“Life is good. But it can be better!”
(This review is mostly spoiler-free, but as always, if you want to go in completely blind, do not read this).
After a year full of delays, cancellations, and disappointments around the world and across the entertainment industry, Wonder Woman 1984 is finally here, to save us from the nightmare of 2020 and maybe provide a little bit of hope for 2021. Or is it? The sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman, once again helmed by the brilliant Patty Jenkins, is all too eager to please, delivering an exuberant and flashy adventure that mostly fulfills that goal, even as it sags under the weight of its underwhelming and lackluster third act.
Wonder Woman 1984 opens with a flashback to the titular heroine’s past, where child Diana competes in an Amazonian obstacle course, but quickly moves forward in time, to an even brighter, exhilarating location- America in 1984! Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, just as earnest and charming as she was in her first solo outing) lives her immortal life in loneliness, working at the Smithsonian as a curator and occasionally stopping small crimes as her superpowered alter ego. She becomes fast friends with her colleague Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a kind gemologist who unfortunately is the victim of the “stereotypical nerdy and awkward person” trope, and longs for the kind of beauty, poise, and effortless charm that Diana has, as she goes unnoticed by even her co-workers.
Comic readers (or people who watched the trailers for WW84) will know that Barbara eventually becomes the villainous Cheetah, and while Wiig does unexpectedly well in the role, considering that many people know her as a comedic actress, I can’t say the same for the CGI artists who designed Cheetah, as it’s an off-putting hybrid between a fully CGI character like Infinity War‘s Thanos, and practical makeup.
Barbara isn’t the only villain in Wonder Woman 1984, not by a long shot, as oil mogul Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal, absolutely carrying this movie) is brought into Diana and Barbara’s life by way of the treasures that the Smithsonian holds. A slick and smooth-talking Ponzi-schemer, Max nevertheless has a surprisingly deep emotional journey throughout the film, even if his goals and actions are nothing close to being altruistic, and Pascal, fresh off showing how he’s the galaxy’s best dad in The Mandalorian, brings his A game, almost singlehandedly sustaining Wonder Woman 1984 for the last hour or so.
But Diana isn’t alone to deal with these two, as Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor returns, although to say how would be a spoiler. And it’s safe to say that without him, Wonder Woman 1984 is a much more boring film. Diana and Steve’s relationship is the engine that powers Wonder Woman 1984, not feeling forced at all, and Pine remains perfectly suited for the role, his boundless confidence and energy making him more than a match for his demigoddess girlfriend. In a predictable, yet still funny moment, the makeover scene from the first film is neatly replicated, except this time it’s Steve who tries on all the loud, ugly styles of the 1980s.
As for the film itself, Jenkins fully commits to the aesthetic of the 1980s, with overblown colors, plenty of 80s fashion, and sometimes questionable visual effects, to the point where if it wasn’t for the obvious amounts of money spent on the film, Wonder Woman 1984 could pass as an action flick from the 80s. Throughout the film, the conflict between the greed-filled nature of the capitalist 80s under Reagan (although it’s a nameless POTUS in place of him in the film) and Diana’s righteous philosophies is played with, with our heroine knowing she has to choose selflessness over greed, even while Max Lord’s cheesy infomercials scream “if you wish it, you can have it!”
It takes a while before we actually get to any of the major action set pieces (aside from the obstacle course at the beginning), and when we finally do, they’re all just…there. Unlike the first Wonder Woman, with action that was brutal, yet still faithful to the character, Wonder Woman 1984 suffers from some shoddy CGI, as well as pretty pointless action (we know that Diana isn’t going to get taken out by mere soldiers or security guards). And just like its predecessor, Wonder Woman 1984‘s third act and finale is extremely lackluster, with a drawn-out, anticlimactic final confrontation that attempts to establish high stakes, but they’re all so generic and pointless that it doesn’t even matter. We know that this universe is perfectly fine, because of other films in this same universe, like Batman v. Superman or Shazam, so when Wonder Woman 1984 tries to have us think that global annihilation is a possibility…it’s really not.
Still, it’s not all bad. Wonder Woman 1984 is still miles ahead of other DC films like Suicide Squad and Justice League, and a fine sequel, even if it suffers from typical problems that plague many sequels. In short, it’s the Iron Man 2 of the DCEU.
Wonder Woman 1984 is an excellently acted and joyful, overstuffed adventure that neatly builds upon the journeys started in Wonder Woman, but comes undone by its listless third act and uninspired action.
Let me know what you thought of the film in the comments below!
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these photos. WB Studios owns them!