I will be the first to admit that I don’t seek out super hero movies and I frequently get the DC and Marvel Universes mixed up. With that admission, it’s always such a joy when a super hero film surprises me, entertains me, and even, sometimes, connects me emotionally. “Shazam!” is one such example and to my surprise, I enjoyed the first “Wonder Woman” (2017) film starring Gal Gadot, or at least the first 2 hours of it. With Patty Jenkins at the director’s helm once again for the sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984,” I held out hope that it would not disappoint. What I received was a mixed bag of treasures and failures.
In “Wonder Woman 1984,” several decades have passed since Diana Prince (Gadot) lost her true love, Steve (Chris Pine) as he sacrificed himself for the greater good during WWII. Diana takes us back to her youth and her training, a visually stunning recreation of a competition among the strongest of women on the island. The one vital lesson she learned that day, “no true hero is born from lies,” will help her in the dangers that lie ahead.
It’s now the mid-80’s and a jewelry heist is taking place at a mall with 4 nefarious men who seem to be straight out of a comic book with their exaggerated mannerisms and reactions. Just as they’re about to get away, Wonder Woman swoops in to help save the day. This scene is a delight as Wonder Woman stops to save a young girl, giving her a wink of the eye, and then single handedly wraps up the thieves and delivers them to a cop car on the street below. This playful, unrealistic, straight from the pages of a comic book scenario sets up a promising tone for the rest of the film.
“The Mysterious Female Savior,” aka Diana works as a specialist at the Smithsonian when she’s not capturing theives. She’s not only drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also intelligent, a leader, kind, and speaks a myriad number of languages. Reaching out to a new hire at work, Diana befriends Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) an awkward, low-talking, socially inept wallflower who wants nothing more than to be more like Diana. This character is sad yet so humorous as Wiig is no stranger to making an audience laugh as she brings her own signature style of comedy to this role. Both Diana and Barbara find that when they can have their deepest desires and wishes come true, there’s a price to pay and that’s where our main villain Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) comes into the story. Avarice for power and wealth drive this man to use others, but his discovery of a gem just may give him what he needs.
The rest of the story plays out exactly the way you would expect in a super hero movie, but this one has a love story as a primary component. As Steve (Pine) re-enters the story, the humor ramps up to balance when Barbara isn’t in a scene. His reaction to the changes in technology from the 1940’s to the current day of 1984 adds the perfect element of levity. And his comments on parachute pants and donning a fanny pack is laugh out loud funny. If you lived through the 1980’s, it’s a walk down memory lane as we are transported back to a time of break dancing, goth styles, big hair, loud colors, and shoulder pads. Only Diana Prince can pull off the styles of the ’80’s and she does. Keeping true to the film’s beginning of creating characters that feel ripped from the pages of a comic book, Lord and our unexpected number 2 villain, have relatable issues concerning love, acceptance, and bullying, but it never tips the scales into the dark waters of reality that “Joker” found itself. (Forgive me if I’ve mixed the universes again.)
Gadot is the perfect Wonder Woman with strength, agility, intelligence and heart which are all characteristics she readily displays. While Pine reincarnates his persona from the original 2017 film, newcomer Pascal gives us a maleficent character with more than meets the eye. Wiig, a standout in the film, is transformative in her portrayal of Barbara as she hones in on subtle attributes of this woman’s personality and uses her comedic prowess. Unfortunately, once all of the characters are introduced, the film loses its pacing. There’s so much time spent on the evil Max Lord beginning to take over parts of the world, controlling all who he encounters, that the story’s momentum flounders. It’s a race against the clock, but there’s so much repetition that we forget that aspect. With a running time of 2 hours and 31 minutes, we needed the humor to stitch through the story, but alas it does not.
“Wonder Woman 1984” is chockfull of special effects, stunts, and incredible cinematography to bring this saga to life. The beginning is strikingly memorable and while the story suffers from becoming the same as almost every other super hero movie, the performances, humor, and ultimately the love story keep you engaged.
You can stream this on HBO Max on Dec. 25, 2020