Movie Review: ‘Wonder Woman 1984’
Director: Patty Jenkins
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pines, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal
Plot: Diana Prince is living a lonely life as a secret superhero in the 1980s. The world is suddenly put at risk when the insecure Barbara Minerva and greedy Maxwell Lord get hold of a magic wishing stone.
Review: What was really nice about Wonder Woman was the straight-forward concept. Diana Prince (Gadot) is learning her place in a world on the brink of destruction, with her nobility and strength lifting her above the nightmare around her. With Wonder Woman established as a character we can involve her in a more personal conflict, and not pull the usual superhero misstep of increasing the villain count while bringing back past characters and leaving the whole thing feeling bloated.
It’s not a bad film but it takes a seriously long time to get momentum. After foiling a heist from mostly off screen in the prologue, it’s a good solid hour before our villains and conflict are established and almost 90 minutes before we get an action scene. If Wonder Woman was superheroing around for this hour and half we wouldn’t mind but instead it’s all origin and set-up for Cheetah (Wiig) and Maxwell Lord (Pascal), which ends up being pretty darn contrived.
The artefact heist Wonder Woman prevents at the beginning included a crystal initially thought to be worthless. The truth is that it’s a magical rock that makes wishes comes true. Diana’s insecure colleague Barbara wishes to be like her new friend, which imbues her with powers but makes her mean-spirited. Originally the wishing rock was sought by TV personality and con-man Maxwell Lord, who charms Barbara to get his hands on it and wishes to…become the rock? Now with the power to grant wishes and take something in return Lord seeks to cement his power by reaching a global audience.
Diana, meanwhile, has accidentally wished for deceased love interest Steve Trevor (Pine) to come back, which he does by inhabiting some random guys body. He looks like the other dude, but because Diana ‘sees’ him as Trevor the producers are able to cast Chris Pine again. The monkey paw cost of this is Diana losing her powers unless it’s inconvenient to the plot at the time. When Diana and Steve catch on to Lord’s scheme they go after him, and eventually Barbara who sides with Lord.
It’s an immensely clunky story that takes weirdly long for things to happen given it all boils down to ‘magic rock’. Even after stretching out the explanation of how Lord’s wish giving powers work they still don’t make a great deal of sense and we get a sudden lurch when we go from getting the hang of the powers to full anarchy in Washington DC. Barbara’s transformation into Cheetah features much better pacing, with a slow shift away from her humanity into a feral predator and corrupted version of Diana. If they were going to shift the focus to one of these villains, it would have to be Cheetah because she felt the most human of the four leads in spite of the cheesy ‘clumsy’ routine she’s introduced with. Unfortunately when Cheetah and Lord decide to team up in the final act we get strong Spider-Man 3 vibes.
If there’s one thing that makes this feel like a rushed script, it’s how clumsily they write in characters and plot elements that will be used to gloss over plot holes further down the line. Like Carl(?), who walks up to Diana at a party to tell her that he’s got that job at the White House. Later in the film they need to get into the White House, so they talk to Carl. The golden, winged armour that features heavily in the marketing is introduced when Steve literary notices it in the corner of Diana’s apartment and asks what it is, just so it feels important when pulled out for the finale. Silliest is Lord’s big scheme where he wants to grant a wish to mass audiences, but needs to touch them. Then he happens to walk into the Oval Office when the president having a meeting about a new special satellite that broadcasts to every TV in the world simultaneously. I know comic books have been known to pull out the odd contrivance, but this is a hell of a stretch.
Although WW84 is paced like like an armadillo climbing up a downwards escalator there is plenty to enjoy. Gal Gadot has the majesty and strength of the character down, with Pascal and Wiig adding just enough bombastic drama to the villains to make them fun. And Chris Pine is also in the movie. The 1980s aesthetic is mostly used for comic relief, but it is a colourful adventure to lose yourself in. Mostly we liked the scene flying above the fireworks in a jet. It was an overall nicely captured visual. We like the ongoing deflection of both verbal and physical harassment both lead women face during the story. It might’ve felt forced, but is a good thematic through line.
It’s a goofy bit of escapism, and that’s certainly welcome at this point in time, but this is just a smidge above average for a superhero movie. There isn’t anything that makes you feel like you’re watching a genuine classic hero like the No Man’s Land scene from the original, but there’s some fun to be had.
Rating: SIX out of TEN