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Review: Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Premise: A sequel to the 2017 film. Set in 1984, shady businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) tries to save his failing business with a magical artifact that brings wishes to life. Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) must stop Lord before he grows too powerful.

What Works: The strongest element of Wonder Woman 1984 is its villains. Pedro Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, a television personality and the manager of a Ponzi scheme that is on the verge of collapse. Lord is a man corrupted by greed and the need to validate his existence with endless consumption and consolidation of power. Kristen Wiig plays Barbara Minerva, a lowly but goodhearted woman who achieves superpowers through a magical artifact and becomes Wonder Woman’s nemesis Cheetah. Maxwell Lord and Cheetah are allowed to be more than just straightforward villains. They have depth and make choices that are rooted in their character flaws. Wiig’s performance is especially impressive, starting the movie as an awkward but funny and kind person who is gradually corrupted by her new powers.

What Doesn’t: Wonder Woman 1984 recalls the Richard Lester directed Superman movies of the 1980s as well as the Batman movies of the 1990s—mostly in its flaws. The picture opens with a series of set pieces in which Wonder Woman saves the day and there’s a lot of humor throughout. These scenes are intended to be uplifting and lighten the tone but like Lester’s Superman movies the humor comes across hokey. This story brings back Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and reverses the fish-out-of-water scenario in the first Wonder Woman picture. The humor is hit and miss; the filmmakers overplay the 80s fashion gags and especially the fanny pack joke. Like the 1990s Batman films, Wonder Woman 1984 emphasizes its villains to the exclusion of the hero. Wonder Woman is mostly reactive in this film and she doesn’t actually do very much nor does she grow as a character. The story of Wonder Woman 1984 is a mess. Some elements of the film are poorly thought out, namely the return of Steve Trevor. His spirit essentially possesses a living man’s body and this creates all sorts of implications that are obvious to the viewer but the filmmakers never address. That kind of sloppiness characterizes this movie. There’s too much plot getting in the way of the story and the film jerks the characters and the audience all over the globe but it’s never clear where anyone is going or why. The conflict is always vague. This is most evident when Wonder Woman first confronts Maxwell Lord in an elaborate car chase in the Egyptian desert. It’s not clear what anyone is trying to accomplish or what they are fighting over. This is also a technically disappointing film. 1984 lacks the visual style of the first film and the dark images of the climax often look murky.

Bottom Line: Wonder Woman 1984 is a disappointing sequel. The story is disjointed, the humor is stupid, the set pieces are unimpressive, and it fails to do anything interesting with its title character.

Episode: #833 (January 3, 2021)