The first WONDER WOMAN came out in summer of 2017 and only took until a recent viewing to really appreciate the picture. I quickly noticed that you could either be a devout comic book fan and appreciate it one way, but the casual viewer could also just go and enjoy it with a big bag of buttered popcorn. I am somewhere in the middle on this, but for me I appreciate these movies as they are set in the past and it’s a nice way to branch my love of “older things” and superhero traits. Now in a very complicated 2020 we are FINALLY given the long-awaited sequel WONDER WOMAN 1984 from director Patty Jenkins, who also did the first film.
The first WONDER WOMAN got a lot of mileage in its WWII setting and even watching it again recently I got a big kick out of some of the war sequences. Here we get VERY obvious visual nods to earlier Richard Donner and Richard Lester’s SUPERMAN movies. (Why this movie didn’t start with the famous 70’s Red Pill Warner logo was a huge oversight, but that’s where MY film geek lies.) As a kid of the 1980s, I was definitely enjoying all of the references here even though I was REALLY young at the time of this setting, but since I tend to prefer movies set in the past these days, it reminds me of where the a lot of these superhero movies COULD go in regards to interesting past settings.
WW84 starts off with a visually strong (and photographed in IMAX 70mm) sequence featuring the young Diana as the youngest by FAR in a competition, and after this sets up her past it quickly moves to 1984 and getting knee-deep in the cold war. As Diana (Gal Gadot) is introduced again, working at the Smithsonian and somewhat disconnected from everyone else. Then she meets another pivotal character, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and the two wind up getting to know each other socially. Later, Barbara gets her hands on a mysterious stone that the both of them figure out can grant a wish to whoever has possession of it.
This also introduces us to Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal, who oddly enough brings a Nathon Fillion like persona to his performance here mixed with a touch of Lex Luthor), a con-man and hustler who also is on TV, so he can’t be all that bad, right? There’s also the reveal of how Steve (Chris Pine) comes back into the story, which is a bit of a surprise so I don’t want to reveal it here, and I’m not sure it overall works, but there’s some fun sequences when Steve tries to assimilate himself into the decade and it’s a fun reversal twist on the fish-out-of-water from the first picture.
I am a fan of many genres and styles of movies (as twenty recent days of Whistler Film Festival coverage on this site proves) and lately I feel a lot of these Marvel/DC superhero movies seem to be more plot than experience. It would also seem that many current writers, especially in the ever-similar Marvel Cinematic Universe, focus more on the “plot” and “arcs”. One thing I noticed is that when I felt like a lot of characters were standing around explaining things to each other, I lost interest. There’s a rather lengthy patch in WW84 where I feel this happens
But when it picked up, I thought it worked. A great sequence involving a chase in the Egyptian desert and Diana having to improvise quickly is a treat, and there’s a lot of fun action in the final act and I got more involved than I expected. Remember, we come to a LOT of these movies to also be entertained and shown great visual strengths. Movies like these aren’t just “Plot Delivery Devices” which it appears that a lot more fanboy-esque audiences want, but are missing the experience. This was a pleasure to discover as I have always felt the DC movies have been all over the map.
This isn’t as good as the pretty stunning 2017 original, but it’ll do. Throughout, I still wanted a GREAT action movie wanting to get out, but there’s still enough here to recommend WONDER WOMAN 1984 and I think fans of the DC universe will enjoy it overall. I only wish it was tightened down a bit more and MORE fun 80s references than what was always here, but it all works thanks to the always wonderful Gal Gadot and a surprising backing of talent and solid Patty Jenkins direction. Let’s see where it goes next.
Rating: *** out of ****
WONDER WOMAN 1984 is available for premium on-demand on various Canadian retailers and any movie theaters that are still allowed to be open. If you live in the United States, it is also available in theaters as well as HBO Max.
Note: the screener provided for review contained the IMAX sequences in more “full frame”. There are only two in the movie; the opening prologue is shot on IMAX 15/70 film and one of the final sequences is also shot in IMAX. While gorgeously shot, this isn’t really a deal-breaker for seeking out the IMAX version if you have a theater nearby that is playing it.