the best thing about the film. Not even Lynda Carter can save this movie. If I were to rate Wonder Woman 1984, I’d rate it a 2 out of 5.
So, tell me guys, have you seen Wonder Woman 1984 and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Wonder Woman 1984 is directed by Patty Jenkins is Rated PG-13 and has a 65% on Rotten Tomatoes. Wonder Woman 1984 was released on December 25, 2020 and has a runtime of 2 hours and 35 minutes. Wonder Woman 1984 can be streamed on HBO Max or seen in theaters.