Tuesday Review – Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

films, reviews

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I don’t want to say that I had high expectations for Wonder Woman 1984 but the first film did make me cry in it’s opening sequence. Then there was the fact that the movie poster is absolutely astounding. It had everything we needed. Diana looked like an absolute powerhouse and the 80s vibes were incredible. I’m not a big DC fan but the first film was such a great celebration of female superheroes. Plus, it showed that women can be given the lead role in a comic book movie and make a shit ton of money. The fact that DC were sensible enough to bring Patty Jenkins back was comforting. Over the years, they’ve often put their trust in the wrong hands and its not something that’s really worked well for them. Not since The Winter Soldier has a second comic book film been better than the first. Would Jenkins and Gal Gadot be able to work movie magic again? Would it be worth the £15.99 rental fee? There was only one way to find out.

It’s a bloody good job that the Amazons spin-off movie was confirmed last year because, I’ll be honest, those are the parts of the Wonder Woman franchise that I’m most excited for. I can’t say that the WW84’s opening sequence has quite as much impact as the first one but it’s a lot of fun. As is the opening showdown in the mall. Really, I just love watching women doing awesome stuff and seeing Diana beating a group of thieves is always going to be worth a watch. Unfortunately, from this moment on, the film starts to go downhill. It’s not that WW84 is bad but it certainly can’t reach the great heights of the previous film.

The Diana that we meet here has settled into her life of heroism and is protecting the residents of Washington. She is working at the Smithsonian museum and performing her great deeds in secret. After new arrival Barbara struggles to fit in, Diana takes pity on her and takes her out for dinner. Of course, it also helps that Barbara is also analysing a mysterious object that was part of the same robbery Wonder Woman foiled earlier. Turns out, the object is a Dreamstone that claims to grant the wish of the person holding it. Both Diana and Barbara inadvertently make wishes, which come true. When a struggling businessman grabs the stone, it becomes apparent that he knows quite a bit about the stone and is planning on using it to satisfy his own greed. Can Diana stop him before its too late?

If ever there was a time when we really needed someone like Diana Prince then it was at the end of 2020. This film’s release had already been postponed several times and was further delayed thanks to Covid-19. It had thus far been the first year in ages that hadn’t seen the release of at least one superhero film. Some may choose to count Birds of Prey but, strictly speaking, Harley is more of an anti-hero. So, we were all desperate for a hero. This should have been a triumphant return for Diana but, instead, it’s a bit forgettable. That is mostly down to the story. There’s a lot going on because there’s a lot of time to fill. I’m not sure who decided this film needed a 2.5 hour run time but it really should have been shorter.

We waste a lot of time in this film. The characters repeatedly fly all over the world and, clearly, Jenkins decided it was necessary to make it feel like real-time. There’s also an awful lot of time spent on Steve’s return and doing the whole WW1 pilot in the 80s schtick. It was funny to begin with but, with every new item he needed help with, the thinner the gag became. It all just felt a bit overindulgent. As if their success the first time had convinced them that they could do no wrong. The narrative required a bit of editing and some side characters deserved a bit development. The first film was vibrant and fresh. It offered something new in an oversaturated and kind of stale genre. WW84 feels a bit too much like X-Men: Apocalypse to have the same sense of originality. It slightly moves into cliché territory and it’s hard not to be disappointed.

However, that’s not to say that this isn’t an enjoyable film. I think it’s the kind of escapism that we need right now. Jenkins does a great job of realising the 80s and doesn’t feel the need to lean too heavily on obvious pop culture references. There is a definite sense of fun thanks to the historical setting and it looked brilliant. Then there’s the fact that Gal Gadot is the perfect Diana. This is a different version of Wonder Woman to the ones we’ve seen before. In the first film, she was the naïve and overwhelmed newcomer. Now she has settled into her role and is embracing her role. Diana is empowered to uphold truth and honesty. She is warmer and slightly softer here. We see a more vulnerable and emotional side that works really well. Both Diana and Gadot deserved more to work with.

Though, they do get some pretty decent co-stars in both Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig. Pascal is perfect as that 80s style slimy businessman. He has the ego and self-serving attitude that really encapsulates the capitalist excess off the period. He is perfect and a lot of fun. Though, I wish we’d been able to get to know more of his history. He ends up being a little too one-dimensional until a final bit of humanising is tacked on at the end. I had to admit that I was worried about Kristen Wiig’s casting but she does well in her role. Aside from a bit of slightly odd CGI, Wiig steals almost every scene that she’s in. The inevitable moment when the two women finally go head-to-head, it’s a fantastic moment. It would just be better if we’d got there soon.

Regardless, considering our current situation, WW84 is still a welcome treat and there is plenty of like about it. Patty Jenkins really does understand the importance of having a figure like Diana in the DC universe. In terms of character, this is a much stronger film and Gal Gadot is only getting better. It also addresses some important issues and it’s difficult not to see the comparison of a greedy businessman doing everything he can to obtain power. If it were just for a bit of editing and refining, this film would have equaled the earlier release. For me, the sedate middle act just ruined the pace. We’ve been waiting quite a long time to see an all-powerful save the planet and I could have done without all of the sightseeing.

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