Movie review: “Wonder Woman 1984” (2020)

“Wonder Woman 1984” (2020)


Running time: 151 minutes

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Written by: Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns

Featuring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen

Diana Prince: “My life hasn’t been what you think it has. We all have our struggles.”

Released recently into theatres as well as the online streaming service HBO Max is the sequel to the 2017 blockbuster in the form of “Wonder Woman 1984” (2020) which once again sees the Athenian interacting with the modern world, instead of World War I as the backdrop we are now faced with the 1980s which is now seen as a colourful, lively, consumerism obsessed culture that was about to see a jump in technology that would lead the world to where we are now. However while other movies and television shows that use the 1980s as a backdrop actually explore this time and immerse audiences in all popular culture that existed then, this new movie does seem interested at all in taking actual milestones from the time and using them. “Wonder Woman 1984” as a sequel to what was an incredibly successful but ultimately flawed movie has its work cut out for it, not only to make a splash at the end of the year but also to push this character forward, especially to prove that she has some antagonists that stand out as ‘hers’, much like Batman has the Joker, or Superman has Lex Luthor, the public at large have no clue what a Wonder Woman foe actually looks like. After viewing this movie I am not sure any real questions have been answered about this character at all, other than she loves monologues, has inconsistent abilities, can seemingly make subplots up at will and has an answer for almost anything posed at her without any real work having to be done. In fact for a movie that has so much riding on it in terms of a studio that has already had one failure this year in “Tenet” (2020) and launching a streaming service that has already underperformed this movie is puzzling in its blandness, its confusing action sequences as well as characters that are devoid of real purpose, which means this a letdown on almost every level there is.

There are so many aspects of “Wonder Woman 1984” that need addressing but it appears to me that the biggest flaw is the script itself which seems on the surface to be short sighted, not thought through, ignores what occurred in the first movie, does not care about the motivations of its characters beyond some simplistic allusions and is stymied by the events in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) where Wonder Woman herself was not known to the public until the events of that movie. In fact it appears that Jenkins and co are so hamstrung by that previous movie that it appears to be the only motivation for this train wreck to be set in 1984 where mobile phones were in their infancy and not everyone had a camera to take pics of the protagonist in action. The only real references to the 1980s beyond the technology, the Cold War and clothing, the music and movies of the time are non existent, which to me indicates the filmmakers could not care less when this was set. In fact one of the main technologies used in the final act of the movie is so new millennium as to be jar the audience out of what is happening, actually for all intents and purposes the final act could have taken place in 2020.

With a co-writing credit as well as of course directing “Wonder Woman 1984”, Patty Jenkins has set herself up as the person who has the most creative control over the movie, so it is here where the blame must lay, as well as with Geoff Johns who seems incapable of being part of a project with some actual coherence. The issue with the movie, apart from the script, is the direction which feels underwhelming, confusing and narratively unclear as to what is occurring onscreen and its relation to the plot. Like many of the very worst kind of action movie this feels like the director has thrown as much as possible into the narrative hoping it will all come together, which it does not, at all. A prime example is the character of Cheetah who in the comics can take on Superman, being magically powered, but here feels like an afterthought as well as some kind of woke hero that is forced onto the audience with little subtly or care. Not only that but the entire Cheetah plot line if excised from the movie would make no difference to anything else within the narrative which begs the question as to why she is even there. In fact Cheetah’s alter ego could be removed as well, replaced by some other exposition. Jenkins direction of action seems to have regressed with no reasons for Wonder Woman’s powers, she can seemingly do anything at all, there is little weakness in her, except for her psyche of course which is a tired old trope. With Steve Trevor returning because of a broken heart, which as an aspect of the story is unforgivable, really are we having a woman who ostensibly exists in 2020 being so reliant on another person especially a man, this movie could have actually been made in the 1980s with this plot line. There is so much lazy storytelling that it is hard to keep up, for instance since when could a World War I pilot get into a fighter jet and pilot it with no, or very little issues? It is almost like Jenkins and co have jettisoned any logic and replaced it with complete 100% fantasy.

“Wonder Woman 1984” set in 1984, sees Diana working at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.. She also clandestinely rescues people and stops crime. One day at work, Diana introduces herself to Barbara Ann Minerva, a new archaeologist and zoologist with the museum. Barbara is socially awkward and unassertive, which make most people look past her. She forms a fast friendship with Diana, whom she immediately comes to admire and envy. Barbara is asked by the FBI to identify stolen antiquities from a robbery Diana had earlier foiled. Barbara and Diana notice one artifact — later revealed to be the “Dreamstone” — contains a Latin inscription claiming that anyone holding it will have any one wish granted. Diana unknowingly uses the stone to wish her deceased lover Steve Trevor back to life. After Diana saves her from an assault, Barbara wishes upon the stone to become like Diana, attaining Diana’s superpowers.

In terms of acting Gal Gadot as the titular character adds little to the character, in fact after the way she pines for Trevor it seems to me she has gone backwards in being a strong Independent, forward thinking person that gets on with life. However in saying that it seems that bringing back Chris Pine as Trevor was the right thing to do in terms of adding someone who knows to only his own character but the type of movie he is appearing in. The main newcomers to the franchise are Kristen Wiig as Cheetah and Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord, both are complete polar opposites in the way they perform which is a shame as Wiig plays things too broad, almost relying too much on her comedian chops while Pascal seems to have innate ability to alter his performance depending on the type of project he is involved in, here he is a breath of fresh air when given room, being a very good comic book villain.

For a movie that cost a reported US$200 million dollars it is difficult to see where this was spent, which is mind boggling considering it has been in the can for at least a year. The effects both practical and CGI look thrown together at times, feeling like there is too much going onscreen with not much room to breathe. Even the digital backdrops look obvious and fake which considering how far these have come seems a crime. For some kind of comparison think about something recently that aired online like “The Mandalorian” (2019-present) that has a mixture of stunning digital backdrops, CGI and practical effects as well as dealing technology for a memorable climax. If you think about how seamless all the effects are, they way they meld together to compliment the plot and narrative, it is just stunning. Now think about this movie and it is night and day, it looks amateurish to say the least, a real missed opportunity that affects the actual enjoyment of this long awaited movie.

The real question is would I recommend this movie to watch, well the answer is simple, no I would not. If you were someone that enjoyed the first movie this will be a big letdown, if you didn’t enjoy the first instalment then this is more of the same, it continues on from the final act to this mess of a movie. In fact even if you have a chance to watch “Wonder Woman 1984” for free I would have second thoughts about that, this movie is on a par with “Justice League” (2017) in quality.

One thought on “Movie review: “Wonder Woman 1984” (2020)

  1. Wayne Johnson

    Another great review John, pretty much spot on! I would just add the following observations.

    The signature theme that accompanied Diana kicking ass in the first movie seemed to be missing or very subdued in this movie. Ruined the fun a bit.

    The opening robbery sequence was pathetic. I think it was intended to be funny in some way but it wasn’t funny, (unless you were a 6 year-old I suppose), just an unbelievably inept group of robbers that set the tone for the movie.

    Cheetah’s costume design was a mistake I think. I’m not a DC fan, but I very much doubt the character creator ever had a furry character in mind, so whoever made that call for the movie got it wrong. (Might have worked in a horror movie but not this movie or this character). However I did think Kirsten Wig was watchable in the role and I enjoyed her transition (what we saw of it), to Cheetah.

    Finally, I thought that the writers allowed the story to get completely out of control. If people had to state their wishes in full instead of just agreeing with the prompts they were given by the baddie, it might have been more engrossing. They could also have left out US some OTT and ridiculous scenes like the US president and his men.

    Luckily Gal Gadot is great as Wonder Woman. Let’s hope that in her next outing, the production team can get back to what made the first movie so good. WAJ


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