Wonder Woman 1984 is too much movie but that doesn’t necessarily mean its bad. At worst it is an ambitious mess that doesn’t quite justify its two and a half hour running time. WW84’s failure is sequel bloat and providing more entertaining stuff for the villains than the main character. It is kind of like watching Maxwell Lord: The Movie, guest starring Wonder Woman and sometimes Kristen Wiig/Cheetah. There is some fun superhero stuff in WW84, one just has to wait a long time to get to it.
In the year 1984, Diana aka the super-powered Amazonian Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is living in the world of men, secretly saving people as Wonder Woman. But one day, she is shocked when her decades long dead love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) returns in the body of a different person. Meanwhile, Diana’s museum co-worker, Barbra (Kristen Wiig), has started becoming more aggressive ever since finding a magical wishing stone that was taken by the wannabe rich businessman, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal). Now Lord is making his and other people’s wishes come true, but every wish has a terrible downside which may send the entire globe spiraling into chaos unless Wonder Woman can stop it.
An opening scene with a young Diana on Themyscira engaging in an obstacle course race is zippy however ultimately meaningless. The scene immediately after that, set in an ‘80s shopping mall where Wonder Woman stops robbers is very entertaining with a perfect dash of silver age corniness. Afterwards, the movie slows way the heck down for about an hour as the characters constantly explain everything. Even Diana’s fancy third act golden armour gets its own unnecessary flashback. There’s also a glam up montage with Steve Trevor befuddled by parachute pants, and while Pine is amusing and at times heartfelt as Steve it’s another sign of this movie having quite a lot. Wonder Woman finally gets her invisible jet which is neat but doesn’t have much of a payoff, it’s just ticking off a box of Wonder Woman canon. Pacing really only picks up in a cool third act that has cascading things going wrong, but it certainly didn’t need all that time beforehand to get there.
The reveal that Steve is basically sock puppeteering another man’s body creates some icky problematic questions the movie isn’t willing to delve into. It does acknowledge that Diana is being selfish by wanting to keep Steve around, and the final scene they share together is stirring, but the ethical issues are brushed aside. Also confusingly, the wishing stone logic is that when one wish is granted, something bad has to happen, but Diana is also losing her powers on top of Steve taking over someone else’s body, which is two bad results. The problem of the wishes is the crux of the movie’s climatic scene and the resolution is kind of hokey but kind of hokey works for Wonder Woman as Gadot solidly delivers a unifying ending monologue. Gadot has some moments, a scene where she soars through the air is fantastic, but a lot of the time is she’s overshadowed by the villains simply because they have the flashier parts.
Wiig’s Barbara seems to copy of Batman Returns Catwoman where the nebbish working woman turns into a cat themed superpowered badass but, to be fair, Cheetah in Wonder Woman comics did it first. Wiig does meek really well which nicely contrasts to when she gets crazy and starts literally kicking people to death. Her character feels like an aside as the real villain/borderline star is Max Lord. The entire movie revolves around his actions as Pascal is endearingly wigged out. Granting wishes is having a physical toll on Max and Pascal gets a lot of mileage out of his frustrated reactions. Its borderline campy but superhero movies allow for actors in the antagonist roles to go big.
The action is more low key than the first film but what comes close in Wonder Woman 1984 is a highway chase that features loud chaos and some cool moments as Diana jumps from truck to truck. The climax is small scale but works as a character payoff. However, the mandated physical superhero throwdown seems rather abrupt although Wonder Woman’s final showdown with Max is effective. The first film took full advantage of the World War I setting but this could have been set in any time period as the ‘80s setting is fun but ultimately irrelevant. 1984 conjures up menacing notions of Big Brother but there isn’t much menacing about this movie.
Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t copy the kinetic first film leading to a much slower and more cerebral effort which sort of works and sort of doesn’t. By going with the everything and kitchen sink approach it is a bit of a misfire but when it clicks near the end, its a gloriously ambitious piece of pop.
Wonder Woman 1984
Director: Patty Jenkins
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine and Kristen Wiig