Wonder Woman 1984, 2020.
Directed by Patty Jenkins.
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, and Connie Nielsen.
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.
In a year where many feel hopeless, the art of escapism is more important than ever. Films are used as ways to handle the stresses of the world, explore places we’d never see, and movies often are used as a comfort blanket. Wonder Woman 1984 is all of those things: it’s the warm hug of your parent, the stern real talk you get from your best friend, and the introspective reflection we all need.
As a long-time fan of DC Comics, it’s hard to avoid to power and pull of a character as big as Wonder Woman. While never my favorite growing up, she’s slowly won me over as a character. Those feelings were confirmed in 2017 with Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman and further cemented after this film. The film isn’t flawless, and the tone will win over certain fans while alienating another, but there’s an overall hopeful message that feels all too important these days.
And to clear this up early on, the DC film fanbase seems to be as split as political parties these days, but I am here to be the DC Extended Universe centralist we all need. Wonder Woman 1984 fits perfectly between in the middle of what we love about this universe. DC should be insanely dark, it should be hilariously camp, and it needs to have something to keep us hooked…and this surely has all of that.
Decades after her first outing, Diana Prince is making the most of her life in 1980s America. Malls are popping up around the country, hair is getting bigger, and cruel men trying to gain people’s trust through the television are all too common. While working at the Smithsonian, Diana and her new friend Barbara Minerva come across a powerful stone that will seemingly grant any wish. Once it gets into the hands of the shady businessman Maxwell Lord, Diana must stop him and save the world.
The plot is straightforward and doesn’t leave much room for error, which is refreshing. So many times, it feels like superhero films need to pile on mountains of events to like it’s telling a complete story. Wonder Woman 1984 thrust you right into the story and doesn’t try to hold your hand too much. The simplicity is refreshing but does make the film feel a bit rushed. We don’t get much time to live in these intense or thrilling moments before being whisked away to another one. It feels like writers wanted to jump from one set piece to another without really letting the viewers get a grasp at the current one.
This issue also allows the villainous to feel a bit bland at times. They’re not these mustache-twirling baddies you’d expect; they are complex people with a lot going on under the surface. Sadly, neither Maxwell nor Cheetah get their perfect moments and end up feeling like fodder for Diana than iconic movie villains. With that being said, both Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal do a lovely job with the material given. Wiig really stands out here, shutting up her naysayers with a fun turn here. There’s no Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns-level stuff here, but Cheetah is ferocious in her own way.
Pascal’s Maxwell Lord is a bit more complicated. Jenkins and her co-writers do well with making this character feel more well-rounded. DC super-villains need to go above and beyond, and I think Maxwell Lord is almost there but not quite enough. He gladly doesn’t feel like the other well-dressed baddies like Lex Luthor or even the Joker, but maybe a little of that magic could’ve pushed him to iconic status. Still, Pascal rarely does wrong and does seem to be living in this over-the-top role.
Like the first film, though, the clear stars are Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Starting with Pine as the returning Steve Trevor, he’s just as vibrant and glorious here as he was in the 2017 film. Not to make this about the infamous “Chris Battle” on the Internet, but Pine might be up there as one of the best because he has every quality you’d want in a leading man. He shines when he needs, and he supports when he needs; he’s just an overall talent and offers up a lot to enjoy.
The return of this fan-favorite character is handled interestingly, to say the least. Even if you figure out how Steve is coming back, it’s still handled very differently than I expected. But the best part is seeing him return to Diana’s side; he gives her the push she needs to be even better, which is what we want from a life partner. Many fans will forever be grateful to how director Patty Jenkins has evolved the male/female dynamic in films like this; there’s nothing quite like Diana & Steve.
And speaking of Diana Prince, Gal Gadot continues to be our Wonder Woman. Even though she never fully came into her own in the first film, we knew she was right for this world. And now, as Gadot grows more comfortable in the role, so does her on-screen hero. There’s effortless energy to how cool and confident she comes off, but there’s also a relatable nature to her. People cannot often make us feel more human, but also strive for their perfection, but that’s the true magic to a character like Wonder Woman.
Her action is aplenty with a handful of pretty fun fights. The face-off with Cheetah stands out as one of the better choreographed and had a lot of the soul. But as great as Gadot does in action roles, she’s becoming such a powerful actress. There’s a speech near the end of the film that felt like she was coming straight for my heart and soul. Also, her humor and charm…it’s just out-of-this-world!
The simplest way I can sum up my enjoyment of Wonder Woman 1984 is the old Goldilocks Principle. The film isn’t too hot or too cold; it’s just right. There’s the right amount of everything coming together to make a damn good final product, which is all you could ask for. It doesn’t feel as groundbreaking as the first film, and that’s because this character broke all the damn ground. Now, it’s just Patty Jenkins and the team around this film to continue making their type of movie.
Finding that balance between “grounded realism” and high concept superhero fantasy isn’t easy, but Wonder Woman 1984 does it with relative ease. If we could get a film like this, something with everything we love about comic books, more often, the genre would be in an even better place.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★