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Wonder Woman 1984 (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020)

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, Kristoffer Polaha, Natasha Rothwell, Ravi Patel, Oliver Cotton, Lucian Perez, Gabriella Wilde, Kelvin Yu, Stuart Milligan, Shane Attwooll, David Al-Fahmi, Wai Wong, Doutzen Kroes, Hari James, Hayley Warnes and Lynda Carter.

Screenplay by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns & Dave Callaham.

Directed by Patty Jenkins.

Distributed by Warner Bros. 151 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The first Wonder Woman movie, which came out a few years ago, was a breath of fresh air in the moribund and humorless DC Extended Universe. After years in which all the fun and humor had been drained from the iconic characters – we’re looking at you, Zack Snyder – a DC film finally learned from their main competition at the Marvel Comic Universe and realized that the word “comic” is part of the term “comic book” and decided to lighten up a bit on the pathos.

Wonder Woman was the best DC-based film in years, arguably the best since Superman II in 1980. (Sorry, Dark Knight fans, while that was the probably best of the new batch of DC films, other than Heath Ledger’s incredible performance as the Joker, the movie was pretty boilerplate.) Since then, DC has been trying to lighten things up with mixed results. Sometimes it doesn’t really work – Aquaman was trying to be lighter, but honestly it wasn’t as funny as it thought. Sometimes it works brilliantly – the mostly overlooked film about lesser remembered superhero Shazam! was surprisingly terrific.

Wonder Woman 1984 is even lighter and more blatantly comedic than the first Wonder Woman film. It has a fun and funny pop culture flare (including a nice Easter egg nod to the 1970s Wonder Woman TV series). It has a comedienne (Kristen Wiig) playing Diana’s sidekick turned adversary. It has a musical montage scene. It has a sweet, probably doomed romance. Many of its fight scenes have a humorous snap to them.

Yet, sadly, Wonder Woman 1984 does not work as well as its predecessor. Honestly, it isn’t really even close. Most of this has to do with the convoluted and somewhat confusing and chaotic concept which eventually totally gets away from the filmmakers. Also, unfortunately, it does suffer from typical DC comic film bloat (over two and a half hours for this story???!!!). The eventual climax seems simplistic and rather unlikely.

On a side note, as someone who grew up in the 1980s, other than the cars, corded telephones, old computers, and occasional references to things like Members Only jackets, this film almost never really feels like it is taking place in 1984.

However, perhaps the biggest problem with Wonder Woman 1984 is simply that there is not enough Wonder Woman. Most of the film has her in her human secret identity of Diana Prince, Smithsonian Institution super-scientist and all-around bad ass. It’s a great character but she rarely suits up as the titular Amazon heroine before the extended ending, other than a fun and funny early sequence of Wonder Woman fighting small-time crime in the streets and malls of the nation’s capital and a few short sequences sprinkled through the middle.

Which is not to say Wonder Woman 1984 is a bad film. There are a lot of fun and interesting sequences, and had they shaved maybe 45 minutes from the run time it may have been something terrific. However, the concept is just too all-encompassing and convoluted, and the filmmakers sort of paint themselves into a corner – mostly any denouement they come up with to this complicated web will likely be a disappointment, as is this one.

As is pretty standard in this film genre, the story revolves around a magic crystal which falls into the hands of a bad guy. The wishing stone is basically the equivalent of a genie in a bottle – whatever one wishes for will be granted. However, as generations of these stories have taught us, there is always a high cost for this kind of deal.

The bad guy is Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a TV personality, megalomaniac, and con man whose financial house of cards is coming apart before he gains access to the wishing stone and uses it to amass unlimited power. (Any resemblance in this character to a real-life selfish former-TV personality con man who pads his books and has been in the news for the past four years is probably intentional.)

The problem is the guy never thinks anything is enough. He always wants more and eventually throws the entire planet into complete chaos, with rioting and killing in the streets in his reckless pursuit for ultimate power. That is a huge fix for one superheroine, even one with a magic lasso and an invisible plane.

Had Wonder Woman 1984 reined its concept in a little (and, again, had they shaved like 45 minutes from the running time), it could have been a terrific film. As it is, it starts out pretty good before eventually losing the plot. The effects are mostly terrific, and Gal Godot still makes a charismatic superhero (and is quite good in her human identity, as well). And even as a just middling film, it is still one of the better DC movies. I just hope this terrific character gets a stronger vehicle next time around – and let’s face it, a sequel in a few years is almost inevitable.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: December 24, 2020.

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