The truth shall set you…. back 150 minutes. Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman returns to screens in a fun but familiar sequel that doesn’t do enough to separate itself from the tribe.
*Be warned there are mild spoilers ahead*
It has to be said, there was a lot of hype going into this film. The promotional trailers have been awesome, the bold and bright timeline of 1980’s America filled me with the hope that Wonder Woman 1984 was going for a gleaming and effervescent style but still managing to deliver the action that comic book films are notorious for. Does it? Kind of.
Wonder Woman 1984 places itself in the title’s year, a great deal has of course changed since the previous film’s 1918 World War setting, the opening scene gives us Diana halting a mall robbery. Gal Gadot slips back into her scantily clad superhero attire with ease and it’s great to see her heroism so early on, teeing us up for what will surely be a stirring and relentlessly entertaining joy-ride.
Pleasantries continue when Kristen Wiig enters the fold. Better known for her comical roles in films such as Bridesmaids and 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot, she adds another layer of intrigue and prowess. Diana has been working as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington since her war glory days, it’s here that she meets Barbara, a nervous and giddy person, anxiously starting her first day. Barbara is the polar opposite of Diana, a “nobody” conveniently camouflaged into her background, unacknowledged by the many. Diana (being the shining beacon of hope that she represents) gives her some pointers and opens the door for their friendship to flourish, it’s kind of sweet actually and Kristen Wiig is excellent in her amiable, understated performance.
It’s not all first days on the job however. Parallel to this meet-cute happening we have man-of-the-moment Pedro Pascal (whose role in The Mandalorian has given Star Wars fans one of the greatest moments in decades) starring as Max Lord; and if that’s not one of the baddest bad-ass names you’ve ever heard, I don’t know what will do it for ya; Max has been making strides to become a major player in the oil business. The problem he’s bumping into is that the oil is showing up empty at the drill sites and investors are getting increasingly agitated with the lack of results. Desperation begins to stir.
The thing that brings all of these characters together is the discovery of a mysterious stone that crosses paths with Diana and Barbara at the Smithsonian Institute. This “Dreamstone” was one of the dozens of items recovered from a robbery and Barbara’s department has been tasked by the FBI with studying them for further insights. Diana is familiar with the stone, it’s folklore spanning generations, the story goes that should a person hold the stone and make a wish, their wish shall be granted, but at a cost unbeknownst to them. Max Lord also has knowledge of the Dreamstone’s existence and makes a play to recover it for himself.
So all of the players are on the field, as are their intentions. Diana’s pain of losing Chris Pine’s pilot lover Steve Trevor over 60 years ago has loomed over her like a shroud of misery. Barbara has never been taken seriously despite her many accomplishments, she’s always been barged aside and neglected. Max is trying to show his son he’s not a loser and that his dream of building an empire can be achieved and show his investors that they’ve placed their faith and money in the right place.
Inevitably, wishes are made and consequences are set in motion. Diana gets her wish of Steve coming back, which is great to see but I can’t help but note how drastically underused or invaluable he feels to the story. Steve essentially serves as Diana’s co-detective and Achilles heel, her love for him comes at the cost of her godlike abilities which presents a dilemma she’ll have to eventually confront. Steve does get to make use of some humorous man-out-of-time jokes. Barbara wishes to be more like Diana, which let us be honest, I’d probably wish that myself for a short while at least, Barbara wants the popularity and charm of her friend but gets more than she bargained for, in a good way. And bad. A good-bad way. Max Lord needs oil, lots of it too; but he doesn’t want to stop there. Max wishes to become the stone itself, a feat that will give him the ability to grant any person’s wish simply by touch but comes with grave ramifications that drive him to the brink of destruction.
On paper, this all sounds very capable and assuredly thrilling yet the second act of Wonder Woman 1984 is so absurdly bloated with story and unnecessary plot developments that the pace feels off. Patty Jenkins returns as director which is great but we’re talking about a superhero film that clocks in at 150 minutes. This is not an Endgame level scenario, this is a run-of-the-mill superhero love story that in no uncertain terms would require two and a half hours to convey its message. ’84 feels as long as it is. That’s its biggest issue. The performances are great, Kristin Wiig in particular is excellent as are her screen partners but even with her transformation into becoming nefarious Wonder Woman adversary Cheetah, we don’t see this until the final 15 minutes of the film. That’s over 2 hours in. I felt.. .cheated. As I mentioned earlier, Chris Pine’s role is drastically underused, his character only serving Diana’s love arc which is fine but it’s a complete throwaway for a supporting role of his magnitude. The film takes on a bit of a Superman/ Lex Luthor vibe when Max Lord attains power, not that it’s a bad thing but again, it’s all too familiar.
Wonder Woman 1984 will be judged by many as a victory. The previous film is held in high regard and this continues to improve on what came before. Whilst the performances are great, Wonder Woman ’84 overstays its welcome while failing to break new ground with a tired love story and a criminal misuse of the comic’s mainstay villain, all weaken its footing in the superhero movie arena. It seems DC is creating a trend of demanding Director Cuts. Demand one for this.
Self proclaimed “word octopus” and avid language enthusiast. Working as a copywriter, blogger and screenwriter.