Wonder Woman 1984 Review
This follow-up to the DC Universe’s best movie succeeds on some levels, but falls flat on what we loved about the first.
Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is still, all these years later in the 1980’s, mourning the loss of her great love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Toiling away in a museum, she quickly befriends Barbara (Kristen Wiig) - a lonely and perennially misbegotten science geek, who wishes she could be like Diana. When a mysterious artefact turns up at the museum, they don’t believe its claim to grant your wish to be real - but Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) does, and he steals the stone. Shockingly, Diana’s wish comes true, and Steve is returned to her; but not without a catch, as she begins to lose her powers. Racing against the clock as Max grants wish after wish, creating a disastrous world climate and threatening the destruction of civilisation itself, Diana and Steve must stop the oil magnate - even if it means losing the one thing Diana wants more than anything else.
WW84 is an intriguing piece of cinema, as the first blockbuster to really usher in the post-2020, post-COVID era. It’s a shame, then, that it isn’t very good - certainly not when compared with its predecessor.
The first Wonder Woman came out at a time when the DCEU was in shambles. Wracked with an impossibly dark tonality, and after a string of flops, Wonder Woman was a worry and production concerns didn’t help. But it hit cinemas as a triumph - removing the male gaze misogyny of Zack Snyder’s take, bringing a fun tone that didn’t skimp on the action sequences, and with a genuinely enjoyable take on the genre. Gal as the titular hero in particular was a lot of fun. She could kick ass when she needed to, but a lot of the humor and character work came from her ‘fish out of water’ story - a lost God, confused by 1920’s London. From a romantic perspective too, it was very effective, with Steve and Diana’s relationship being sweet and real enough to provide some genuine pathos when Steve meets his untimely end in the third act.
Alas, WW84 loses a lot of this. No longer is Diana unfamiliar with the world - she’s been living in it for decades now. Instead, the film flips the script and sees a reincarnated Steve discovering the 1980’s for the first time, but it just doesn’t play as well. The film also loses a lot of the great action work that was on display in the first film, and most of this comes down to Wonder Woman herself, who is not used nearly as effectively. For those who loved the scenes of Wonder Woman crossing the trenches in the first film, or her slow motion battle in a sniper's nest, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the action on display here. And once again, the final fight is a befuddled, unrecognisable CGI mess.
Where the film does pick up a win against its former is in the villain department. Kristen Wiig as the secondary villain is great for the first two thirds of the film, delivering a fall from grace tale with humor and a fair amount of menace. But it's Pedro Pascal as Max Lord who really steals the show, and cements 2020 as his year on the screen (after Mandalorian). Pascal is utterly compelling as a desperate man wrapped in his own fantasy, going further and further down the rabbit hole and further and further away from his reasons for starting to do so. The final few scenes pack a punch, and only because of his utter dedication to a pretty out there role. Whether he is holding his son tightly amidst an apocalyptic scene, or screaming into the aether with his hair flying around his face about how we can have all we want, he is a true joy to watch and a definite draw if you’re thinking of seeing the film.
In the end, WW84 loses much of what we loved about the first, and doesn’t give us a good (or really even comprehensible) hero story to latch on to. But it does an about face compared with the first when it comes to the antagonist arc, and is worth the watch to see Pedro Pascal serving up a great, out there performance.
WW84 is pretty disappointing - a surface level plot, barely held together. For a character who was holding up the DCEU, one expected better. Instead, we’ll have to settle for yet another star turn from Pedro Pascal.