From the moment I saw the first trailer for the sequel to 2017’s WONDER WOMAN, I was excited. I really enjoyed director Patty Jenkins’ first turn with Diana and thought Gal Gadot was amazing in the role each time she stepped into the Amazon’s costume. Add in Kristen Wiig, who I am a big fan of, as Cheetah and Pedro Pascal as one of my favorite DC Comics villains and it looked like the sequel could do no wrong.
When the positive early reviews came out, it looked like the excitement was going to pay off. And then the movie debuted Christmas Day on streamer HBO Max and the whole thing seemingly went off the rails.
I didn’t get to watch the movie on Christmas Day. Kids and work kept me from plopping down on the couch to enjoy Wonder Woman 1984. I finally got around to watching it the next day after work, but by then the internet’s reactions to the film became impossible to ignore and… it was not as encouraging as I would have hoped.
A sample of some tweets from the last few days:
So yeah, there was a little bit of trepidation before I pressed play on my Apple TV.
But for all the instant hate I saw online for Wonder Woman 1984, what I got was an OK but uneven superhero movie that, in my opinion, tried too hard to be too many things. Unfortunately, it really didn’t master any of those things.
While the first Wonder Woman film took place during World War I, the sequel jumps decades into the future, with the immortal Diana now living in the Me Generation of 1984. Still heartbroken over the loss of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the Amazon lives a life of solitude while working as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Despite stopping crimes – like in the opening sequence at a mall – Wonder Woman is not a known entity in this world.
Speaking of that opening sequence in the mall, that may have been one of the most jarring parts of the film for me. After seeing a young Diana trying to compete in an Amazon horseback race, the movie turns to the mall setting. The sequence where she stops a robbery of some antiquities looked like it was actually filmed in the 1980s, complete with over-the-top fighting and some clunky camera work. It was reminiscent of goofy scenes in Superman III and IV and felt wildly out of place in a modern motion picture. Going from that into the actual movie was a little off-putting and took some getting used to.
Diana is still feeling the loss of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the man who crash-landed on her island of Themyscira and brought her to Man’s World. When she comes into contact with the Dreamstone, an artifact that is brought to the Smithsonian, her desire to have Steve back manifests, putting Trevor’s spirit in the body of some random guy Diana’s never met before.
While Diana and a coworker – gemologist Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristin Wiig) initially believe the Dreamstone to be just a trinket, it proves to be a powerful object, made even more dangerous when con man Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) gets his hands on it. Lord embeds the stone within his being and starts granting people wishes – for a price. The Dreamstone is magic, you see, and magic has a cost to those who use it – even if those using it do so without their knowledge.
Pascal’s MAX LORD is easily the best part of the movie. The character plays with an unbridled enthusiasm and unchecked greed that fit right in with the 1980s setting. The adaptation of the character works really well in the setting, though the performance is hampered a bit by the story and some of the dialogue.
While Lord is the big bad of the movie, he’s not the only villain. Wiig’s Dr. Minerva goes from being nebbish and socially-awkward to confident and outgoing after using the Dreamstone. The rock eventually turns her into The Cheetah, an apex predator who wants to keep Diana from stopping Lord and negating the Dreamstone’s effects.
Wiig’s performance grew on me as the movie continued, but in the first act, she came off as unbearably annoying. She displayed a nervous energy that I expect from a 12:45 a.m. sketch on Saturday Night Live.
Overall, the movie took a little while to get going, with the first half of the movie devoted to Diana’s reunion with Steve Trevor and Max Lord’s machinations to gain money and power. Once the heroes figure out what’s happening with the Dreamstone, the film picks up with action, but much of the damage had been done. Lord’s plan is a little convoluted and the situation that leads to the final battle is comic book science at its wackiest, which doesn’t always translate well to the screen.
To make matters worse, the ending of the film is little more than a pyrrhic victory for Diana, which left me feeling unsatisfied. Although, Lord’s final scene with his son made up for it a little bit. I admit to tearing up a little bit at that, but a lot of moments between parents and children do that to me now that I’m a dad. Once again, Pascal really saved this picture for me.
I didn’t hate the film. Far from it, actually. There was no raging at the screen as I watched or anywhere near the vitriol towards it that I saw in other places online. But I was disappointed in it. I had really hoped for better from this film.
Now that Warner Bros. has given the green light to a third Wonder Woman film – with Jenkins returning to direct – maybe they can make up for the problems with 1984 with a strong end to the trilogy.
I really do wish for that to be true.