Film Review: Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman 1984
Director: Patty Jenkins
Atlas Entertainment and The Stone Quarry
In Theaters and Streaming on HBO MAX: 12.25
The chaos and turmoil of 2020 are, at long last, starting to show cracks, with some hope for an end in sight. There are people being vaccinated, some form of stimulus is finally going through, dick à l’orange has less than a month left in office and we are finally seeing Wonder Woman 1984.
The sequel to director Patty Jenkins’ 2017 blockbuster has been jerked around the calendar so many times that the merchandise is already old news, and with so many false starts, there was a danger that when it finally came it simply wouldn’t feel like an event anymore.
Wonder Woman 1984 takes place decades after the events of World War I—but before either version of Justice League—in the actual 1984, not the Orwellian one we’ve all been experiencing for a while now. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is working as a senior anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., specializing in the culture of ancient Mediterranean civilizations. She continues to fight crime as Wonder Woman while remaining anonymous, with her alter ego known only as a mysterious woman whose existence is debated among the public.
Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal, The Mandolorian), an entrepreneur and television personality, visits the Smithsonian in search of a mysterious Dreamstone which is under the care of Diana and a colleague, Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a shy and reserved woman who is in awe of the larger-than-life Diana. Lord’s interested in the the Dreamstone stems from its rumored ability to grant wishes to anyone who uses it. During a gala night at the Smithsonian, Maxwell manipulates Barbara in order to acquire the stone. He then makes a wish, setting in motion a series of events that will bring about disastrous consequences unless Wonder Woman can stop them.
Wonder Woman 1984 is an exciting and overwhelming ride, providing no shortage of thrills, laughs and even emotions. The Wonder Woman television series starring Lynda Carter began during World War II and then famously jumped ahead to modern times after switching networks, and Jenkins has cleverly modeled the film as an homage to the later seasons.
Gadot is as wonderful as ever in the title role, and she is given able support from the supporting cast. Chris Pine is—of course—back as Diana’s love interest, Steve Trevor, who was killed at the end of the first film. While I’m not going to give away how he’s back, you can probably put two and two together pretty quickly. Steve is even more of a comic character this time around, playing off of the fish-out-of-water dynamic against the Diana who is used to the modern world. Steve is the one who must catch up to the present, which seems to be standard operating procedure for comic book heroes named Steve played by actors named Chris.
Moreover, Wiig is terrific as Barbara, getting some laughs but very much not giving a Saturday Night Live performance. The character plays more than a little like Selina Kyle in Batman Returns mixed with Edward Nygma from Batman Forever, though Wiig takes the role for her own and really makes the most of it. Pascal is given by far the toughest character to pull off—smarmy and conniving to the point of being over the top—and it’s very nearly too much at times. But the rising star is such a capable actor, and Jenkins such a strong director, that they make it work.
Like most superhero sequels, Wonder Woman 1984 is bursting at the seams with plot points, characters and ideas, and it can get a bit chaotic and dizzying at times. That said, it does come together to be quite satisfying, if not as inspired as the near-perfect original. In many ways, this plays a lot like a ’90s Batman sequel or an ’80s Superman, though it’s more coherent and has a better script than either of those franchises did (with the possible exception of Superman II).
The action sequences are dazzling, though there are moments where the effects felt a bit too cartoonish for my liking—but then again, this a campier, sillier film all around than last time. And at two and a half hours, Wonder Woman 1984 is a bit longer than it really needed to be, but that’s usually the case with this kind of blockbuster these days, especially when the director has the clout to demand say on the final cut.
I’m happy to say that, taken as a whole, Wonder Woman 1984 is worth the wait and will be a real treat for fans. It doesn’t vie for the title of best superhero movie ever made like the first one, but it’s a very enjoyable sequel that packs a punch, and is all the more enjoyable coming in a year when this type of movie has actually been in short supply. It’s great fun for everyone. –Patrick Gibbs