Directed By Patty Jenkins
Starring – Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig
The Plot – Diana Prince (Gadot) lives quietly among mortals in the vibrant, sleek 1980s, an era of excess driven by the pursuit of having it all. Though she’s come into her full powers, she maintains a low profile by curating ancient artifacts, and only performing heroic acts incognito. But soon, Diana will have to muster all of her strength, wisdom and courage as she finds herself squaring off against Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and the Cheetah (Wiig), a villainess who possesses superhuman strength and agility.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
– Timely setting. One of the pleasantries to me in setting this story in 1984 isn’t relying as strongly on the visuals, and instead casting timely relevance on the history and themes of the period itself. This not only keeps the decade porn of trying to cram as many nostalgic properties and fashions into frame at once (See Stranger Things) to a minimum, but also instills urgency and stakes to the forefront of Diana’s adversity, which in turn outlines the biggest challenge to her role as a protector to date. In particular, the on-going uneasiness and tensions between the Americans and Soviets during the height of the Cold War feels like the perfect precursor to the perfect storm of chaos and carnage that overwhelms the events in the film, as well as conveying to us how one man’s greed can be a society’s entire collapsing downfall. This was done in “X-Men: Days of Futures Past”, but that film relied far too heavily on evidence in imagery towards stitching the place in time consistently for audiences to remember. For “Wonder Woman 1984”, that theme very much perseveres, but also feels currently relevant for the uncanny resemblances that we still face, proving that we haven’t learned from the measures that nearly condemned us.
– Strong villain. I say this in regard to Maxwell Lord, and not necessarily Cheetah, whom I felt was tacked on only to give Lord a physical presence to combat Wonder Woman. Why the Lord character worked for me is an abundance of reasons, but mostly it’s his clearly comprehendible backstory, which outlines the humanity of the character, making his motivations all the more visible even if not condoning. Maxwell is very much the embodiment of greed and dishonesty, both before and after he comes into contact with this ancient relic, but when the movie strips down all of his wealth and immense power, he is very much a man with a family whom he is continuously trying to do right by, and even when his motivations get foggy in the cloud of carnage that he very much always feels the consequences of the hell he unleashes. In my opinion, he is the D.E.C.U’s strongest villain to date, and one who makes the protagonist all the more fleshed out because of the vulnerability from within her that he continuously unlocks and exploits.
– Hans the great. The most masterful composer going today immerses us once more in another epic and monumental series of musical compositions that instills emphasis behind these sequences that echo a thunderous roar of intensity. It starts with the familiarity of Warner Bros. opening imagery, but tweaked to the kind of orchestral accompaniments that Hans continuously wields over his audience like Diana’s Lasso of Truth. From there, we are treated to various tweaks and extensions of Wonder Woman’s inspirational chords that alludes us to her arriving presence. Zimmer’s experimentation here takes the familiarity of the track in unpredictable and audibly pleasing directions that outlines dimensions for its emotional meaning, all the while remaining firmly intact within the heat of the environment progressing in the movie’s visuals. My favorite, without a doubt, is definitely “The Beauty In What Is”, a nearly four minute composition whose increasing energy and awestruck wonder not only inspires us to the point of goosebumps, but also summarizes the beauty in a world that we often take for granted. Hans has made a career of instilling emotion without a single word to deposit, and once more stands as the monumental piece to a film’s grandiose immensity, which would be all the more lost without his control at the helm.
– Evolving performances. This is definitely the case with Gadot’s fourth delve into Prince, whose sudden vulnerability for what hangs for her in the balance produces some hefty performance scenes that test the gifted actress in ways that has only been physical to this point. Gadot’s watery registry and frailty in her character’s refusal to address the elephant in the room makes for a far more emotionally eclipsing performance than what 2017’s “Wonder Woman” could ever account for, fleshing out the humanity from within Diana that has most noticeably missing in each of her portrayals. In addition to Gadot, Pascal frequently steals the show as Maxwell Lord, often bearing a weight in consequences that is shown evidently on Pascal’s sickly demeanor. Pascal’s Lord has been compared to Donald Trump in current times, and while the outline of such is a little reaching, the megalomania of such feels almost magnetic in what Pascal brings to the table of the script’s power trip. It was also great to see Pine back as Diana’s emerging love interest. Pine supplants his character with a side of pleasantly delivered comic relief, which often fleshes out the fish out of water story that he now parallels to Diana’s during the first film, and solidifies a chemistry with Gadot that makes you constantly invested to their ever-changing dynamic.
– Artistic flare. One standout aspect of the film to me was the iconography of the character of Wonder Woman as seen through the eyes of director Jenkins alluring and stylistic visuals. There’s not only an abundance of shots and imagery that pay homage to past generations of Wonder Woman T.V, but also an overall love for the character that essentially outlines her as the god-like protector for the world in the film that was evident in Richard Donner’s 1978 “Superman”. Even from an environmental commentary, the growth for Wonder Woman here offers the most magnetic link to the previous film, in that it outlines her evolution as this defender of truth and justice within the captivity of the public eye. They admire her for the protection she supplants, and the dedication that she constantly exudes over the job, and when pieced together with Jenkins wonderous photography of her leading lady, cements the growth in perception and gifts that preserve her at the forefront of D.C’s 21st century of superheroes.
– Improved climax. In my opinion, the first film in this series does the first two acts far superior to this one, but “1984” carries with it a monumental finishing act that far exceeds the bombastically c.g-heavy work of its predecessor. This is despite the fact that this movie’s climax itself brings with it a ground-shaking circumstance that feels like the end of days among all of the characters and dynamics it continuously built at surface level. Somehow though, it all stitches together wonderfully, and created what I felt was the single best aspects of this film, if only for the way Lord’s subplot materialized in opening his eyes for the first time throughout. It’s a bit inconsequential when you think of what we are left with by film’s end, but the productional aspects, particularly the editing and sound design, ravage us with a means to an end that is realized in hurricane-like proportions, and is the precise emphasis to a perfect storm that grew in momentum continuously throughout the film.
– Stuffily convoluted. While I do appreciate the faith that Warner Bros. has in giving the movie a superhero narrative a two-and-a-half hour run time, I can’t escape the movie with an overwhelming semblance of disappointment from all of these arc’s that never submerged smoothly, nor received the kind of attention that paid each of them seamlessly. In particular I look at Wiig’s Cheetah, who just kind of hangs in the balance between this mental chess game between Diana and Maxwell that dominates the movie. Her character doesn’t meticulously evolve, just abruptly descends, and it makes her the obvious third wheel in a movie that heavily advertised her arc in the trailers. In addition to this, the lengthy separation between action sequences tests the patience of audiences, whose only appetizer on their way to the main course is a series of exposition-heavy interactions that spring no shortage of convenience towards moving the plot along forcefully. It throws off the pacing in a way that makes you feel all of the 151 minutes it gives, springing a series of boring scenes that I wish were omitted from the film’s final cut, for how little they add to what transpires.
– Uninspired action. With the exception of a desert sequence, which is expertly crafted and thrillingly directed, the majority of Jenkins physical work behind the lens leaves more to be desired. Considering there are only four action sequences in total throughout this 151 minute movie, they are hard to come by in the first place, but made all the more frustrating when you comprehend that Jenkins angles for documenting such always feel like the most compromising and claustrophobic in trying to convey detection to the audience beyond. In addition to this, the climactic battle between Wonder Woman and Cheetah not only looks visually disturbing because of D.C’s self-indulgent dark canvas that it revolves around, but it also intentionally tries to hide Cheetah’s unfinished design, which gave me flashbacks of last year’s “Cats” for nightmarish imagery. Considering most of the first film resonated with action sequences that effectively pushed and pried the envelope of riveting, this sequel feels like a noticeable step down, and one that often overthinks its own simplistic execution.
– Logic leaps. There are examples of big and small that the film just kind of glosses over, and doesn’t seem to factor in as consequential to any moviegoer with even half of a brain. On the small factor, Steve Trevor, a World War I fighter pilot is apparently able to overcome over fifty years of technological advances in aviation, and able to understand how to fly in a matter of seconds. That’s impressive enough, but pales in comparison to the film’s ambitious climax, which has no shortage of problems itself the longer you think about it. Part of it stems from what people are wishing, like Barbara, who could easily wish to be stronger, faster, and better than Wonder Woman, but instead chooses to be like her. Convenient. Then there’s the issues with people’s wishes, and how they just vanished when the convenience of the plot set in. As seen in earlier examples with the wish process, there are consequences to every wish, so for these elements of the environment to just suddenly disappear, I felt was a major cop-out of the reality that most of the script was fleshing itself out with.
– Redundancy. To say that there is nothing fresh about “Wonder Woman 1984” is the understatement of the year. So instead I will say that this movie not only steals from an abundance of movies, it also steals from itself, outlining its script as this greatest hits of derivative sequencing that becomes obvious the longer you invest in it. I mentioned earlier of the role reversal between Diana and Steve in this movie, and how it’s essentially the first movie, just turned slightly. This avenue isn’t explored beyond a few momentary tonal gags that compromise the movie’s tonal consistency between films repeatedly, but it’s made all the more obvious because it’s existing in a series ONE MOVIE LATER. In addition to this, I summarized the final fifteen minutes of this movie as 1997’s “Liar Liar”, and when you see the movie, you will understand what I am talking about. Everything right down to the lines of dialogue hints to me that Jenkins may have had a Jim Carrey marathon the night before writing the script, and decided where she could incorporate it to Diana’s plight.
My Grade: 6/10 or C-