Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: Diana Prince has settled into a cosy life working for the Smithsonian museum procuring and studying ancient artifacts. It has been decades since she aided the Allies in WW1 and only puts on the Amazonian attire to stop crime clandestinely. When a strange artifact is brought to the attention of Diana and her new frumpy colleague, Barabara, they discover it contains strange powers that also draws the attention of ambitious business magnate, Maxwell Lord.
Back in 2017, Wonder Woman was a breath of fresh air from the universally male driven superhero films across the MCU and DCEU. Here was the long awaited solo film for the most famous heroine out there, and it delivered in a big way with universal acclaim from fans and critics alike. By this point the DCEU was a sinking ship and Warner Brothers faith in Zack Snyder’s vision for the universe was dwindling, so Wonder Woman’s success became the catalyst for the DCEU going in a different direction, especially following the disaster that was The Justice League. I’m not going to argue the merits or detriments of the timeline of the DCEU, that’s an endless shitstorm for Twitter to tear itself apart over, but you can’t deny that Wonder Woman became the first major success of the franchise.
While I’m currently completely lost in terms of the DCEU continuity, Wonder Woman 1984 can at least give me the comfort of calling it a sequel (In terms of prequel I doubt Batman Vs Superman or Justice League is still canon). Usually we see sequels go bigger and bolder in scale, but Patty Jenkins flips expectations with a story that feels ripped from a 60s tv superhero serial plot. An 80s timepiece action flick that delves into the more fantastical elements of Wonder Woman’s origins is not what I was expecting, but the vibrant, campy tone of the first half had me hooked.
Unfortunately, by the midpoint of the movie we are no further in plot development, character development, or moving in any actual forward motion to make head nor sense of the story. Wonder Woman 1984 has a light touch and a lot of sentimentality, but its heart is not always in the right place. For all the empowerment and breaking down barriers that the first film achieved, it reduces Diana to this cliched damsel stuck in a rut cause her boyfriend died. I remember the initial reaction to Steve Trevor coming back was met with a lot of chagrin saying why does she have to be tied to a romance plot with a man. I myself rolled my eyes thinking there’s nothing wrong with a romance plot, but they were right. It cheapens her character arc dramatically.
The last thing I expected for Wonder Woman 1984 was the leading lady becoming the most reprehensible character in the film. The film has this anticapitalist message that perfectly parody’s those American Dream infomercials manufactured to sell the idea that success is a mindset and only the chosen few hold the real answers behind some kind of paywall. Diana inevitably gets what she wants the most, Steve Trevor in the flesh. When Steve appears inexplicably nearly 7 decades later, not aging a day or showing any effects from a fucking plane explosion, Diana sees more logic in jumping into bed with her former vaporized beau rather than question the absolute breakdown in logic presented in front of her. Worse still is that Steve is more than aware he is inhabiting a living stranger’s body now ripped from any conciousness or consent. Yes, Wonder Woman literally sexual assaults an unconsenting man. I’m not being crude, this literally happens before your eyes. Also, when Diana is consistently given the opportunity to revive this stranger by Steve, who feels uncomfortable with the situation, she rejects the idea on the selfish belief that she has never asked for anything before.
Pedro Pascal’s antagonist, Maxwell Lord, thankfully chews the scenery and elevates every scene he’s in. Your typical snake oil salesman, Lord is a dreamer with ambitions far beyond his reach only for the fact he has an ancient and mystical trump card up his sleeve. Pascal is wonderfully wired in the role playing the big man in the room who could convince you he could turn water into wine, but in reality the walls are slowly closing in on him. Lord is given a pretty sympathetic scene early that gives weight to his character and actions, nullifying the inevitable dark path he chooses. The character could have carried his own film as a capitalist warning story in the vein of A Christmas Carol, unfortunately we have a selfish Wonder Woman with no regard for consent or making the right decision until she has an audience and a blistering Hans Zimmer score.
Wonder Woman 1984 can at least say it’s like nothing you’ve seen before, and in some ways I can applaud the film for going in such a unique direction with the spotlight on superhero films and their ability to break the box office and appease fans. Far from the disaster latest reviews had led me to believe, and certainly not the wondrous game changer the initial reviews proclaimed; the movie is a sort of Frankenstein’s monster stitched together by a smorgasbord of ideas. While the film far outstays its welcome, shines our leading lady in a pretty negative light, and descends into another silly CGI punch’ em up finale, there’s a lot to like here from Pascal’s eccentric performance, exciting action set pieces, and some great humour and gags throughout. Ultimately, Wonder Woman 1984 is a disappointing follow up to its predecessor, but for now I only consider it a blip on Patty Jenkins strong filmography.