Movie Review (With Spoilers): Wonder Woman 1984

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Image from Warner Bros.

In the midst of the Cold War, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) resides in Washington, D.C. as media entrepreneur Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) emerges in search of a stone that will grant any person a single wish.

“Make love, not war.” It’s well known that Wonder Woman is portrayed as two very different characters in the comics and has now been translated into film. In the 2017 film, she is a god-like warrior. However, the character shown in the new film is a lover who only uses combat as a last resort. Director Patty Jenkins went an entirely different route from the first film, showing those opposites of the character within the source material. I believe that the audience’s preferred version of the character will sway their overall opinion on the film, and that’s unfortunate because non-comic readers have had three films so far (“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Justice League”), to experience and introduce the fighter that makes up half of the character. Acceptance and audience adaptation is the key to enjoy the new film in particular. Jenkins has to appeal to both comic readers who prefer the warrior version and non-comic readers who were introduced to the character in live-action a few years ago, while also pleasing fans of the “softer” Wonder Woman.

I personally like this version of the Wonder Woman character over what we’ve seen in the other live-action films so far. I was a little worried for Gal Gadot within her first few scenes, but, as the film went on, she never failed to deliver that she truly was Wonder Woman, and gives the best performance of the role so far. She is successful with every single emotional beat given, mostly revolving around Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and Max Lord. Speaking of Chris Pine, it was weird how he was inside some random guy’s alive, unconscious body, and Diana was the only one who could truly see Steve’s face. But I’m glad he’s back, we needed to have that duo again, and this time he is the fish out of water. In “Wonder Woman,” Diana was the one experiencing a new world for the first time. Instead, Steve is seeing what the future of the world has become and how his sacrifice led to all of this. He is also willing to give everything up again when the time comes, it’s not just used as a joke.

Jenkins’s stylistic direction goes full Richard Donner “Superman” and Tim Burton “Batman” with the time period aesthetic; it doesn’t exactly explain what the purpose of the film being set at this specific time was, besides the over the top cheesiness, but it felt like I was watching an 80s movie! The film isn’t perfect. There is a lack of action sequences and when something happens, it’s not all that exciting. The opening flashback in Themyscira was one of my favorite scenes, but pairing this with what the first film told us about the island, it didn’t deliver the explanation and backstory we need in live-action. Other than that, there are only four other big action scenes: the mall heist, the Cairo desert chase that gave off major “Indiana Jones” vibes, the confrontation in the White House and the finale against Cheetah. The thing that every single one of those scenes has in common is that Diana never engages, she’s always playing defense whether it’s because she’s protecting herself or someone else. Also, there’s a lot of extremely cartoonish and medium-level wire work. More action would have been nice, but this depiction of the character didn’t exactly need more. The movie doesn’t even end in a showdown between Diana and Max which is what I was expecting. Because of her having to renounce her wish, I thought Diana was going to wreak havoc on Max. That final goodbye scene between Steve and Diana was so perfect that I didn’t even care that she was somehow aerodynamic enough to be able to fly shortly after.

Cheetah is the other issue I had. It feels like she was shoved in at the last minute. I liked Kristen Wiig as Barbara Ann Minerva, but I don’t think she needed to be a major player in the film. The movie already had many things come together, and it ends up being two and a half hours long, causing the pacing to be poor. Barbara turning into a cat felt like it was thrown in due to comic appreciation and because they had to have some kind of big battle in the end. It also never explains why she turned into a cat. Wiig simply says that she doesn’t want to be like anyone else and that she wants to be an apex predator, and the next thing you know she’s Cheetah. This trope of a normal person idolizing the hero, which sends them down a path of villainy has been used so often in comic book films that it’s getting ridiculous. It happens with Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) in “Batman Returns,” The Riddler (Jim Carrey) in “Batman Forever,” Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) in “Batman & Robin,” Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) in “Iron Man 3,” and Electro (Jamie Foxx) in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” I don’t have any complaints on how she looked as Cheetah, it wasn’t much like Kristen Wiig, but Wiig isn’t a cat in real life. An additional drawback was that Max’s powers were ridiculously confusing and didn’t have any consistency on its limits. In the first act, Max gets a hold of the dream stone and wishes to become the dream stone. In stone form it was said that everyone only gets a single wish, only a price must be paid; Barbara first wished to become like Diana and loses her humanity throughout the film, Diana wishes to have Steve back but her powers are gradually weakened. When Max has wish powers all of the rules seem to go down the drain whenever it’s convenient, courtesy of the script.

Pedro Pascal has had quite the load of work recently and gives a phenomenal performance. He is possibly my favorite DC Extended Universe villain. That’s funny because he’s basically just a guy who wants to be successful and have his son look up to him, and his role in this movie is much more lovable than in the comics. So after he becomes the stone, he manipulates everyone around him to wish for him and rarely a price has to be paid. It’s so much more confusing than it has to be. Then, later on in the film, he says he’ll grant more than a single wish if he feels generous, which is what allows Barbara to turn into Cheetah. The script feels random and tangential. Near the end of the film, Max needs something to touch the entire world to grant everyone’s wishes so he can steal the health and strength from the people. Up until this point, it was noted that he needs to physically touch the person to grant a wish, but I guess a radar that will reach every screen in the world works too. The end of the film was a bit unclear as to whether Max was held accountable for his actions, it was also unclear on how the conflict was resolved. If everyone in the world who wished for something had to renounce their wish, that’s simply not believable. What I think really happened was that Max was the only one who needed to renounce his wish since he was the “donor,” as he wished to be the stone, and it would cancel out everything else that happened and was affected by the citizens’ wishes.

I’ve now had the opportunity to see this both on HBO Max and on the big screen. While I was ecstatic to be in a theater again, it was convenient to be able to watch it soon again to be able to pick up on the story. Hans Zimmer’s score was epic, and although there were definitely some less than average visuals, like the Lasso of Truth and scenes where Diana was running, I thought they were acceptable. The invisible jet scene was stunning on the big screen with all of the fireworks in the background of the shots, and Jenkins actually found a way to not make that jet look as stupid as it did in the cartoons. Regarding the majority of the visuals, I was expecting more for how long this movie has been benched and continuously pushed back. It may have been a mistake not connecting this film to the rest of the universe in any way because it left me on a bit of a dull note. I enjoyed the end credits scene with the original Wonder Woman (Lynda Carter) with her cameo as the Amazon who first wore the golden armor, Asteria. Sadly, there was not much of a tease for what’s to come in the future despite a third film given the green light by Warner Bros. with Patty Jenkins still attached after critical response to this film when it debuted. Jenkins still has “Star Wars: Rogue Squadron,” which will be released in December of 2023. She will also reteam with Gal Gadot for a Cleopatra film; it will be a bit of a wait before we get to see Diana on her next adventure.

 

Final Grade: B+