Wonder Woman 1984
Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman 1984 is an uneven, unfocused and over-stuffed sequel that's not entirely a wash, but struggles connecting where the first film excelled. The performances across the board are too broad, with Pedro Pascal being the only real highlight, meanwhile the film's 2.5-hour running time features very little action and an assortment of sluggish dialog that accounts for 2/3rds of the film. I can see why WB was so willing to send this one to HBO Max on the same day that it hits theaters nationwide.
Director Patty Jenkins returns to the DC-U after the smashing success that is Wonder Woman, alongside star Gal Gadot, for the highly-anticipated and very controversially-released Wonder Woman 1984, which is landing on the premium streaming service HBO Max the same day that it hits theaters nationwide. As a sequel, WW84 suffers from an over-abundance of ideas and characters, attempting to say so much in so little time (despite the film running over two-and-a-half hours). Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t as clean of a success or achievement as the first film, but it still manages to wrestle out a few strong performances and a closing act that works like gangbusters, thanks to Jenkins’ direction, but ultimately, her understanding of the character. Gal Gadot is still born to play the role, despite struggling to connect to the overall film in an engaging way. Consider WW84 barely a break even, turning in near-perfect moments within an otherwise far-from-perfect movie.
The year is 1984 (duh) and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) aka Wonder Woman is still struggling with the death of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and understanding her place in this big new world. She occasionally swings by the local mall to stop a band of thugs from robbing a jeweler, but otherwise spends most of her time at the museum, working alongside the likes of Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a shy, but bright individual that’s lacking self-confidence and wishing for more people to notice her.
Together, the two stumble upon an ancient artifact that grants those in possession one wish, but with that wish comes a cost that is initially unknown to the wisher.
This artifact finds its way into the wrong hands and by wrong hands, I mean a gold and oil-hungry Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), a get-rich-quick schemer that just wants to be the king of his domain, which happens to be the world.
Now, Wonder Woman must stop Max from destroying the world while also learning the value of truth, greed and responsibility for the collective “greater good”.
Director Patty Jenkins surprised is all with Wonder Woman. She delivered a powerful and bold film that stands up strongly as one of DC’s best and one of the better comic book adaptations of recent memory. Wonder Woman was empowering and fearless in its execution and helped establish the character as a mainstay in movies alongside the likes of Batman, Superman or anything that Marvel has to offer.
Signing on for the sequel meant making a bigger film, with a little bit more freedom when it came to the budget, but also the responsibility to continue the character in a way that raises the stakes in almost every way, which of course means introducing more villains and kicking things up a notch.
Sadly, sequels like this rarely tend to be any good, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes those reasons come down to studio meddling or too many writers (WW84 is credited with only 3 writers, one of them happens to be Jenkins herself). For whatever reason, superhero sequels just never make the cut, because it’s almost always impossible to live up to the hype of the first film, while delivering a new one without alienating those that enjoyed the first and want more of the same, but only slightly different.
The Dark Knight is probably the gold standard when it comes to this.
Wonder Woman 1984 for all intents and purposes tries to become the next big thing in the comic book world, but unfortunately it cracks under its own weight as the pressure of wanting more quite literally takes over the film and leaves us with something that’s messy and unfocused, piecing together two-thirds of sloppy storytelling with one-thirds razor sharp movie-making that saves the entire film from becoming an absolute waste.
WW84 clocks in at around two-and-a-half hours and within that bulky running time is maybe twenty minutes of action, followed by scenes containing clunky dialog that moves the film along at a sluggish pace, with such broad and uninterested performances given by otherwise reliable stars.
Gal Gadot was red-hot in the first film, delivering us the perfect interpretation of the character and now in WW84 she’s distant and withdrawn. This makes sense within the story during the opening moments, but should’ve quickly resolved itself when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) reappears. But for whatever reason, their chemistry this time around is lost and feels horribly forced, with Pine being stripped down to the comedic relief of the film, offering very little in the way of help.
Kristen Wiig takes on the role of Barbara/Cheetah with a fresh batch of silly, turning in something comically familiar to Uma Thurman‘s Poison Ivy or even Jamie Foxx‘s Electro. I don’t discredit Wiig as she’s a versatile performer that can switch tones at the drop of the hat, but the way her character is written is cringe-worthy in its simplicity and reveal. Everything about it is laughable and not all that interesting, despite Wiig trying her damnedest to make the character a formidable foe.
Pedro Pascal is the only real highlight of the film, injecting the character of Max with so much electricity and excitement. He encompasses the greedy and narrow-minded business man that absolutely craves power, without any of the responsibility. He also doesn’t understand the concept of being real or true to himself or those that he loves.
WW84 makes great use of the 1980s setting, reflecting on the resurfacing boom of American power and green, backed by the selfishness to have it all. One could argue that this directly ties into our own problems today as the world seems to be spinning out of control on a semi-regular basis.
I believe this is where Patty Jenkins strikes gold within the film, highlighting the world’s big problems within a big Hollywood blockbuster that is being consumed by the masses. She wisely chooses to close out the film with a final act that isn’t as much about action (although there is some good stuff within these moments), but instead about truth and consequences.
Everything has a price and WW84 occasionally gets that point across in almost near-perfect fashion. But sadly, the rest of the film doesn’t feel nearly as focused or as aligned.
I found myself enjoying brief moments of the film, feeling as if Jenkins recaptured that same magic of the first film, only to follow it up with something so unbelievably off-putting and cold — almost as if she directed moments of the film completely without any knowledge of the grander picture and it was a feeling that I felt often and couldn’t really shake.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a sequel still worth viewing, especially if you already pay for HBO Max, in which case it poses no risk to give it a few hours of your time. But don’t expect miracles, as WW84 is not Wonder Woman, but still a continuation of the character that hasn’t completely ruined things just yet.