Synopsis – Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
My Take – With Man of Steel (2013), Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016) opening to less than favorable reviews, from both the audience and the critics alike, at the time, it seemed like the hastily launched DC Extended Universe (DCEU) would just be sinking deeper with every new release, irrespective of the extend of support DC fans (like myself) would provide.
That is until, the Patty Jenkins directed Wonder Woman (2017), re-introduced the world to the Amazonian Princess with a gritty heart felt story which not only cemented her as an immensely talented filmmaker but also changed the perception of the audience towards female superheroes.
And as one had hoped, three years later, in its immediate sequel Wonder Woman as a character continues to be the embodiment of hope in whatever remains of the supposedly interconnected DCEU. A sequel which forgoes its predecessor’s fairly more gritty and down-to-earth style in favor of, for better or worse, a seemingly infinite supply of utterly delightful colorful superhero excitement which carves its own path towards a joyous, wacky and deeply enjoyable source of entertainment.
Sure, while the film doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first film, and could have done with some more polish and run time trimming, it remains blissfully simplistic yet endlessly entertaining, and the film’s unrelenting imagination and desire to have fun will set it out as a timeless classic of superhero cinema, featuring another spectacular performance from Gal Gadot in the lead role, and more incredible directing from Patty Jenkins.
This is a film that absolutely crackles on a big screen, the large canvas playing deserving host to the scale of its ambitious action sequences, pop art color palette and scene-stealing villains, in other words, everything that has been missing from cinemas this year.
Set in 1984, the story follows Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), the ageless Amazonian princess, who in order to provide cover for her super-heroine antics, has been working at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and studying antiquities while occasionally donning her gear to fight bad guys. But, Diana is a loner, as 70 years have passed since WWI, and everyone she befriended during the period are long gone, and worse, she continues to pine for her first love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the daredevil pilot who sacrificed his life to help her save the world.
Her life, however, takes an interesting turn when she is introduced through Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a nerdy gemologist who spends her days pretty much ignored by everyone, to a mysterious dream stone, which was a part of rare treasures seized by the FBI and supposedly possesses magical wish-granting powers.
A stone she is intrigued to find out is desperately sought out by Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), the brash and ambitious owner of Black Gold Cooperative. And as Diana begins investigating him, her life takes a complicated turn when Steve returns from the dead with his memory intact.
Written by Geoff Johns, Patty Jenkins and Dave Callaham, with director Jenkins once again at the helm, the sequel offers a reprise of all the elements that delivered such a punch in the original outing: a strong female role model, a dynamic story, and a number of deftly executed action sequences. Stating boldly that this is a film that just wants to have as much fun as possible, no matter what.
Opening with a thrilling flashback to Diana’s childhood on Themyscira, where she competes in an arduous, triathlon-style event, Jenkins‘ fast paced direction makes this film an effective comic book film that leans heavily on wholesomeness and optimism, leaving out any kind of moral ambiguity or nuance for bright colors and popcorn friendly ostentatious action scenes, just the sort of big screen spectacle Hollywood does well.
Though the story admittedly takes a while to get into gear, the opening two sequences of this film are so much fun, and hark back to a more innocent, fantastical view of superheroes like in the days of Christopher Reeve‘s Superman. Mainly as everything about the film is just bright, fun-loving and so wonderfully innocent.
From its humor to its action and even the color of Diana’s superhero outfit, this is a wonderful film that brings so much hope. It’s not the naive, innocent type of hope that it espouses, but the type of optimism that perseveres despite trials and tribulations, which is what underpins the film. It isn’t trying hard to be relevant to the modern day, or even to the laws of reality, but it’s exactly that which will make this film a timeless classic of superhero cinema.
Simplistic it may be, and completely detached from reality it certainly is, but that willingness to just let loose and have fun makes the film so enormously likable. Most importantly, it is unabashed about what it is, and sets out to deliver a tale of a character whose greatest strength is not physical, but emotional in nature.
The action in the film isn’t huge and flashy, and it can’t be, as the story will show. On the one hand, it does allow for more complex choreography and adds tension back into the film, since our heroine isn’t trouncing everything in sight.
Admittedly, much of the charm of the predecessor came from Diana’s own wonder and her noble naiveté, here, Steve’s confusion with this brave new world allows for a cute inversion of the first film. Now, it’s Diana who has to show him the ways of modern society, and he’s the one who gets the fashion montage. But whereas the romance was an asset to 2017 film, as the viewer was invited to see Diana through Steve’s love-struck eyes, it feels like a burden in the sequel not simply to the plot but to Diana’s entire character. She becomes almost entirely defined by her devotion to Steve.
But it is relatively minor flaw compared to the sum of its parts. You can see where the film is coming from, depicting the super-heroine’s capacity for love and kindness as being the power that truly saves the day. And thematically, this is echoed throughout the film, as even the villains don’t meet the usual fatal and gruesome endings that other superhero films usually give to their bad guys. They aren’t necessarily redeemed, of course, but the mercy shown to them is what makes this resonate so strongly.
Ever since her on-screen stealing debut as the character in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it is impossible to see anyone else but Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. The drop dead gorgeous Israeli actress is once again outstanding and continues to stand out in the DCEU. Chris Pine once again shines in an enjoyable supporting role and continues to share delightful chemistry with Gadot.
While the 2017 film excelled in many ways but the one thing it didn’t nail was its villain, David Thewlis‘ war raging god Ares, who seemed like a rehash of other indistinguishable antagonist. But here, the film course corrects with not one but two compelling and nuanced villains but two, Pedro Pascal‘s Max Lord and Kristen Wiig‘s Barbara Minerva/Cheetah.
Both Pascal and Wiig are known for their infectious charisma, who once again display this mesmerizing effect here with their massive screen presence which actually overshadows the titular hero played by Gal Gadot. Especially Pascal who is the real stand-out here, with just the right balance of menacing greed and comic book villainy to fit this film’s fun-loving atmosphere to perfection.
In smaller roles, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright are excellent as always, while Natasha Rothwell, Ravi Patel, Gabriella Wilde, Kristoffer Polaha and Amr Waked manage to leave a mark. On the whole, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is a big and bold escapist superhero film that delivers on being a heartfelt, fun, action-packed big screen entertainment.
Directed – Patty Jenkins
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 151 minutes