Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

After numerous, pandemic-related delays, Wonder Woman returns.

Cast and Crew

Director: Patty Jenkins
Writers: Petty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham.

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva / The Cheetah
Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord
Robin Wright as Antiope
Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta
Lilly Aspell as Young Diana
Amr Waked as Emir Said Bin Abydos
Natasha Rothwell as Carol
Ravi Patel as Babajide
Oliver Cotton as Simon Stagg
Lucian Perez as BaronAlistair
Gabriella Wilde as Raquel
Kelvin Yu as Jake
Stuart Milligan as the President of the United States
David Al-Fahmi as Mr. Khalaji
Kevin Wallace as Televangelist
Wai Wong as Lai Zhong
Doutzen Kroes as Venelia
Hari James as Trigona
Hayley Warnes as Aella
Many statuesque women as Amazons
Lynda Carter as Asteria

Premise

The discovery of a device created by the gods results in the return of Steve Trevor, superpowers for an associate of Diana’s, and the godlike ascendancy of corrupt businessman Maxwell Lord.

High Points

The opening flashback establishes Wonder Woman’s history and the film’s themes through a spectacular action sequence, catches up with the 1980s Wonder Woman, acting in implausible secrecy to maintain continuity with Dawn of Justice, and gives us some fine superheroic battles. If you’re looking for those kinds of scenes, look no further.

Diana’s relationship and conflict with the Cheetah have greater impact than the amplified, trumped-up apocalyptic shenanigans that form the main plot (and, we must assume, resulted in the offscreen deaths of numerous people).

Low Point

I know we’re watching a film about an Amazonian superhero with a magic lasso fighting a villain who can alter the fabric of realty, but I would still like to know how a pilot from the early twentieth century can somehow fly a contemporary aircraft, drive a car like a Tokyo Drifter, and operate heavy military equipment.

Actually, I found Trevor to be the second-biggest problem in the film. Although he serves an important thematic purpose, he clutters a film that would have been improved by focusing on Dian’s relationships with the other characters. Characters I care about fighting for low stakes beats characters I don’t really care about saving the world. More than anything Wonder Woman 1984 requires more humanity.

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Apart from being an adaptation, this film uses more than its fair share of established tropes. It also echoes specifics movies, including, most deliberately, noted 80s action movies.

Wonder Woman 1984 incorporates a number of elements of the amazing Amazon’s comic-book history. It cheats us, however, of one particular notorious moment involving the film’s main villain, Max Lord. Instead of Wonder Woman killing him in front of multiple witnesses (which might have explained her silence between the end of this film and her next chronological appearance), we see a rather more family-friendly conclusion.

Effects: 6/6

Production: 6/6 The film features a recreated 1980s and numerous spectacular visuals. Atomic Blonde gave us a better, cooler look at the 80s, but one which wouldn’t have worked with Wonder Woman.

Acting: 5/6 The acting is good, but not great. Gadot demonstrates a range that suits the iconic superhero, but she’s not asked to do much more than that.

Story: 4/6 The story begins like a comic from the 1980s and then gets lost in its own excesses—in a film about the dangers of excess. I’ll let you decide if that’s appropriate or ironic.

Emotional Response: 4/6 The script shortchanges personal elements that should be developed to better-ground the fantasy and action.

Overall: 4/6 In the end, I found this film entertaining. It’s less impressive than Wonder Woman or Shazam!, but better than Aquaman (which, arguably, it most resembles tonally) and a lot better than the recent DCCU Superman/Batman outings.

I’ve given +1 for the mid-credit sequence.

In total, Wonder Woman 1984 receives 31/42

Lingering Thoughts

So about a certain American president.

The man in the White House during the 1980s defined the era as much as electric drums, greed, hucksterism, the Cold War, and leg warmers. The film gives us a generic president who bears some superficial resemblance to Reagan. Those with a quick eye will notice the jelly beans in the oval office (1:46:13-14). However, this man is decidedly not Reagan, nor do they play him that way. I understand that they don’t want to alienate anyone but, honestly, with a few changes to the dialogue and a different handling of that scene, they could have presented Reagan in a way that would have satisfied all but his most extreme supporters and detractors. An ersatz Margaret Thatcher appeared, somewhat comically, at the conclusion of For Your Eyes Only (1981), and I don’t recall anyone, including Mrs. Thatcher, being put off by the appearance.

The gods only know what the history books look like in the DCCU.

Oh, wait. You thought this postscript was going to address another occupant of the White House?
Honestly, that would be misleading. This incarnation of Maxwell Lord borrows from a number of figures who influenced the 80s, from Norman Vincent Peale1 to Donald Trump. A few nods aside, he’s a cinematic take on an established comic-book character, through which the film channels the cultural obsession with excess.

1. While Peale published his defining work, The Power of Positive Thinking, in 1952, he has influenced generations of business-people and evangelists, for better or worse, and many political figures, from Nixon to Clinton. Peale pervaded aspects of American culture in the 1980s.

3 replies on “Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984”

  1. “…gets lost in its own excesses”

    Yup, this sums it up. Enjoyable, but I also watch Soul, and Soul was the better movie.

    The mid-credits scene, other than showing you a glimpse of a character/actress we like, didn’t feel like it deserved anything other than a nod to that actress. At least when the do that all over Supergirl, the cameo-cast actually is story related.

    Not that I didn’t like it, I agree with the stated positioning in the DCEU, though I am not sure Shazam! rates that high. I’d rewatch this before I rewatched The Inhumans.

  2. Jethro says:

    I’m 100% with you on Steve being able to fly a friggin _jet_, but driving a heavy truck would be pretty much the same. He didn’t really do much other than, well, drive fast and crash into things. And, well, stop.

    I thought the movie was OK, but my bar isn’t super high. All it really has to pass is the I’m Not Really Thinking Too Hard bar. I’m seeing a lot of — in my opinion — undeserved hate for this movie.

    There is one thing I’d like to give the movie credit for. When Kristen Wiig walked on I thought they were going to do the “Oh god they’re going to do the whole Nerdy Girl Transforms Into Beauty Queen thing when she takes off her glasses and shakes her hair out.”

    But they didn’t. Yeah, her wardrobe changed (gradually) but her transformation was almost entirely attitude, conveyed through acting, which Kristen Wiig did phenomenally well.

    Oh and the mid-credit sequence made me squee like a little girl.

    • “But they didn’t. Yeah, her wardrobe changed (gradually) but her transformation was almost entirely attitude, conveyed through acting, which Kristen Wiig did phenomenally well.”

      This is very, very true. She deserves a lot of credit.

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