6.5 | FINE
Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s chemistry and an excellent score barely save this bloated, bizarre mess from being a complete waste of time.
In ‘Wonder Woman 1984’, Diana Prince lives incognito during the ’80s. Now she must gain strength to face off against a mysterious man, Maxwell Lord, and colleague Barbara Ann Minerva.
Patty Jenkins surprised everyone three years ago by delivering an emotionally powerful and overall excellent superhero film with ‘Wonder Woman.’ It was expected then that Jenkins’ inclusion would heighten the hype surrounding a sequel, and that is precisely what happened. Now, with a pandemic raging on and several delays, the long-awaited ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ has arrived in both theaters and on streaming service HBO Max for Christmas. I am not happy to report that this is much more of a mixed bag than anticipated.
Jenkins has evolved in many ways as a filmmaker. Her film has a vibrant, almost toy-like quality to it that is mostly a joy to watch. It is, however, a stark contrast with the first film’s grounded and realistic tone. That is a recurring theme throughout this movie: despite being a sequel, ‘WW84’ barely has any resemblance to what Jenkins made an effort to set up with her first film, and that is where the problems start. Wonder Woman’s god-like presence in the first film is switched by a Barbie version of the character, with an introduction so cheesy and cringe-inducing that it might put your patience to test. Right from the opening action sequence, it is clear that Patty Jenkins, much like she decided to model the first film after famous war films, has decided to model this sequel after 80’s movies like Richard Donner’s Superman. While her intentions are commendable, that style never really works within the film. The choice doesn’t mesh with other elements of the film, particularly with Steve’s return, an emotionally charged path the movie takes that is utterly unaligned with the style Jenkins initially tries to inject.
It often feels like ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is two films into one: the cheesy, cringe-inducing one where Wonder Woman pretends to be incognito but winks at girls in malls and fights ridiculous villains, and the other one, where she reunites with her dead boyfriend and rediscovers herself. The thing is, these two elements never mix well together, making Steve’s arc less impactful and the villains more ridiculous in comparison. In the end, the film becomes a complete mess that has no clear explanation for anything that happens. A prime example, without spoilers, is when Diana and Steve are in another country, and the villain confronts them. Instead of Jenkins presenting the possible complications for the face-off to happen, Diana gets her purse out, buys a car with no struggle in one minute, and appears, seemingly out of nowhere, with her suit on, with absolutely no explanation given. There are countless examples of similar decisions that would necessitate spoilers. Overall, it makes the film seem lazy and quite sloppy.
Are there any good things about it? Yes. Despite a shockingly dull script and questionable choices by director Patty Jenkins, the cast is the best part of the film. Gadot is by no means a great actress, but her charm in the role is still as palpable as in the first film, and she does excel in a moving part of the film that I did not see coming. Chris Pine is also great, although in the grand scheme of things feels shoehorned into the movie. As for the villains, Pedro Pascal does the best he can in a laughably ridiculous role. At the same time, Kristen Wiig is good as a character that feels rushed and underdeveloped for such an iconic villain. Hans Zimmer’s score is beautiful, and I would even dare say it is the best thing about the whole thing. There is also a sequence in the film set in the White House quickly followed by an emotional scene that is undoubtedly the best moment of the film.
Patty Jenkins is a visionary director with bold ideas. However, her unbelievably sloppy execution makes this film an overlong and messy film that comes nowhere near its potential and certainly not to the first film’s quality. There are several outstanding elements to be found here. Still, they almost all are swallowed up by other poor choices made that make this a very disappointing sequel to the 2017 hit.