After nearly a year of delays and schedule shifts, superhero movies are finally back, but are they better than ever? Well, the answer is complicated. The superhero genre has gone through many innovations in the past decade, but Wonder Woman 1984 seems to simultaneously have one foot in the future and one in the past.
Wonder Woman 1984 follows the titular hero navigating the complexities of the social and political landscape of the 1980s with a fun Greek mythological twist. Patty Jenkins returns to direct, and Gal Gadot and Chris Pine return as Diana Prince (AKA Wonder Woman) and Steve Trevor, respectively. Kristen Wiig joins them as Dr. Barbra Minerva (AKA Cheetah) and Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord.
The film’s greatest strength by far is its thematic cohesion. Patty Jenkins has solidified herself as one of the greatest blockbuster directors of all time, not because of her ability to direct the all-important action sequences (more on that later), but by her insistence on creating a film that speaks on a deeper level to a broader audience. This film is a perfect sister film to her original 2017 Wonder Woman, but even though the movies are sisters, they are not twins.
Wonder Woman 1984 perfectly capitalizes on themes hinted at in the first film but that the first film did not have time to explore itself. Its central theme of embracing the truth no matter how hard it may be is perfectly interwoven throughout the script and is carried over from its brief introduction in the first film.
Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman is better than ever. Some may find that this version of Diana Prince does not seem like the same one from the first film, which is precisely the way Jenkins intended it. Diana’s journey is reversed from a typical cliché. After nearly 50 years as a working superhero, the main hero typically takes on the “hardened” and “no-nonsense” persona that comes with experience fighting a dark world. The beauty of Wonder Woman 1984 is that it understands that Diana started with that persona and made a choice to fight for a brighter future.
The original 2017 Wonder Woman documented Diana’s journey to understand the complexities of mankind, the good and the bad. The sequel picks up on Diana’s decision to see the good in humanity and fight to preserve it. This decision follows her throughout the film and leads to Diana having to make a very tough but poignant decision in the film’s third act. Gal Gadot’s performance successfully evolved with that character to create a better version of Wonder Woman than ever before.
One of the obstacles this film took on was the return of Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. His death in the first film was one of the most gut-wrenching sacrifices in any superhero film, so when it was announced that he was set to return, fans understandably took a pause. It’s a pleasure to report that his return is not only well-executed, but it is also relevant and vital to the story. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine’s incredible chemistry sets up a sacrifice even more gut-wrenching than Steve’s original one in the first film.
Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal are excellent additions to the cast. Each of them has their own identity that contributed to the theme of the story beautifully. The only hiccup with either of their characters is that Kristen Wiig’s Dr. Barbara Minerva did not need to transform into her comic book persona in this film. Her transformation into Cheetah is sloppy and unnecessary, as are most of the CGI decisions made in this film (more on that later). Ultimately, it would have been better to hold off and tease her transformation for a future movie.
The overall plot is equivalent to the first in terms of quality; at some points, 1984 even exceeds the original. The two films do diverge in many places. The issue with Wonder Woman 1984 comes in with its borderline sloppy action, VFX, and at some points, its cinematography.
Patty Jenkins has her strengths and weaknesses, just like any director, and this film shows that her weakness is VFX heavy action. It’s a similar critique that came with the first film, but this movie does not have a “No Man’s Land” scene to save it. Jenkins is very talented with practical action sequences, which her first film and parts of this film showcase.
Jenkins attempted to go bigger with this film, but most of the sequences ultimately fall flat because of sloppy CGI and cheesy cinematography that is unnecessary for this or any blockbuster. Her camera control is top-notch throughout the film, but for some reason, she drops the ball on her big action moments, and it takes the viewer out of the film. Jenkins would be wise to branch out and develop her skills in this area because she has the potential to be the first woman to be a prolific blockbuster director but needs to become more well-rounded before she can sit with the greats.
This film a sloppy mix of quality, but the good moments are so good that it’s impossible to call this a bad movie by any means. It could have been much better, but like Wonder Woman’s mission in the film, it reaches for a brighter future for superhero cinema, and with enough hard work and dedication, it has the potential to become more than a dream.
Filmnetic Grade: B+
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