Patty Jenkins‘ take on Wonder Woman is excellent in a lot of ways, but its sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, mesmerizes even more. It’s bigger, bolder, and definitely better, with a big heart at its sleeve and solid performances from everyone involved.
If the core story of the first movie is about a woman who has to clean up the mess that men made, the main theme of the sequel is about the values of truths, as well as the danger of lies and excessive power. Sure, at times the movie delivers this message heavy-handedly, but for the most part, Wonder Women 1984 soars above the horizon, thanks to Jenkins‘ solid direction and Gal Gadot‘s graceful screen presence.
The Stone, The Truths, and The Lies
Like the first installment, Wonder Woman 1984 opens with a throwback of Diana when she’s still a kid in her home island of Themyscira, learning from her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) about why it’s important to always tell the truth. Jenkins then jumps ahead to DC circa 1984 and shows us right away what our Wonder Woman has been up to: working as an archeologist in the Smithsonian while trying to save the day from bad guys every now and then.
The plot only kicks off when we’re introduced to some kind of dream stone that has the power to grant the wishes of anyone who holds it. Diana accidentally uses it to make the love of her life, Steve (Chris Pine), come back to life. Meanwhile, Diana’s new friend and colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who will become Wonder Woman’s arch-nemesis, Cheetah, and the big bad of this installment, a man carrying out a Ponzi scheme named Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), wish for excessive power. Their wishes, of course, come true when they possess the dream stone, which apparently is made by some god with bad intentions. But what they don’t know is the consequences that they have to face: losing something valuable from their own life.
Diana, however, knows about this and is trying to stop both Barbara and Max Lord before they use it for something careless and dangerous. And it is her adventure of locating the stone and saving the world from extinction where Wonder Woman 1984 is at its highest. The action sequences are executed brilliantly by both Jenkins‘ direction and the four main cast’s performances, especially Wiig and Pascal who both seem to have so much fun filming every scene. Though at times the CGI can be a little overpowering, Matthew Jensen‘s cinematography is never any less breathtaking. Hans Zimmer‘s bombastic score also makes everything all the more epic.
But Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t just a technical marvel with a hollow center or a movie that only works on a bigger scale but feels weak on its smaller ones. The intimate moments between the characters, like when Diana shows Steve around DC, or when Diana and Barbara have dinner together, also work really well. In fact, it’s in all these scenes where the heart and soul of the movie shines the brightest. It certainly helps that the chemistry between Gadot and Pine is always swoon-worthy without ever once feeling too cheesy.
Hopeful and Uncynical
As mentioned previously, the main thesis of Wonder Woman 1984 is about the danger of greed and capitalism, subjects that definitely resonate with our society right now. Its jargon, as illustrated by Max Lord and Barbara, is basically “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But what’s so interesting and special about the way Jenkins and his fellow scriptwriters, Geoff Johns and David Callaham, convey this message is how hopeful and uncynical it always is.
Yes, the movie is never shying away from depicting the darkest side of excessive power, but there’s no moment in Wonder Woman 1984 where it doesn’t exude optimism. Even when at times its portrayal of lies is a little too exaggerated, the movie always follows every scene up with some heroic moment that will, without a doubt, make the audience giddy. Some people might be put off by this “innocent” look at the world, and that’s understandable. But at the same time, this is what makes the Wonder Woman franchise so different than the other DC Universe superhero movies. It brings light and a rare touch of hopefulness right when so many movies are competing to be the darkest and most cynical.
What’s missing about the movie, however, is a little subtlety. There are way too many scenes, especially in the final act, which lean heavily toward big, dull monologues that almost feel a little too patronizing. But fortunately, the performances from the cast always manage to ground everything back again. Gadot not only provides gracefulness to her Wonder Woman but also real emotions. Wiig and Pascal, albeit playing big, cartoonish villains, always offer humanity to their characters that it’s hard to not feel their struggles. Pine, on the other hand, brings charm and humor to Steve. Everyone is just terrific.
Though not without its flaws, Wonder Woman 1984 proves to be a worthy and striking follow-up to an already great prequel. Every moment is always filled with optimism, every performance is imbued with humanity. It’s a vibrant, colorful adventure and a fantastic throwback to the 80s, delivered with a massive heart. Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot aren’t messing around.
What do you think of the ending? Let us know in the comments below!
Wonder Woman 1984 starts playing theatrically and streaming on HBO Max on 25 December.
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