MOVIE REVIEW: “Wonder Woman 1984” stars Gal Gadot (Knight and Day, Death on the Nile), Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond, Rise of the Guardians), Kristen Wiig (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty , Masterminds ), Pedro Pascal (Narcos [TV series], The Equalizer 2), Robin Wright (Forrest Gump, Unbreakable ), Connie Nielson (Gladiator, One Hour Photo), Lilly Aspell (Extinction, Holmes & Watson), Lucian Perez (Klaus, The Secret Life of Pets 2), Amr Waked (Lucy, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), and Kristoffer Polaha (Where Hope Grows, A Work of Art). It is directed by Patty Jenkins (Monster, Exposed [TV Movie]), who also co-wrote the screenplay with Geoff Johns (The Flash [TV series], Aquaman ) and Dave Callaham (Godzilla , The Expendables). In 1984, Diana (Gadot) faces a new threat when an ancient stone is uncovered that can grant anyone’s wishes, sparking the interest of a desparate, failing oil businessman (Pascal) who seeks to use the stone to his advantage.
It was only a matter of time before streaming would steal away the movie theater premiere. And now with COVID, what better time to experiment with the streamer market than by releasing one of your biggest blockbusters to home viewing? “Wonder Woman 1984” will be the first among many Warner Bros crop to debut on its HBO Max platform, as the company recently announced it will be going straight to streamer with all 2021 releases. Is this a smart move? I’m not sure; all I know is, I hope this doesn’t mean movie theater viewing won’t be an option anymore.
DC has been known to release lackluster live-action content on the big screen. With many critical failures plaguing their roster of features, it didn’t take much for the first “Wonder Woman” to stand out. Gal Gadot killed it as Diana, and the formulaic plot at least offered some semblance of a safe movie watching experience that won’t tick you off with the latest rap single or cringey forced-humor dialogue. The first outing was alright for what it was, although I desired something more original and less “First Avenger.” Flash-forward three years later, and we have Patty Jenkins’ sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984.”
My desire to watch any superhero flick after “Avengers: Endgame” tanked. So, you could imagine just how “hype” I was to see the trailer drop for “WW84.” Honestly, I didn’t even see a promotional for it until two months after it initially dropped. I didn’t care, and never really saw myself shelling out boku bucks to watch it in a theater. But here I am, watching it on HBO Max for free with my cable provider. Oh how the turntables have…
Jenkins and famed DC writer Geoff Johns cash in on that 80s nostalgia by sending us back to the time of parachute pants, frizzy hair, and mall hang-outs. The look was surprisingly fitting for Diana, as the shots of Wonder Woman saving lives in a Wham! World made for great fun, despite the rather loose, less punchy plot. The audience gets what they expect with this release; hero shots, climactic music, and jokes to off-set the drama. For what it’s worth, I was actually entertained for two and a half hours and didn’t fall asleep, even though I started the flick at 11:00PM.
What “WW84” gets right is its sense of fun. Jenkins and her crew brought together a bright adventure that took rather experimental routes to deter it from its predecessor. The heart and moral compass of Diana is still the through line of this movie, but what I commend the story on most is its willingness to try something different. Our villains aren’t evil generals and the return of characters isn’t by complete happenstance or ludicrous means (Steve coming back was actually handled well, which I was weary of at the start. I like how they approached it). The only question is… did they succeed with the change-up?
After finishing it, I would say I enjoyed “WW84” more so than the first. However, after further thought, I realized just how poorly constructed this endeavor really is. All of the elements to make this an awesome outing are there. You’ve got the 80s look, witty banter, strong performances, and a score that’s just beyond words (Hans, you dog). But despite all of these technical elements, the story just doesn’t seem to connect. Why? Because it doesn’t commit to what it sets up.
I’m not going to dive into spoilers, given how this just dropped yesterday, but there were plenty of plot points that suggested at something, but were dashed away either in a short instant, or a long bout. There were times where I thought “oh, so what happened there didn’t matter in the long run?” Case in point, the opening. Jenkins and Johns continue Wonder Woman formula by having a young Diana go through another trial, only to learn a lesson. Obviously, one would figure that this lesson would be interwoven into the plot ahead… well, not really. By the end of the film, I realized that what I saw in the beginning had no parallel, as did some of the other story or character elements that were presented before me. There were a few cop-outs given, especially to our villains, where by the end of it all I could do is sigh. With a story that gets so chaotic and over-blown, you’d figure that they’d make some wild choices to close out the narrative. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.
I love certain elements of “WW84.” Gal Gadot and Chris Pine still kill it in their roles of Diana and Steve. Their chemistry makes the film work, and the additions of Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal offer more fun to the journey. The only problem is, the story gets really crazy/silly, really fast. By the third act, I’m essentially watching a CGI gold bird fight a CGI cheetah. “What is this movie” I questioned, as I also laughed to myself (the visual effects in this ranged from pretty good, to “yikes”). If you thought the world was at stake before, wait till you get a load of this one. As I’ve stated before, the writing sets things up to get so wild that it should end just as chaotic. But they chicken out… shoehorning in the familiar pattern seemed the best approach to such an atypical story. And in the end, that paved this movie’s downfall.
My overall score for “WW84” isn’t terrible. I enjoyed watching it for what it was worth, and even found a moment in the film where I actually got chills (the way the scene was executed, with Steve and Diana towards the end, was really good). I didn’t receive that in the first outing, and if this movie had a few more of those moments, I would’ve placed it on a higher scale. Unfortunately, even with some stellar technical aspects, this sequel falls short of what it could’ve been, leaving me with a chaotic plot that just can’t seem to settle on what it wanted. FINAL SCORE: 71%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: