Helming a decent, female-led superhero movie was a feat many thought impossible until three years ago. The film in question received high praise and profits at the box-office, earning director Patty Jenkins the opportunity to make a follow-up with near-limitless freedom. With said follow-up finally released, that freedom is obvious to see, and most welcome.
As the title of the latest film makes obvious, the year is 1984, and things are looking bright in Washington, D.C. – particularly if you’re oil tycoon Max Lord (Pedro Pascal). A fixture of local television, Lord can often be seen promising to fulfil people’s wishes of wealth via his company, Black Gold Cooperative; in truth, he’s a failed businessman whose affluence is a façade, thanks to bad investments and shady dealings. With his savings depleted, Max’s only hope now is an ancient, all-powerful relic capable of realising his desires.
Such a relic is currently in the possession of the National Museum where Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), alter-ego of the superheroine Wonder Woman, is studying its origins. Diana’s brief handling of the object is enough to grant a desire of her own: the resurrection of her long-lost soulmate, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Having realised its true powers, Diana and Steve decide to protect the artefact and prevent it from falling afoul of other people’s actions – but they may well be too late in doing so.
Wonder Woman 1984 (or WW84) is a direct sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman, though viewers could be forgiven for believing otherwise, since there is little connecting the two blockbusters. One major point of difference is the tone, with the newer picture eschewing the sepia palette and gritty visuals in favour of vibrant colours, lively action sequences and a relatively breezy atmosphere. No scene better exemplifies this change than a flight through a fireworks display, one of the film’s many cathartic moments.
Another improvement to be appreciated is the characterisation of the antagonists. Where the previous film’s baddies were cliched, charmless and forgettable, the sequel’s are memorable and nuanced, with Max Lord being the prime example. Even though there’s more than a whiff of Trump to his personality – which is reinforced by the hair-dye, debts and ex-wife – Lord is charming and leaves an impression, thanks partly to smart writing but also a magnetic performance from Pedro Pascal. As of such, Lord’s the best villain to emerge from the DC Extended Universe yet.
Following closely behind (and, like Max Lord, overcoming a very low bar) is Barbara Minerva, played by comedienne and newcomer to the superhero genre, Kristen Wiig. If the name of Wiig’s character sound familiar, that’s because she’s the alias of Wonder Woman’s most infamous and feared foe, Cheetah; but for most of WW84, Barbara is without quarrel, and the full might of her powers isn’t displayed until the later parts of the plot. Until then, viewers must make do with watching Wiig play the ditzy blonde, which is appealing enough.
Although WW84 contains less Cheetah than anticipated, what is offered in return is a pensive and heartfelt story, contrasting with all other DC films to date. The screenplay is much more pertinent than the first Wonder Woman, containing struggles that viewers can readily identify with and subtle references to contemporary events. In other words, it’s not just a mindless action movie, but an examination of the human spirit that asks viewers to reflect on their own experiences.
Not all of WW84 is perfect, mind. Perhaps the most frustrating element of the screenplay is the application of Deus Ex Machina – some of Diana’s more omnipotent powers are revealed in this picture, and because they haven’t been alluded to at any point previously, they come across as rather far-fetched. Another irk is the humour, being frequently utilised by the characters yet never generating the laughs that it should; though a grievance like this is quite small when compared to the many, many problems the DCEU generated in previous films.
It’s important that last point be made, because Warner Bros. has finally recognised they key to making a successful superhero flick: forgoing the connection to an Extended Universe. Like Shazam! before it, WW84 is very much its own film, and isn’t being shoehorned into a world crafted by, and for another director; instead, it’s a movie that’s free-spirited and fun, an embodiment of what a blockbuster should be. Moreover, during times like these, it’s a movie that everybody wants and deserves to see.
Wonder Woman 1984 is not only a more uplifting tale than its predecessor, but a more impactful and moving one. Rich with bright aesthetics and possessing charismatic antagonists, Patty Jenkins’ sequel is nothing short of a delight, being a pleasurable alternative to the superhero (and DC) norm.
One thought on “Review: Wonder Woman 1984”
Indeed film of all times.
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