Wonder Woman 1984 Review
I came late to Wonder Woman. The first standalone film in either the MCU or DCU to have a female lead should have been a safe bet for me, but not being much of a DC fan, I waited until I could see it on Blu-ray. I read the reviews which were mostly positive, the feedback was encouraging, and I sat down to watch what I hoped would be an empowering, feminist superhero film. I was unfortunately sorely disappointed.
The curse of the era of its source material was upon it, and although there was potential there for a modern heroine, she had little agency, it felt more like a film about Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and his pet Amazon than truly her story. Thankfully, we’ve had better offerings since, with Captain Marvel and Birds of Prey, both Marvel and DC giving us and their casts empowered female characters with plots we could really sink our teeth into. Birds of Prey especially correcting so much of what was wrong with Suicide Squad. So, what would Wonder Woman do on her second outing?
Well, truthfully, Wonder Woman 1984 is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some aspects which are brilliantly modern and refreshing. Gal Gadot is magnetic as Diana Prince, Wonder Woman herself, and she shows the strength and agency we were sadly neglected of previously. The blistering action of the opening sequence gives us a glimpse at Diana’s warrior spirit and her physical abilities. Her academic achievements are given screen time too, as she uses her knowledge and abilities with languages to puzzle out what is going on. Kristen Wiig is charming and funny as the conflicted Barbara Minerva, later Cheetah, giving us an increasingly powerful compare to Wonder Woman’s constant morality. Moving smoothly from a loveable dork to a worthy villain, Wiig fills both roles confidently.
There is some clear course correction and play on what was frustrating about the first film, these moments adding levity where required, much of this fulfilled by a nice comic turn from Chris Pine as Steve. Costume choices towards the end encourage the idea that Wonder Woman is representative of every woman against the world, and while there is a hint of shoehorning in this, it is still an encouraging inclusion. The 80s setting is pleasingly realised, with the neon lights and fireworks shining off pastel clothing and leather bumbag’s (fanny packs for our American readers) aplenty. Hans Zimmer’s score has the usual reminders of his previous work, and although it isn’t his best or most distinctive, it encourages, empowers and guides us through the emotional scenes adequately enough.
The themes of WW84 are fully rooted in the 1980s. The Cold War (although not literally referred to) looms large alongside the excess and capitalist stylings of the oil trade and Wall Street. As a mysterious stone begins to grant wishes to those who touch it, like so many stories like this, each wish has a cost, and the ramifications of it falling into the wrong hands is what Diana needs to deal with. Unfortunately, that’s part of the issue. We’ve seen films about the Cold War and those with “what if” scenarios that escalate into conflict, and plenty of stories about wishes gone wrong. What starts as a promising set-up with enjoyable character play descends into something predictable and formulaic.
It is fun and enjoyable but unfortunately as it’s something we’ve all seen before it soon starts to feel as though it’s outstaying its welcome. Pedro Pascal does his best as Maxwell Lord, but he isn’t really given enough to work with, as his motivations don’t entirely match his characterisation. The final battle also has some strange visual choices, with the neon lights giving way to an almost monochrome battle surrounded by rain and clouds, flattening the action and stripping it of any potential excitement. And while most of the effects are well realised, there are a few moments where it is clear we are witnessing the rescue of dummies, not real people, a bit of an oversight for a film of this budget. Ultimately, Wonder Woman 1984 takes leaping strides to course correct what went wrong last time, but it’s just a shame the plot doesn’t do enough to hold it up.
Wonder Woman 1984 is currently playing in select UK cinemas and is available on HBO Max from December 25 for one month. It will be available on PVOD in the UK from January 13, 2021.
Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Dir: Patty Jenkins | Cast: Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Gal Gadot, Robin Wright | Writers: Dave Callaham (screenplay), Geoff Johns (screenplay), Geoff Johns (story), Patty Jenkins (screenplay), Patty Jenkins (treatment), William Moulton Marston (Wonder Woman created by)