Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) Review

In the first Wonder Woman back in 2017, Patty Jenkins proves to be an ace visual stylist in the action department, particularly during the now-fan-favourite No Man’s Land setpiece. She successfully accomplished that feat again in Wonder Woman 1984 a.k.a. WW84, notably the extended daylight chase sequence where Diana/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) tries to stop a convoy of army trucks along the road. Together with Hans Zimmer’s rousing electric cello score, the scene itself gives me the same goosebumps as the aforementioned action-packed moment in the first movie.

And yet, this kind of moment only happens few and far between. The technical prowess that Jenkins showcased in this long-awaited (and delayed) sequel just isn’t enough to overcome most of its shortcomings. Surprise? Me neither. I have a lot of faith in Jenkins after she made such a lasting impression in the first Wonder Woman, easily one of the best superhero movies ever made outside of the usual MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) banner.

I hate to say this but there are lots of things that went wrong in Wonder Woman 1984. The sequel feels excruciatingly overlong at 151 minutes, which is 10 minutes longer than the first movie. It actually starts promisingly with an elaborate Themyscira-set prologue where a young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competes in a challenge against other Amazonian warriors. Jenkins shows a lot of confidence directing the scene with enough verve and for a moment there, it looks as if the sequel is in good hands.

But that promising moment doesn’t last long once the movie jumps forward to 1984. Sure, there’s an earlier fun moment involving Diana stopping a heist in a shopping mall, complete with the appropriately Day-Glo sheen that characterised the ’80s vibe.

A battle scene between Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Barbara (Kristen Wiig) in "Wonder Woman 1984"

As the story progresses further, this is where it starts to fall apart one by one. New characters, beginning with the mousey Dr Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is introduced. She’s an archaeologist tasked for investigating a mysterious stone confiscated from the robbers after the aforementioned mall heist.

The stone actually capable of granting one’s wishes, which in turn, happens to be Maxwell (Max) Lord’s (Pedro Pascal) primary target. He’s a famous TV personality and a so-called oil tycoon, who swindle his investors’ money using the Ponzi scheme. He desperately needs to get his hands on the stone to make his dreams come true. Let’s just say it has something to do with power and domination but his motivation isn’t strong enough to make him a worthy antagonist. Not even with all the efforts that Pascal hams up his performance in a typical ’80s-style villain mode.

Back to Barbara, we see her subsequently befriends Diana, who also happens to be her co-worker in the Smithsonian museum. The movie could have developed the friendship between them since it helps to establish a conflict later on. Too bad that didn’t happen because the story — credited to Patty Jenkins herself alongside Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham — is a bloated mess. A mess that belongs to the classic “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome. Long story short, Barbara has something to do with the stone that gradually turning her into a different person. The motivation that sees her becoming a villain is just as weak and fuzzy as Pedro Pascal’s Max Lord.

The DC Extended Universe has its fair share of history when comes to weak or standard-issue antagonists. This includes some of the movies like Justice League (Ciaran Hinds’ Steppenwolf) and Birds of Prey (Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis/Black Mask). Even the otherwise excellent Wonder Woman did suffer the same with the villain part. In Wonder Woman 1984, it’s sad to see both Pascal and Wiig’s antagonist roles are ruined by the largely incompetent script. Without a firm conflict and motivation, it’s hard to justify their course of actions throughout the movie. This also makes their characters more of an obligatory excuse for Diana to fight against them.

Diana (Gal Gadot) and Steve (Chris Pine) reunite in "Wonder Woman 1984"

Speaking of Diana, Gal Gadot’s winning charm and physicality are admirable as usual. But that’s just about it. Her character arc this time around isn’t as interesting as the story of Diana being a fish-out-of-water individual in Wonder Woman, where she finally gets out of her comfort zone and experience all the good and bad things happen on the outside world. In the sequel, she’s more of a jaded person and a loner who still couldn’t get over of Steve’s (Chris Pine) death in the first movie.

And when Steve is revived, which has something to do with the stone, she couldn’t be happier seeing him again. From there, the role reversal happens. It would be interesting to see how Jenkins turns thing around by showcasing Steve as a fish-out-of-water character instead. While there are moments of fun here and there, the protracted romance between Diana and Steve frequently stalls the momentum of the movie. It was such a long stretch that could have used some serious trimming. I can see that the love story tries to be sweet and poignant but it all feels emotionally hollow and fails to resonate whatsoever.

Wonder Woman 1984 clearly tries too hard cramming as many ideas as possible into a single movie. It wants to be fun, inspiring, dramatic and emotional. Although there are few worthwhile scenes, the sequel is pretty much a missed opportunity.

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