Wonder Woman 1984, the long anticipated heroine sequel, has a lot of heart but fails to make a true impact. [SPOILER-Free]
The first big superhero blockbuster to come out in a nearly a year, Wonder Woman 1984 was a fun follow-up to the 2017 smash hit, and, in a lot of ways, the viewing experience parallels the original. Like with the first Wonder Woman, the movie had a strong beginning, ramped up to a compelling second act, and kind of floundered out in the third act. I really was hoping that WW84 would stick the landing, but it ended up going the way of 90% of superhero movies now a day.
Set in 1984 (hence the title), Diana (Gal Gadot) has spent decades trying to move on from the heartbreak of WWII and loss of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Now working in the Smithsonian as a senior anthropologist, she balances her (lack of) private life while starting to be Wonder Woman in the public eye. Meanwhile, the world is super 80s, including a retro commercial from an oil tycoon, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) promising Americans the chance to live out their dreams. The monotony is shaken when some ancient artifacts acquired by the FBI make their way to Diana and colleague Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig).
The performances in this franchise has honestly been mostly stellar (aside from the odd casting of David Thewlis as Ares in the first one). All of the talent puts in strong performances for the sequel and drives the movie.
Gal Gadot clocks in another solid performance as the titular character and actually does a better job in this one compared to the original. She has a better grasp of the character and effectively delivers on the different emotional levels required of the story. It’s also sweet seeing her continue her chemistry with Chris Pine, who’s back again (won’t tell you how). That man is a joy to watch and a lot of fun as he oozes charisma.
The villain side of the cast also has some studs with Pedro Pascal putting in an eye-catching performance that he clearly had fun portraying, kind of like a Gene Hackman Lex Luthor but turned up to 11. The biggest nod, though, needs to go to Kristen Wiig. In a change from her usually comedic roles, she exceeded expectations and blew her part out of the water. In what feels like a nod to a Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from Batman Returns, it really helped round out the movie and give us a nice change from Gadot’s Diana.
I think the biggest issue I had with this movie was the inconsistency in visual tone.
What do I mean by that? Well, first off, the movie tries to balance the feel of an 80’s movie, which can be seen in certain characters and actions scenes, and the appeal of modern comic book action movies. Unfortunately, the imbalance seems to miss the mark. Where the first one succeeded in making a period piece with an uniting aesthetic tone, WW84 ended up going to both extremes too much, robbing the film of a cohesive style.
The parts that did truly embrace the 80s were fun, which can be seen throughout the movie through wardrobe selection and set design. The issue is that these scenes don’t really transition well to certain action scenes and various set pieces. To look at movies that does this well, one would look towards the recent string of X-Men movies (First Class, Days of Future Past, and even Apocalypse).
Veering off the narrative appearance, the action sequences seemed to really suffer from this visual variety. One scene, a flashback to Themyscira, is the closest to the execution of the first one, with the rest of the movie’s action being a bit odd. This movie, unlike the first, relies HEAVILY on Wonder Woman using her Lasso of Truth to swing, and those visuals were truly distracting. There is a mall action scene that almost seems like it was taken out of an 80s movie, but this contrasts poorly to later fight scenes that are more in line with the DCEU.
Speaking of the visuals, ooof. The scenes that were rooted in practical effects with slight digital touch-ups were far superior to fight scenes that were heavily green-screened. A few times in the movie, we get close-ups of Gadot with an obvious green screen behind her, and it is very tough to watch.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a fun movie, don’t get me wrong. If you enjoyed the first one, you are not going to be greatly disappointed. It tries to do a lot, but the climax was too far-fetched for me to truly buy in. It has some great themes and moral statements, but a lot of it is too neatly cleaned, and, like the first one, I felt the third act failed to deliver.
If you are going to watch it, tamper expectations and research the way you are going to watch it. There have been issues with streaming, and STAY AWAY FROM HBO MAX’S ROKU APP.