Review: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984

Rating



Director

Patty Jenkins

Screenplay

Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham

Length

2h 31m

Starring

Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell

MPAA Rating

PG-13

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Review

What can you say about a studio known for churning out below average blockbuster fodder over the course of a decade other than when a film’s a success, the follow up is almost invariably a let down. This is the case for Wonder Woman 1984, a film that has clearly lofty aims, but which cannot get out of the way of its own excess.

As with all superhero films, the second outing is too often a mixed bag. For every Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight, there’s a The Amazing Spider-Man 2 or Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (though in that film’s defense, it was more of a lateral disappointment than a decline in quality). For Wonder Woman 1984, director Patty Jenkins tries mightily to keep the momentum of the first film going, but shunting the action forward more than 60 years has a way of minimizing its impact, especially when the audience isn’t really given an impression of how long Diana’s been pining over the love of her life.

The film moving forward in time carries its own issues, but relocating the action to a time still more than 30 years prior to the events of Justice League, the purpose of such a decision becomes quickly lost. The film gets overly sentimental on ’80s fashion, trends, and other minutia as our Amazonian hero becomes embroiled in a new, world-affecting plot that could see a societal collapse on the level of the Mayans, except on a broader, global scale.

The story revolves around an unsuccessful businessman (Pedro Pascal) desperate enough for success that he seeks out an ancient artifact that may have been responsible for countless civilization collapses, but which he believes will make him inordinately successful. Diana (Gal Gadot) is back to thwart his not quite evil plans while having to contend with her own past courtesy of the unexpected arrival of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), whom she thought dead back in World War I, along with a shy coworker (Kristen Wiig) who wants Diana’s confidence, but who may not be able to handle the responsibilities.

What the film lacks in cohesion, it makes up for in sentiment. The film doesn’t drown in that sentimentality, but is propped up by it as the audience struggles to keep engaged with the film due to its two-and-a-half-hour running time. Why this particular film had to take place in 1984 is anyone’s guess. The storyline doesn’t rely on the environs to augment the situation, it merely exists in a specific time and place. Any later, the concept of nuclear annihilation might have lost some of its bite and any earlier it might have lost the sense of doomsdayism that pervaded American society in that period. For that reason alone, I can see the choice of this setting. Other than that, getting Wiig to wear cheetah print is about the only other conceivable necessity.

Truthfully, what likely started out as a nobly enriching story was stuffed so full of unnecessary plot points, superfluous scenes, and excess characters that the film ends up in dire need of a trim. The Cheetah storyline felt almost like an afterthought, an attempt to bring in a female antagonist against whom Wonder Woman could engage. And while I think it was a wasteful use of the character, someone who clearly could come back after slinking away to lick her wounds, it was interesting to establish the dynamic between two female comic book characters that wasn’t centered around a fight over a romantic interest, but over foundational idealism. Wiig, try as she might, has a character that seems to be wasted, even if her plotline has some compelling elements. Unfortunately, we’re never given the kind of backstory really needed to make her stand out to audiences and when the Legion of Doom eventually comes together against the Justice League, it’s unlikely that she will be treated any less shabbily.

There are a lot of lofty ideals on tap for this film, but the audience is dragged through a lengthy picture that could have been cut down to a more lean production, delivered with far more impact. In the end, Wonder Woman is enjoyable in fits and spurts. There are some lovely moments and the payoff almost works, but there is also a lot of pointless detritus. Subplots that seem frivolous. Scenes that initiate wonder, but quickly drain into banality. It’s a lot of compelling ideas padded to an unnecessary degree. While the concept is admirable, it isn’t completely successful. Desiring to create a more hopeful message, something needed more now than ever before, the superhero trappings ultimately get in the way. While suspending disbelief isn’t a huge issue, getting to the point is

Review Written

November 9, 2021

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