After a terrible year with the COVID-19 there was at least one bright spot for movie lovers – Wonder Woman 1984. In a surprise twist the movie directed by Patty Jenkins was not delayed again. Instead, it was released on the 25th on HBO Max for streaming. Wonder Woman 1984 can also be viewed in cinema as well, if yours is open that is. Mine isn’t so I had to dole out the right amount of money to watch it. Before I watched this movie, I had hopes to be watching an 80s themed superhero movie starring an actress I admire (Gal Gadot) and directed by one of the few female Hollywood directors – Patty Jenkins. While I enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984 the movie also stumbled on occasion. It suffers from a number of well know aches common sequels: questionable special effects, long running time and too familiar gags.
When I first saw the trailer of Wonder Woman 1984, I was blown away. The 80s setting, Gal Gadot obviously enjoying reprising the role and the Blue Monday remix all gave me chills. In fact, I still listen to the Blue Monday on a nearly daily basis. So, it came as a surprise to me when about a half hour into the movie that I had not heard the song, nor any other from the 80s. Instead, the initial act of the movie establishes Diana’s position in the world. And frankly, it is a snooze fest. Diana is still pining over the death of Steve, some 66 years after the fact. She doesn’t date, has not friends but instead just dresses extremely well. The trailer had already established some of this but I was surprised at just how much of a problem this section of the movie would become.
Wonder Woman 1984: the good, the bad and the high heels
Diana Prince should not be sulking. Slowly the plot starts to develop. Kristen Wiig is introduced as Barbara Minerva, a fumbling unpopular co-worker of Diana. Pedro Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, a nearly bankrupt oil-tycoon. They are of course the villains of the piece, but in both cases do not convince. All three eventually interact with a mysterious stone that grants them wishes. Diana wishes to be re-united with Steve, Barbara wants to be like Diana and Maxwell Lord wants to be the mysterious stone itself. By granting people their wishes Maxwell hopes to become stronger in the end. It is a plot device that slowly works itself towards the theme of the movie, but not before I am thoroughly confused. This part of the movie, which introduces Chris Pine as Steve ends about halfway through the movie. The transformation of Barbara into the semi-villain Cheetah is enjoyable to watch.
I give credit to Kristen Wiig for managing this transformation, her ability for comedy and especially dead-pan are well used. When Wonder Woman 1984 plays the humor card, it often goes well. Barbara eventually gains the confidence to recognize that she has the same strength as Diana. This is underlined through a physical transformation as well. At a party thrown my Maxwell Lord she decides to wear stiletto heels just like Diana, and figure-hugging dress to compliment it as well. The transformation is mostly played for laughs but there is an underlying current regarding Diana’s self-doubt. As Barbara transforms into Cheetah, she alone has the power to challenge Diana. As the formerly insecure Barbara she has every desire never to be like that again. Maxwell Lord is a more muddled character, his wish to become the wishing stone seems like an odd choice.
It’s OK, but not more than that
It took me until the final act of the movie to understand his motives. I had already written off the character as a rather silly villain. His new found ability to act as a Djinn does provide humorous scenes, but those also undermine the story. With this much humor it becomes clear the movie does not take itself seriously and that undermines any of its deeper themes. Wonder Woman 1984 does have deeper themes, wishing for a better while not seeing good it already is probably the main message. In a time of COVID that message works well. The feel-good atmosphere combined with the 80s theme and the DC setting all provide to give Diana a little spring in her stiletto step. It is sad that the movie is undermined with its long running-time and slow to develop plot. It is a shame editing could not fix this.
Overall, I enjoyed Wonder Woman 1984, though it was otherwise a forgettable experience. Diana’s reunion with Steve was the heart of the movie, and it works fabulously well. Diana’s evolving relationship with Barbara also works well, especially the underlying message that strong and emancipated women can also find additional strength in beauty if it gives them confidence. I have no doubt some feminists will see it differently and it feels like Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig and director Patty Jenkins are baiting for a discussion to occur. As for Diana, it does feel as though her story arc is now complete. Between the two Wonder Woman movies and her other appearances in the DCEU I think we are done. I know a third movie was teased at the of Wonder Woman 1984 but as Patty Jenkins is onboard with making a Rogue Squadron movie another director will have to take over.