DC’s follow up to the marvelous Wonder Woman (2017) is supposed to briefly detach us away from the ’breathtaking’ 2020, and allow us to take a short trip to an alternate world of good ol’ 80’s where superheroes exist. As a cinematic piece that comes directly from the hands of Patty Jenkins herself, I expect no less from Wonder Woman 1984. In some ways, my wish was fulfilled, but in some ways, I was unknowingly asking for too much. By the way, my wish was straightforward — I hope to see Wonder Woman 1984 to be marginally better, or at least on par with the first film.
From the shell of it, it seemed that we have all the right ingredients for Diana Prince’s outing to shine once again. What more can we ask? Jenkin’s back at the director’s chair, Gal Gadot returning as Diana Prince and even doubling down on her role as the producer, and we get to see more of the prominent Chris in the superhero-verse whose in-film name is Steve. Chris Evans? Excuse me, this is DCEU that we are talking about, so it’s Chris Pine.
The legendary Hans Zimmer gave his magical touch to please the ears of the audience, and his work could instantly be felt via the intro music. Just as I thought that Zimmer could not do much to improve his iconic “Is She With You?” score first heard in Batman V Superman (2016), the master reimagined the existing theme into something that sounds glorious and uplifting. Which, sounds just about right to go together with the opening scenes, which are totally lit. Not many superhero movies start off with such a strong footing like Wonder Woman 1984 — it is as good as it gets.
As soon as you catch a glimpse of Diana Prince in her superhero mode, Wonder Woman 1984 will give you yet another reason to love a female-led superhero film. The gracefulness of the action is second to none, and it is not something that you can find easily in a female-led action films, let alone superhero films that almost always have a male lead. Perhaps, the only recent movie that I can think of which comes close to this is Birds of Prey, and while Harley Quinn’s moves resemble more like an acrobat’s, Wonder Woman’s moves have more similarity towards a ballerina’s.
Even before the film kicked into the second act, Wonder Woman 1984 already seemed invincible, or at least, I opined that there’s nothing much left that could steer the film away from the track towards greatness. This momentum is further sustained by the debut of Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva and Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord — a villainous duo which has their own unique charms. But the film took a rather noticeable setback with the mysterious reappearance of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), Diana’s supposedly-deceased lover from the era of World War I.
I have always wondered how they will reintroduce Steve into the picture, especially after a gaping 66 years between the events of the first film and Wonder Woman 1984. Now that I have witnessed it myself, all I can say is that while the plot answers this burning question, it is not all that convincing. I can’t confirm how different or similar the story-line is with the comic version, because, you know, I am such a slacker with DC Comics.
Obviously, Steve’s role in Wonder Woman 1984 is largely aimed at providing contrast against the events that took place in Wonder Woman (2017), where he showed the then-naive Diana a strange and exciting world which she never knew existed. Now that the tables have been turned, Diana is supposed to educate Steve of where the world is currently at (or was, since the story takes place in 1984), and hopefully, the audience can soak into some cheeky romance.
With that said, I can say that the couple’s chemistry did not achieve its full effect this round, and Pine’s character turns out to be more of a convenience rather than necessity. I just don’t understand, why would Jenkins bring back the character even after sending him off in the first film with such a flawless execution? “Diana, I wish we had more time” has been a carved-in, Steve-Trevor-mantra inside my head since 2017, and had he not resurfaced for the second film, it could have been permanent. Even as someone who has graduated from the first film and became primed with Steve Trevor, one thing became clear in my mind as the film hit its middle mark — I wanted to see more Barbara, and less Steve.
At one point, I was so obsessed with Barbara Minerva’s transformation that I almost forgot about the action scenes, and did not realize that Wonder Woman 1984 had been going through a long hiatus without one. Of course, there is one significant action-piece inserted into the middle of the film, but soon I learned that the film could have been better off if those 15 minutes never made it to the final cut.
There is so much more to discuss about what’s wrong with the mid-plot action scenes that it can even be linked to a popular DC meme that reads, “if you ever feel useless, just remember that The Flash has a bike”. But the bottom line is, it is a hilarious collage of ideas and concepts of what could possibly work for that particular point of the story, plucked directly from some random people, mashed together, and then being put on screen. Voila, Wonder Woman wondering badly what she has to do to advance the plot.
To date, how these raw, unpolished, and oftentimes unintentionally-funny moments of action-choreography have slipped into the final cut still surprise me, and if this is your first time watching Gadot’s Wonder Woman saving the world, chances are there that you will remember it as a cheesy superhero flick coated with some pale romance. Those who have witnessed the glory of the first film might be a little more forgiving, but hey, HBO Max lets Warner Bros reach some pretty fresh groups of audiences, right?
Once Wonder Woman 1984 starts to rally towards its finale, there is really not much left to be seen that can truly leave the audience in awe. Jenkins’ expertise in amassing a huge build up prior to an explosive moment can still be felt in this film, but unfortunately they don’t combust as beautifully as how the rise of Diana in No Man’s Land did in the first film. The cliché-heavy explanation about the origins of the global threat, coupled with the bare-all policy of the trailers which have widely displayed the final form of Cheetah and Diana’s Golden Eagle Armor, means that what’s left in the reels is just an extended version of the final trailer which surprisingly feels much more immature than the 2017 film.
The better news is, at certain angles, the fully evolved Cheetah turned out to be better than the CGI feline which we all saw in the trailer, and Wiig’s presence can still be felt under those thick CGI algorithms. The final confrontation between her and Diana is less nonsensical compared to the earlier action pieces, though ironically, while the whole film has been pretty bright, DC’s notorious ‘dark treatment’ has made it into the final battle scenes and made them a little incomprehensible at times. And before you know it, it is all over. It is worth noting that Jenkins taper-off the finale with some nice touches to the aftermath, and together with the cheeky mid-credits scene, they offer a sensible closure for Wonder Woman 1984.
With all that said, my biggest disappointment with the film does not lie in those areas which I have mentioned. The biggest letdown is by far how different the film is, as compared to what’s been proposed by the very first trailer which came out a little more than a year ago. While I agree that more than a year’s worth of waiting might have taken its toll on me, there’s no denying that the first trailer is the bomb — Unforgivingly-funky 80’s music, Pedro Pascal’s unmatched 80’s cringe-worthy antics, and pin sharp execution between the visuals and the pumping soundtrack. The trailer felt like a different film altogether. And even after re-watching it countless of times, it still is.
Wonder Woman 1984 is an okay-ish film if you are dead set on not missing the DCEU boat and decided to check in for each and every DCEU offering. Gadot, while is still wonderful as Diana Prince, loses part of her confidently-naive charm and is unexplainably off her sweet spot in this installment, though that is counterbalanced by the screen presence of Wiig’s Cheetah and Pascal’s Maxwell Lord. The film definitely feels less mature, grounded or retro than expected, and is unfortunately, the more flashy but less capable sibling of the Wonder Woman films —The Film Addict
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