Let’s talk about Wonder Woman 1984.
The first Wonder Woman film was a bit of a surprise. It initially had a bit of hype but with it’s DC predecessors Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad being such big disappointments, people didn’t want to get their hopes up for this one. Luckily, it was great. DC showed it could make amazing films if it wanted to, though in the end it seemed like they only did it to make it seem like Justice League was going to be good. Now they have the issue of following that up with a worthy sequel, something even Marvel have sometimes struggled with if Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World are anything to go by.
We flash forward 70 years from the last Wonder Woman film and are now in the 1980s, where Diana Prince is now saving the day and stopping crimes everywhere. She comes across an ancient artifact which grants wishes to people, though often with devastating effect. The artifact bonds itself with businessman Maxwell Lord and soon starts to show why not every wish should come true.
Ok so this feels like such a nitpick but I feel like this film completely wastes its setting. We’re in the 1980s here, one of the most iconic decades ever. Everyone knows its music, its fashion and how it looks. To begin with, the film uses its setting well. After an opening segment back in Themyscira, we head to a scene showing Wonder Woman stopping a robbery at a mall. The 80s is in full force here as we see all the ridiculous awesomeness the decade has to offer while Wonder Woman is being a badass and saving the day. Then after that, the movie might as well be in the modern day for how much it takes advantage of it. Yes there are bits and pieces that go back into the 80s well but put Maxwell Lord on Facebook rather than TV and nothing changes that much. There’s not even any 1980s music and it really should be illegal to set a movie in this decade without at least one synthesizer blaring out. This setting should add a completely different flavour to the film and differentiate itself from the rest of the pack. Instead, it feels like a wasted opportunity.
This problem is probably what leads us to the biggest issue of all, Steve Trevor. As the trailers spoil, Steve is back despite sacrificing himself to save the world in the first film. This should be a big emotional part of the movie. Diana’s lost love for seven decades is now back. And it is a big emotional part of the movie, something the film puts a lot of time and effort into making you invest back into. But one of the joys of the relationship in the last movie was not the heartfelt talks but the great comedy we got from them, especially with Diana being the fish out of water. This was a great opportunity to flip that with Steve now being the fish out of water, being a man from the 10s now in the 80s. But apart from one clothing montage which was in the trailer, they barely do that either. As well as that, there is a lack of the fun banter between the pair which made them so likable in the first film. It’s this sort of thing that makes you engaged with an on screen couple, and without it the returns lacks something which made it special the first time.
We do get some fun action scenes though. Young Diana doing Amazonian Ninja Warrior is a nice fun pacey start even if it’s not that relevant to the rest of the film and seemingly just a way to make sure Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen got a paycheque. And when Gal Gadot finally gets to be Wonder Woman, because boy does the movie take it’s time to get back to her in the costume, she takes part in a lot of fun scenes such as a great lorry chase in Egypt. Like in the first film, these are well-directed, well-paced and the highlight of the movie. One improvement on the original is that they resisted having a big CGI battle, something that let down the conclusion of the first film. Instead, we end with something that is looking to land emotionally and for the most part, works.
So what about our new villains? We have two in this one. We have Maxwell Lord, played by Pedro Pascal, who is basically Gordon Gecko if he became the genie from Aladdin. Then we have the Cheetah, Kristen Wiig’s character who becomes incredibly popular and well-liked after her wish and goes to desperate lengths to protect her wish when Diana reveals she needs to stop them all in order to save the world. They are both decent. I like how both never intended to be the villain or the bad guy but that their desperation to succeed ended up driving them to this. Other than that, they aren’t particularly memorable. They get the plot moving, they are decent foils for Wonder Woman but if this was a TV series, they’d be the mid-season filler rather than the big bads. Especially as now that I write it out and think about it more, the Cheetah’s motivations are so high school rather than adult life. Then again as Bowling for Soup state, High School Never Ends.
Wonder Woman 1984 is underwhelming rather than bad. There is some fun action, the story moves at a decent pace and everyone does a decent job of playing their role. There’s just not that much to it and it feels like it lacks some of the flavour of the original. The emotional beats do not land like they should and it does not take advantage of the lay-ups being given to it by the setting and the work of the original. It is a shame that after quite a few decent DC films that work well with what they have got that we ended up taking a few steps back here.