In a movie year defined almost as much by the films which weren’t released then by those that were, one genre we’ve seen precious little of is the seemingly ever-present superhero film. However, thanks to the Warner Brothers/HBO Max deal, the drought is over. We’re finally going to the release of the oft-delayed Wonder Woman 1984. Here’s everything you need to know about the superhero sequel.
Wonder Woman 1984 throws audiences right back into the DC Cinematic Universe, following Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as she takes on Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) in the unmistakably awesome setting of the 1980s. Patty Jenkins returns to direct with a script she co-wrote with Geoff Johns and Steve Callaham.
Jumping right in, there’s one place where superhero films notoriously struggle: they often present under-developed villains. Wonder Woman fell into this trap in 2017. However, Jenkins and company definitely improved this time around in the handling of Barbara Minerva. Much of this is due to Kristen Wiig, who’s characteristically good in her performance. She easily hones into Barbara’s emotional complexity. In her hands, this woman is not inherently evil. Rather, she’s beaten down and insecure. It’s very easy to understand, and even “get,” why this woman’s situation has to lead her down this path.
At the same time, Wiig and Gal Gadot are perfectly paired in Wonder Woman 1984. The women achieve beautiful chemistry together, which heightens the emotional gut-punch of the narrative. Jenkins makes a deliberate storytelling choice to focus on the friendship between the women. Their early moments together are complex and beautiful in their believability.
Pedro Pascal is a perfect choice to jump into Maxwell Lord. Admittedly, it’s also quite fun for audiences to see him without a mask again! There’s a desperate hope in Pascal’s performance, immediately elevating the character above what little development the script gives him. A lot isn’t said about this man and there’s a lot the audience isn’t shown.
However, it’s not hard to not only see who this man is but also understand why he’s doing what he’s doing and what ultimately brought him to this point. Pascal carries a tremendous amount on his shoulders in this part, and the film is much better off for it. Here’s hoping we get to see Pascal continue to spread his wings and tackle more roles. He’s one of the brightest actors working right now, and it’s exciting to see everything he can do.
*Potential Spoilers Ahead*
That being said, the movie’s biggest struggles come in the third act and unfortunately revolve around notable issues in its behemoth of a script. The number of writers is not always proportional to the quality of the screenplay.
Huge swaths of Wonder Woman 1984 do feel like a return to form for the franchise. The Barbara Minerva arch, as well as the return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), are absolutely priceless and this reviewer “may” have gotten a trifle misty in a few places (who are we kidding, I cried).
By and large, though, while the first film was packed with hope and emotion (and felt like an outlier in the DC Cinematic Universe), it’s easy to feel Zack Snyder‘s fingers on this one. It’s definitely more of a downer with certain sequences conjuring memories of Man of Steel. Granted, this won’t be a problem for all viewers. However, it most certainly felt like a change and not necessarily a good one.
Simultaneously, the narrative conflict revolves around a gem that’s seemingly tied to wish-fulfillment (“Everybody gets one!”). Now, Wonder Woman 1984 does make a smart choice to set the film in the 1980s, and as such, crafts an interesting critique on the hope of the “Morning in America” era. However, wish-fulfillment is a big, broad, complex idea. To make matters worse, the script doesn’t seem to have a fluid arch in mind. Heck, even the characters seem stumped at times with what exactly is going on.
Ultimately, the listless script leads to an ending that feels forced and rushed when all is said and done. This is quite a feat, considering the movie’s two and a half hour runtime. It features the least impressive of the film’s fight sequence and the ending just … happens. While the acting in the sequence is solid (particularly Pascal), the narrative choices don’t work, leaving it feeling outdated and disjointed. It’s really a shame.
Ultimately, Wonder Woman 1984 hits theaters this week with some really, really big shoes to fill, and the movie does struggle. This is particularly evident with its disjointed and under-developed script, which likely had one too many competing voices. However, the movie still strikes a chord, particularly in the first two acts. There’s such love in each of these characters that it’s hard not to be invested. Even if you can’t find your way through the narrative haze. It’s a shame this one couldn’t be better.
Wonder Woman 1984 premieres in theaters and on HBO Max tomorrow.