Wonder Woman 1984 or WW84 is finally out and couldn’t have been released at a better time considering just a handful of movies have well —- been released.
And yes Gal Gadot and Chris Pine returned in the second installment of the superhero movie from DC Comics that follows the life of the Amazonian Warrior Princess but this time facing a new set of adversaries who started as innocent and sweet as you can imagine.
When Patty Jankins made her 2017 debut of her first DC Universe movie in a male-dominated industry, Wonder Woman shook things up by creating a long-awaited sense of inclusion which was followed by a huge female cast in Black Panther the following year. Wonder Woman was one of the best one of the better superhero movies of the decade and showed that Diana Prince had a lot of good stories to tell on the big screen.
And that’s what I expected — Those good stories to be told.
Don’t get me wrong, those expected stories were told but Wonder Woman 1984 just did not have a clearly outlined way to tell those amazing stories that should be portrayed by Gal Gadot. The movie does have great ideas about our current moments which matched the mid to late 80s with the plot being a mess as it forgets Diana in favor of a confusing villain who does have an Amazonian feel.
WW84 is at its entertaining best in the early sequences. As she did in the last installment, Jenkins opens by returning to Diana’s childhood (she’s played with appealing pluck by Lilly Aspell), bringing back Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright, respectively, as her mother, Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, and her mighty warrior aunt and mentor, Antiope.
Despite being very much younger than her competitors, Diana performs really well in a competition of physical skills that felt like Ninja Warrior at some point but more interesting. Instead of Mount Midoriyama, the contestants go outside the packed arena for the final stretch, a decathlon-type challenge combining an open-sea swim, horseback riding, and archery, all of it further adrenalized by the thundering strains of Hans Zimmer’s rousing score. Diana learns a hard but valuable lesson in patience, diligence, and honesty, along with her mother’s assurance that her time will come.
Diana Prince played by Gal Gadot is living in secret (of course) in Washington, D.C. in 1984. She works at the Smithsonian as an anthropologist as Diana Prince while still doing some Wonder Woman heroics on the side, but her existence is pretty lonely. This leads to her striking a friendship with seemingly forward-thinking and very lonely awkward about to be an adversary who is a fellow historian named Barbara Minerva played by (Kristen Wiig).
The two ladies come into contact with a mysterious stone, which is being tracked by fraudulent oilman Max Lord played by Pedro Pascal. The stone claims it can grant wishes, and Diana and Barbara secretly try it out with Diana wishing for the return of Steve Trevor played by Chris Pine and Barbara wishing for Diana’s strength. Both wishes are granted, but the stone, which has a Monkey’s Paw-like twist to all of its wishes, becomes even more dangerous when it merges with Lord and allows him to be the Wishmaster, trading wishes for more power. As the world begins to unravel, Diana must decide whether she wants to hold on to her wish or restore balance to the planet.
Everything Patty Jankins was aiming for in Wonder Woman 1984 was no secret and it made sense but the execution was lot more of mayhem. WW84 was set in the 1980s depicting a world of self-entitlement as well as that of indulgence with a character that relied more on mass media living off of other’s misfortunes while refraining from having a Trump-like personality because well, Lord loves his kid.
Did I mention the trade-off for her wish was her powers? Yep, she bled a little, bullets are painful Diana.
But it’s soon after that point that the movie starts succumbing to breathless over-plotting. Part of it is a question of balance, with two villains competing for attention and neither of them all that compelling. Given that advance press and trailers have made it abundantly clear, it’s no spoiler to reveal that Barbara becomes Cheetah, a role in which Wiig attempts to stretch her range but just seems miscast. Her transformation from a sweet social misfit, yearning to be “strong, sexy, cool, special,” to a ruthless apex predator who sacrifices her goodness is too abrupt to be convincing. And the physical clashes between the two women have a rote feel, including one that demolishes great chunks of White House interior.
As talented as both Pascal and Wiig are, neither actor is given the scope to have much fun with their characters, and the climax in which good inevitably triumphs over evil and the myth of being able to have it all makes way for the value of truth seems, well, anticlimactic.
When you lift out certain elements of Wonder Woman 1984, they work and you can see what Jenkins is going for. The Diana/Steve stuff takes one of the strongest elements of the 2017 movie and transplants it into 1984 to wonderful effect. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine remains outstanding, and Pine is a blast as a man out of time, awed and confounded by the world around him. The film also works to create serious stakes by showing Steve as the one thing Diana wants the most, and why that sacrifice would be so hard for her, but this entire relationship is diminished when the film is spending so much time bouncing between Barbara and Max and what they want.
WW84 has a lot of shortcomings so while Wonder Woman is still a hero we need, she deserves much stronger stories than what her new movie has to offer.