BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JANUARY 1, 2021
“Life is Good… ..but it can be better.”— Max Lord (Pedro Pascal)
Once again, the internet is not happy. What could be striking them now, you may ask? This time it’s because “Wonder Woman 1984” did not blow them away. Some of the hate has to come from Warner Bros choosing to release their entire slate on HBO Max. But a lot of the hate seems to be coming from the movie itself. I get it: the original “Wonder Woman” was Patty Jenkins’ first big waltz onto the scene. The first female to direct a superhero movie. The first female superhero out the gate. But with those milestones in the past, we’re back to poo-pooing every possible misstep.
To err on the negative discourse side, “Wonder Woman 1984” lacks the conciseness and brevity of the original “Wonder Woman.” Both films’ runtimes are almost the same, yet “1984” feels bloated and meandering. In the original, everything feels like it’s from Diana’s perspective. Anything that’s not is brief. In “1984,” however, it often feels like most of the scenes are with characters that aren’t Diana, and with her name is on the marquee, that’s a problem.
When graced with the beauty that is Gal Gadot playing Diana/Wonder Woman, we see her pining for her lost love, 66 years after losing him—eating alone, walking alone, passing on men’s advances. She meets Barbara Minerva, played brilliantly by Kristen Wiig. She’s our glasses-wearing villain-to-be. She’s shy and has low self-esteem, a reverse mirror image of Diana. We also meet our second villain-to-be shortly after in Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord. Both end up becoming villains when met with the black market antiquity that grants wishes.
Opposed to her first outing, it feels like Patty Jenkins merely stumbles into some cute moments rather than trail-blazing unforgettable ones like the “No Man’s Land” sequence from the first film. The opening mall sequence where Diana battles some bumbling thieves is kitschy and fun, ending in the finger “shush” and the holding of a thief upside down by the leg from the marketing. But there’s a good portion of those attempts that feel thin and undercooked. Some moments should hold a ton of weight, like Diana learning to fly or showing the resurrected Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) around 1984, which feels weird and mishandled.
The worst of it is, when you get a spectacular and moving moment, like the birth of the invisible jet, you see how great the film could have been if handled like that the entire way through. Visually striking and dedicated to the source material, it becomes comic pages brought to life. However, almost everything else feels like a waking nightmare that descends into unnatural madness with no regard for what comes next.
At times a jumbled mess, the story contains plot points that I’m still uncertain of their meaning. How does the opening sequence of young Diana losing a Themyscira tournament tie in with later events? Why were Asteria and her gold winged suit of armor included save for giving Diana a badass look in the final acts of the film and the marketing? So many open or unnecessary threads muddle up the plot.
The performances are hit or miss. I still love Gal Gadot as Diana, and I think Kristen Wiig steps way outside her comfort zone and gives us something like Jim Carrey’s Riddler (and I mean that as a compliment). On the other hand, Pedro Pascal is all over the place, with goofy putting it lightly. Top off that performance with a monologue-speech-climax from Diana in their final “battle,” and you at least understand some of the critical backlashes.
Do I think “Wonder Woman 1984” drops off a bit from the original? One-hundred percent. Do I think it deserves the uproar and questions of why they’ve already greenlit the third one? No. As far as it ranks in the DC Extended Universe, I think it lands above both “Justice League” and David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.” Quirkiness and good performances keep it interesting and light enough to stave off the earlier dark-toned installments from seeping in. Also, talk up the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s impressive run all you want, but even they had lesser films like “Iron Man 2” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.” Yet nobody called for them to stop making those sequels.
December 25, 2020
by William Moulton Marston
Warner Bros Pictures
(for sequences of action and violence)