Saturday 2 January 2021

Film Review: Wonder Woman 1984

Gal Gadot squeezes into Diana Prince's iconic Amazonian armour once again for a bombastic sequel starring the likes of Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal. 

With director Patty Jenkins at the helm once again (and serving as cowriter alongside Geoff Johns), Wonder Woman 1984 (or WW84 as the title card reveals) skips forward 70 years and catches up with Diana Prince in Reagan-era America.

Living in Washington DC and working at the Smithsonian Museum, Diana has spent decades fighting evil as Wonder Woman and quietly keeping to herself to herself, while mourning the loss of her love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). 

After an opening action sequence set in a monument to 1980s excess – a glossy, multi-storey mall – we're introduced to Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a meek geologist who idolises Diana, and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a struggling yet charismatic oil baron. Plus, much to Diana's surprise, her beloved beau Steve has returned from beyond the grave – so she sets out to find out why and how.

That's a rough sketch of WW84's plot, because let me tell you – it's a complicated one. After that initial skirmish at the mall, the action is largely sidelined while Diana and Steve reacquaint themselves, investigate Maxwell Lord and discover the sinister origins of a magical gemstone with the power to grant wishes. It's a detour into detective work that sees Wonder Woman absent from the film for a good 45 minutes in the second act; your mileage may vary on whether that's a good thing or not.

For me, it was a mixed bag. On the one hand, Gadot and Pine share palpable onscreen chemistry that can be found in any and every scene they share. This elongated second act takes the time to explore this relationship in new and interesting ways – even if a couple of the plot machinations that have made Pine's reappearance possible left me scratching my head. 

On the other hand, the lack of action means the pacing suffers. At two-and-a-half hours, WW84 can feel like a slog – and that's before we arrive at the embarrassingly bad third act smackdown with Wiig's fearsome Jellicle Cheetah glimpsed in the trailers. With terrible CGI that conjures memories of Tom Hooper's Cats (and choppy editing used to hide it), this climactic fight is one of the worst in recent blockbuster memory.

Credit where it's due, Jenkins and Johns have gone out of their way to concoct a plot that doesn't hinge on sky portals or alien invasions. Instead, we're treated to a convoluted MacGuffin-driven narrative that is more akin to a particularly bombastic season finale of Doctor Who. 

But what starts out interesting soon becomes weighed down by its own internal logic; and much like umpteen Doctor Who episodes in the past, it isn't long before we can see the film zigging and zagging to worm its way out of a narrative cul-de-sac of its own invention. That's the longwinded way of saying it doesn't make a lick of sense, and it sucks.

The colourful 1980s setting doesn't add much either; aside from the opening sequence and some questionable Middle Eastern politics during a brief sojourn to Egypt, there's little here to suggest the film needed to be set in the 80s at all. 

Plus, why set your film in a specific decade and not use a single needle drop from that era? There's not a lick of synth or dance pop bop to be heard. Hans Zimmer's score is decent, but it's definitely a missed opportunity to add a dab of Eurythmics, Duran Duran or Van Halen. 

There's an undeniable earnestness to Jenkins' sequel that can be traced back to the 2017 original. It's light and frothy, with a cute 'fish out of water' vibe as Diana introduces Steve to the 80s, which makes for a nice inversion of the dynamic from the first film. 

There's a heroic moment towards the end that evokes Man of Steel's flight sequence, or the bright, plucky Superman films starring Christopher Reeves. The action is weightless and bouncy, the themes are broad and bereft of cynicism, so in many ways, WW84 is refreshing alongside its contemporaries. But unlike Jenkins' brilliant first attempt, this sluggish sequel loses its way and ultimately disappoints. 

The Verdict: 5/10

Sadly, Wonder Woman 1984 fails to live up to the hype. A complicated story, lethargic runtime and some incoherent action means this misfiring sequel lacks the energy or excitement of its predecessor. 

Wonder Woman 1984 is in cinemas across Australia now.

1 comment:

  1. Our views are pretty similar on this one. Gadot and Pine are good together, but most everything else is a chore to watch.



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