December 25, 2020 Wonder Woman 1984 (Movie Review)
Wonder Woman 1984 has already powered through its fair share of challenges leading up to its 2020 Christmas Day release. Crafting a worthy sequel to 2017’s bombastic Wonder Woman is a monumental task, but returning Writer-Director Patty Jenkins (Monster 2003, Wonder Woman 2017) rose to the occasion. Along with Co-writers Geoff Johns (The Flash series, Aquaman 2018) and David Callaham (Godzilla 2014, Zombieland: Double Tap 2019), Wonder Woman 1984 is a glowing neon sign in the dreary realm of the DC Universe films.
Once again starring Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman 2017, Justice League 2017) and Chris Pine (Star Trek 2009, Star Trek Beyond 2016), the new film finds our heroes taken from the trenches of World War I into the museums and malls of Washington, D.C. facing off against two new villains in a quintessentially comic book-style storyline. Starting December 25th, fans can catch all the action in theaters or from the safety of their own homes on HBO Max, where the film will be available for 31 days.
Diana Prince (Gadot) has not aged a day since leaving the hidden world of Themiscyra, home of the Amazons, and finding her way into the fray of World War I. In 1984, though, all the friends made are dead and gone, as is her love Steve Trevor (Pine). She is alone by choice, emotionally frozen in place from where we last left her, and determined to shut out the world she must constantly save. In between bouts of using her superhuman powers to secretly save citizens amidst jewelry heists at malls as Wonder Woman, Prince is a curator and researcher at the Smithsonian.
When gawky scientist Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig: Bridesmaids 2011, Saturday Night Live series) bumbles into her life, Diana makes a genuine connection for the first time. The two are an odd-couple, essentially opposites, and their connection quickly becomes one of the most interesting aspects of the film. But when megalomaniac Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal: Game of Thrones series, The Madalorian series) enters their lives, the two are put at odds a mysterious and ultra-powerful crystal becomes the object of everyone’s desires.
Wonder Woman 1984 makes the interesting choice to balance two villains, which bloats the film to a massive 151 minute run time. Pascal and Wiig take turns stealing the show, each playing fully into their character. Pascal’s over-the-top performance as a desperate oil tycoon makes him the perfect one-off comic book villain, and Wiig’s nuanced descent into dark power intrigues. In fact, the film is at its best when digging deep into its characters. The quiet moments hit harder than the action sequences, which are few and far between.
One perk of bring set in the ‘80s is that there is no need to cram Wonder Woman into the current DC Cinematic Universe storyline. The film can, and does, stand on its own, and its vibrant colors and hope-filled plot are a breath of fresh air compared to the oppressive darkness of other DC films—even Wonder Woman. Still, Wonder Woman 1984 fails to take full advantage of the vibrant ’80s, settling only for a wardrobe montage and some mall-based antics. Hans Zimmer’s score is excellent, as always, but neglecting to include a few nods to some of the ‘80s biggest hits feels like a missed opportunity.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a worthy successor to its original, but it thankfully ignores typical sequel tropes. Sequels often feel the need to be bigger, louder, more than their predecessor, but the film turns that around a bit, favoring character development over spectacle. The sequences where Wonder Woman gets to bust out all her powers are thrilling, but the film spends more time focusing on Diana’s motivations, with more impact in the introspective rather than in the explosions. Gadot is up to the task, carrying her scenes with grace. However, the chemistry between Gadot and Pine does not hit quite the same this time around.
At times, Wonder Woman 1984 feels like it was made by a committee, trying to please everyone by forcing in plot points that are never fully realized or are too on-the-nose. Still, the film is the optimistic blockbuster escapist fantasy that audiences are looking for right now. Oh, and for those who grew up with Lynda Carter as their Wonder Woman should keep a watchful eye out, just in case. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Wonder Woman 1984 3.5 out of 5 stars.