The seemingly endless Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in countless film releases either being rescheduled or going direct to streaming. One of the most hotly anticipated releases has been Patty Jenkins’ super hero sequel Wonder Women 1984.
Featuring the return of Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, we find her decades after the events of World War I in 1984, with her now living in Washington D.C. and working as a senior anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute. She still continues to fight crime as Wonder Woman but tries to keep her exploits secret.
Whilst working at the Smithsonian Diana befriends mousy Barbara Ann Minerva (Kirsten Wiig). When Diana stops a robbery the FBI ask Barbara to identify a range of stolen antiquities from the scene. One item in particular is the “Dreamstone,” a mystical item that is able to grant everyone’s innermost wish.
With this Diana wishes for the return of her dead lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), not realizing at first that her wish actually comes true, with Steve quickly reappearing on the scene, although he isn’t exactly himself with his soul and conscience inhabiting the body of an unwilling participant (surprisingly the moral issue of this is never even alluded to).
At the same time Barbara has wished to be just like Diana, with her quickly growing in strength, beauty and confidence. She quickly comes to the attention of Businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) who is visiting the Smithsonian with the intention of making a donation.
In reality he is looking to obtain the “Dreamstone,” which he hopes to use to save his failing business. Lord throws a party as a ruse to seduce Barbara so he can get his hands on the stone. After taking the stone he makes a wish to become the physical embodiment of the stone, with the stone crumbling to dust in his hands when the wish is granted.
Now with the power to grant anyone their greatest wish, Lord is also able to take whatever he desires in return with him continually growing in power. Diana and the newly resurrected Steve must work together to stop Lord from destroying the world as well as deal with his latest ally Barbara, who is willing to do anything to keep her new powers.
After numerous delays Warner Brothers finally made the decision to give Wonder Woman 1984 a simultaneous cinema and VOD release on the HBO Max streaming service. In many ways Wonder Woman 1984 appears like a tailor made Christmas present for comic book and fantasy fans. The big question is, does it live up to its predecessor?
For the most part the answer is unfortunately no. While Wonder Woman 1984 manages to be a colourful fantasy, it ultimately struggles to match the delights of what came before, with its slow pace in the first hour being it’s most serious obstacle. In matter of fact Wonder Woman 1984 would have actually benefited from a tighter running time, with 150 minutes being overly long for the story at hand.
Additionally, considering the level of action that was involved in her first adventure, the sequel is quite lacking in this department. Jenkins does kick things off with an exhilarating sequence set in Themyscira, where the young Diana competes against her fellow Amazonians in an athletic competition.
The entire sequence was shot with IMAX cameras and would have been a wonder to see on the big screen. From here it is over an hour before we are treated to another major action scene, with just a few minor skirmishes thrown in before to show how Diana is still operating behind the scenes as a crime fighter.
The next major action scene takes place in Egypt where Diana and Steve work together to try and stop Lord. This was probably my favourite action scene of the movie, with a good deal of vehicular carnage involved as well as showing how Diana was becoming more vulnerable. The ensuing action, whilst well done, didn’t personally live up to this with the finale in particular being somewhat of a let down.
In between the action Jenkins allows us to get reacquainted with our leads, with Gal Gadot and Chris Pine once again sharing terrific chemistry.
By this point Godot has made the role her own, with her pretty much becoming the figurehead of the DCEU. Her solo vehicles are certainly more enjoyable and memorable than the likes of Man of Steel (2013) or Aquaman (2018).
As great as it is to have Pine return, ultimately his role feels kind of pointless, with Steve’s presence only included to give Diana a moral quandary when it comes time to decide what’s the right thing to do. Still, he does get involved in the action albeit less so than the first entry.
One area I did feel that was a slight improvement over the first entry was the development of the villains. Surprisingly Kirsten Wiig’s Barbara/Cheetah is extremely effective, being much more of a physical threat than Pascal’s Maxwell Lord.
Wiig and Pascal aren’t the out and out villains you would expect. Both have shades of grey, with them at least having some semblance of decency within them.
Pascal gives a great scenery chewing performance, coming across like a used car salesman. One issue I did have with Pascal’s character was that he doesn’t exactly have a clear endgame. His goal just seems to be more power, with it almost becoming like a drug.
His character initially seems more interesting before he has his powers, with his character struggling with debt and only wanting the power to solve his financial problem. As it progresses he devolves into just another generic villain looking to rule the world, although Pascal still gives it his all, playing a role totally removed from that he plays on The Mandalorian (2019).
At least with Wiig’s Barbara she doesn’t want to revert back to how she was before, a helpless and forgettable lab geek whose boss can’t even remember her name.
Considering she co-wrote the script with Geoff Johns and David Callaham, I was surprised how little Jenkins relied on the 1984 setting. Other than some gags around the fashion of the time, it really doesn’t play an important part in proceedings. The majority of the main plot could have been updated to modern times and it wouldn’t really have made a great deal of difference.
I also thought more would have been made about the moral implications of the Dreamstone. As mentioned earlier, when Steve returns it is done by possessing the body of someone else. Now the fact that this person’s body is put continuously in harm’s way without his consent could have been an interesting avenue to explore but it isn’t even an afterthought.
Additionally, considering the time period it takes place in, I at least expected a soundtrack made up of 80’s hits to accompany the on screen action. Sadly this was not to be. However we are treated to a suitably rousing score from the always great Hans Zimmer.
Sure his score does fall on familiar tropes, with elements from his Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) score being evident, but for the most part it is quality stuff.
Perhaps I was expecting too much from Wonder Woman 1984 that it was impossible for it to live up to expectations. Saying that, it is still an enjoyable action adventure that while not the best the DCEU has had to offer, is still a damn sight better than the likes of Justice League (2017) and the more recent Birds of Prey (2020).
Plot: 3/5 Acting: 4/5 Action: 3/5 Overall: 3.5/5