When Wonder Woman hit theaters back in 2017, it served as the sole bright spot in a slough of disappointing DC comics movies. Director Patty Jenkins managed to create an interesting, colorful, yet serious take on Diana Prince. But more than that, it still felt lighthearted enough to be a superhero movie. Similarly, I found myself hoping that Wonder Woman 1984 could serve as a bright spot in an otherwise bleak cinematic year in 2020. Did it live up? Let’s take a look.
First and foremost, I need to mention that it felt good to watch a new movie. In a year dominated by binge-watchable tv shows, it was nice to settle into the couch for a long-form movie. So, what was good about Wonder Woman 1984? First off, Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord. He was an incredibly over the top villain, and spent much of the movie really chewing the scenery.
And my response to that is “duh, it’s 1984.” Pascal plays the sleazy conman during the era of sleazy conmen. I really enjoyed seeing some of his range, especially coming off of The Mandalorian. He wasn’t the only good actor though. Kristen Wiig did a good job as Barbara Minerva aka Cheetah, even if the visual effects weren’t the best. I also loved Chris Pine as Steve Trevor in this one.
I am so tired of the fish out of water story where the guy from the past comes to the future and is unimpressed. Where all they see is the loss of morality and the superfluous technology. No, Steve Trevor comes to the future and says “wow! This is freakin awesome!” And I loved it.
I also wanna give a shout to two cameo appearances in the movie. First, to Linda Carter. That was awesome to see. And secondly, to the invisible jet. Fun way to handle that little bit of Wonder Woman lore, even if it creates a lot of questions about her invisibility powers. Lastly, I want to give Warner Bros pictures some credit for putting the movie on HBO Max and not forcing people to risk getting sick going to the theater.
I have a lot of complaints about this movie, far more than I had for the 2017 Wonder Woman. The most pressing is the relationship between Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor. Don’t get me wrong, Gal Gadot and Pine do an amazing job playing their characters. It’s just creepy! Steve Trevor inhabiting another guy’s body and them having sex immediately really left me feeling uneasy.
I understand it’s meant to be morally questionable, as are all of the wishes granted by the dream stone, but it just felt so out of character. While we’re on the issue of relationship problems, I really struggled with Wonder Woman’s hang up about Steve. Yes, I understand he was the love of your life. But it’s been 66 years. In sixty-six years, you haven’t managed to at least move on with your life? I’m not saying you have to forget him, but I struggle that she’s spent six decades unable to get over him.
Lastly, I want to hit on an issue that maybe another watch-through would explain. What are the rules of the dreamstone? He needs other people to make wishes, so that he can also make a wish? Is it narcotic? Does Max Lord require bigger and bigger wishes to get a fix? I’m not saying I want marked reality out of the superhero genre, but I’d like the movies to at least follow their own rules.
Okay, now it’s time to get into the ugly. These are the things that really made the movie a slog for me. First and foremost, we gotta talk about some of the effects. I don’t know if they were trying to poke fun at 80’s effects or what, but whatever they were trying for, it didn’t land.
The 2017 Wonder Woman had some awesome effects that really made the titular character come alive and jump off the big screen. In Wonder Woman 1984, the effects felt cheesy. The way she moved, almost like she was roller skating on land, just felt awkward. I know some people were upset about the lasso of truth, but I thought it was actually a pretty decent effect. Can it catch a bullet and throw it somewhere else? I don’t know, but it was pretty damn cool.
Cheetah’s effects were the most offensive in the film. Her transformation at the end felt a little ham-fisted. Of course, the Cheetah in the comics is a anthropomorphized cheetah, so they wanted to do the same here. But I have to say, I was really enjoying Wiig’s portrayal up until she changed.
Barbara’s struggle was perhaps the most real of anyone’s. Something has made you the person you’ve always dreamt about being, and you don’t want to lose it. That’s REAL. That’s the essence of the 80’s, a decade marked by decadence at the cost of the environment, lavishness at the cost of morality.
Wonder Woman 1984 fails to live up the high standards the first film set. I would expect Wonder Woman 3, which is already in production and with no release date set, to be better. It would hardly be the first time that the middle entry in the series was the worst of the three. Looking at you Indiana Jones.
Most of the cast turns in a strong performance with Pascal, Wiig, and Pine really standing out. The effects definitely were a disappointment after the first film, and the story is pretty confused. I’m not sure what the moral we’re supposed to take away is. 2020 is a year that will be remembered as everything have been lesser. Holidays without seeing family. Sports events without fans. Movie theaters without people in them. And in that regard, Wonder Woman 1984 fits perfectly into the theme of the year.
Overall: Not a disaster, but definitely a disappointment.
The Other Identity Episode 47 – The Essential Wonder Woman w/ Phil Jimenez
Robbie and Ben are joined by legendary comics artist and writer Phil Jimenez to discuss Wonder Woman! They break down some of the all time great books, pay fitting tribute to George Perez, and later discuss their thoughts on Wonder Woman 1984.
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