The 80s Returns with a Small Wonder
Chris Kavan - wrote on 01/31/21
I was hoping DC had finally gotten back on track as both Wonder Woman and Aquaman had me much more enthused after the run of dark and depressing films in the DCEU. While Wonder Woman 1984 isn't exactly a step back - it does seem to be spinning its wheels and can't build upon the excellent first film.
Wonder Woman 1984 actually starts off well with the young Diana (Lilly Aspell - who apparently did all her own stunts and good on her!) competing against more seasoned warriors in a test of skills. After gaining a nice lead she finds herself almost down and out - but then gets back in the game after a little shortcut. But just as she seems about to win the contest, she is held back by Antiope (Robin Wright) and learns a powerful lesson about getting what you want vs. earning what you deserve.
Alas, the rest of the film rarely rises to the sheer excitement, fun and spectacle of this opening. And while the film does great at capturing the 80s spirit (the clothes, the music, the informercials) - it never truly finds its footing. Gal Gadot still gives off some good vibes as Diana/Wonder Woman and works well with newcomer Kriten Wiig as the hapless gemologist Barbara Minerva (later Cheetah - but more on that later). After a botched mall robbery (with a save by Wonder Woman) it seems the jewelry store was a front for some black market selling. Soon after finding an artifact that seemingly grants wishes - would-be oil tycoon Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) becomes very interested in the museum.
Pascal is probably the standout of the entire film as he imbues Lord with a lot of emotion - not just greed and power - but truly some deeper emotion, especially when it comes to his young son. But everyone in the film makes the same mistake - like the monkey's paw, wishes come with consequences. For Diana, seeing her true love return (Chris Pine) also means losing her powers. Speaking of - I've got to say I was hoping for more to this relationship, but, honestly, the whole thing just bogs the movie down. Sure, seeing Pine's whole "fish-out-of-water" routine (which is a throwback to Diana's reaction in the first film) can be fun, but it kind of drags the whole movie down. Similarly, Wiig's character starts off as bumbling but also empathetic and as she yearns to be more like Diana, she gains plenty of power, but loses all of her heart and charm - becoming icy and animalistic to the point where the big finale gives over entirely to her beastial side... but the film fails to live up to the premise as the design looks more like a reject from Cats then a dangerous new foe.
Pascal and Gadot manage to make the film worth watching, but it does nothing to salvage the DCEU from its earlier missteps. It tries too hard to be tongue-and-cheek while also providing enough emotion to be invested in the characters. It halfway succeeds - but that also mean it kind of fails in the same way. It's hard to call Wonder Woman 1984 a bad film - but with high expectations, it just can't achieve super heroic status.