I think it is a fair assessment to say that 2020 has been hard on everybody. One of of the less-important yet harder parts for me has been the pandemic’s rampage on the movie industry with this year originally set to be one of the best years in entertainment of which that slate included the highly anticipated Wonder Woman ’84, the follow-up to the Patty Jenkins-directed hit from 2017. The first film was a great lifeline to the DC films as it followed the critically and audience panned Batman v Superman (2016) and the very divisive Suicide Squad (2016). Wonder Woman ’84 has all the things that made the first so great, but it also stumbles a bit in the same ways the first did as well.
Wonder Woman ’84 sees Diana Prince (Gal Gadot returns in the role) working at the Smithsonian in D.C., studying artifacts that link to her Amazonian heritage and relics from the gods, all while creating the myth of the Wonder Woman by helping those in need while avoiding being recorded. During one of Diana’s rescues, the FBI finds a strange stone and tasks gemologist Barbara Minerva, aka The Cheetah (played by Kristen Wiig), to discover what it is. Once Diana unintentionally uses the stone to bring Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) back to life, she discovers the dangers of the gem’s power and must do whatever it takes to retrieve and destroy the stone from con-man Maxwell Lord (played by Pedro Pascal) who stole the gem from Barbara and discovered the stone’s powers, and is using it to incite chaos while giving himself whatever he wishes for.
Wonder Woman ’84 has all the heart, humor, and action-packed greatness that the first film had. While the first film’s plot is a lot more cohesive and linear, I think I prefer the pacing and sequence this time around. This film feels like you are reading a multiple comic story arc with each segment featuring a new step in the overarching quest, a fun action segment, and development of all of our characters, but differently than the standard act structure, it almost feels like there are multiple mini-stories that come up and resolve within their segment which gives it more of that comic structure. If you expect the usual 3-act structure, you will for sure get it, but the movie may feel disjointed and poorly paced at times. For example, while watching the film the first two sequences felt like they went on for way too long and was a negative for me, but when I continued watching and started to get a feel for this unorthodox structure feel, I enjoyed the pacing all the more.
Coming out of the original film, two complaints for me were Gal Gadot’s still-developing acting and the poor villains. However, both of these aspects are drastically improved upon. Gadot’s acting was masterfully masked in the original by director Patty Jenkins where she directed the film to bring out Gadot’s strengths and veiled her shortcomings as an emerging actress. This time around, Jenkins does not hide Gadot away from more emotional and subtle beats because she doesn’t have to as Gadot has greatly improved as an actress. With the villains, Ares (played by David Thewlis in the 2017 Wonder Woman) was an overarching idea that seemed serious in idea, but once he was revealed, he seemed like a poorly conceived gotcha moment with really bad CGI. This is not a problem with WW84‘s Maxwell Lord and Barbara Minerva (aka The Cheetah) as both characters are fleshed out well and marvelously portrayed by their respective actors. Kristen Wiig in particular was the stand out performance in this film as she made you relate to and understand her, and even at times hoping she would win. With the conclusion of this film, I was left desperately wanting more of her as Cheetah in DC films to come.
Despite all of these upsides, WW84 is not without its faults. For one, some of the CGI work was not good. Most moments involving Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth did not look nearly as realistic as it had been in the previous films where it has been showcased. In fact, all of the action CGI was particularly too-smooth and “bendy” (can’t really put my finger on the word I’m looking for). Also, just like with Ares in the first film, Cheetah’s CGI work did not look anywhere near finished. Another major criticism is more of a narrative one. By placing this film well-before Justice League (2017), the stakes of this film are drastically lessened and the narrative canon that DC has placed for Wonder Woman has been completely disregarded. I understand the creative and narrative reasons for the setting and going into the film I was excited for it, but after seeing this film and knowing where these characters are left off, I’m disappointed in knowing that the villains have little promise of returning in future installments and that Diana has developed little as a character in her years between her original film set during WWI and where she is as of 2016 in Batman v. Superman.
This film fits nicely in the newer era of DC films, such as Aquaman (2018) and Shazam! (2019), by bringing fun, and at times campy, superhero fun that is sure to delight audiences and fans of the Wonder Woman character. After a year such as 2020, I can’t think of a better type of film to bring a positive end to it. Between the pandemic, election, deaths, and so much more, 2020 has made us all wish it could’ve gone differently and we’ve all wished things that we didn’t really mean. WW84 carries that theme throughout and will leave you smiling and happy that not all of our dreams and wishes come true. Also, the easter eggs and fun additions of the Wonder Woman lore (powers, accessories, comic cameos, etc) are just cherries on top (be sure to watch that credit scene if you’re a Wonder Woman fan)!
Wonder Woman ’84 is rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence.
In theaters and streaming on HBOMax