Staying true to yourself is the message ringing through this hit-and-miss sequel.
Set several decades after the events of the first film, we see that Diana Prince has settled down to modern living, but still misses her one true love, Steve Trevor. But when an unremarkable looking stone emerges and appears to grant wishes, perhaps not everything is lost? Perhaps everything can be gained?
2017’s Wonder Woman was a smash hit for the floundering DC Comics “Extended Universe” of movies, coming as it did on the tail-end of director Zack Snyder’s reign over the cinematic partnership with Warner Brothers. The Justice League movie was retooled for the worse, Aquaman and Shazam were different creations entirely from the seedy, grimdark Batman Versus Superman, while Wonder Woman appeared to resonate with audiences far louder and clearer than the rest.
Director Patty Jenkins has returned, alongside lead stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, but this time with less of Snyder’s influence in the background. We start out seeing a little more of Diana’s childhood, with her learning a lesson about truth with the backdrop of a Amazonian trial of strength (which given eleven (?) year old Diana was outpacing fully grown woman, looked kinda silly at times,) and quickly dive into the 1980s.
Our magic McGuffin this time is a “dreamstone” (a play on the DC Comics gem the Materioptikon) which grants a wish to whoever touches it. Diana’s involvement at the museum leads it to her first, and a work colleague Barbara Minerva (Kirsten Wiig). Both make wishes… changing their lives forever. Ultimately, the stone falls into the hands of con-man Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) who intends to abuse the power almost limitlessly, despite devastating consequences.
The film is long, running at 150 minutes, and often feels like other superhero films we’ve seen before, stitched together like a Frankenstein’s Monster. Chris Pine’s World War 1 pilot is returned to Diana, thanks to her wish, but as a result her powers are diminished. You can strike Spider-Man 2 and Captain America off your checklist already. Kirsten Wiig’s character is a shy, awkward girl who idolises Diana and wishes to be like her, losing her humanity in the process. Strike off The Amazing Spider-Man 2 from your list. People getting thrown around in White House corridors? X-Men 2. Not to mention the setting of the 1980s, which seems only relevant for a Cold War backdrop. X-Men: First Class.
So watching Wonder Woman 1984 feels little bit like watching recycled ideas for most of its runtime. Plus having Diana as a wistful, heartbroken woman, despite nearly 70 years elapsing between movies… feels a little sore for her character. There’s more needless scenes between her and Steve, played for comedy but just as forgettable as in the first film.
That said, the film’s premise does bear fruit towards the end of the film; when our antagonists start to act. Pedro Pascal is clearly having a great time here as Max Lord, charismatic and flawed, he steals all the scenes he is in. While Kirsten Wiig as Minerva is also a stand-out performance, making Wonder Woman herself a little bit like Batman; the stoic DC hero who is burdened by responsibility.
The action sequences are decent, if a little surreal at times. There are some plot conveniences which are exacerbated by the magic stone being about “wishes”, with an almost playground logic.
But it is obvious that they are bending the Wonder Woman franchise to align with Aquaman and Shazam. A little more playful, a little more heart, a lot less brooding and a lot less shadows. The final act is actually quite emotionally powerful if you let it be, and provides the character much needed growth and development.
If you can ignore the 70 years she’s already had to have that development…
It is a fun distraction, but it is a little overlong with needless sequences. For all the gravitas in its finale, it could have saved some time in getting there.
Also what happened to the 1980s soundtrack? Not a peep from it.