11th Jan2021

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ VOD Review (HBOMax)

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell | Written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham | Directed by Patty Jenkins

After several delayed releases due to the pandemic, Wonder Woman 1984 was finally released on Christmas Day in theaters and for the folks in the United States, on the streaming service HBOMax. Though the sequel to the 2017 film fails to live up to the original, the cast is the strength of the film and allows the movie to rank higher than most films in the DC Universe.

Wonder Woman 1984, as the title suggests, is set in the mid-1980s during the peak of the Cold War between Russia and the United States and at a time everyone wanted more of everything. More money, more power, more nuclear weapons. It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it was more than another person. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) finds herself working with socially-awkward Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. curating ancient artifacts. After stopping jewelry robbers (as Wonder Woman) at the local mall, Diana and Barbara come into possession of the ancient Dreamstone, which grants anyone holding it one wish, but it also takes the most important thing from the wisher. Diana unknowingly asks for her deceased boyfriend Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to come back to life while Barbara asks to be more like Diana, which grants her not only confidence but also superpowers.

The Dreamstone eventually falls into the hands of failed businessman Maxwell Lorenzano, aka Max Lord (played by the spectacular Pedro Pascal) who’s desire for being the most powerful man in the world results in him physically fusing with the Dreamstone. Max eventually starts granting wishes for everyone in the world, including the most powerful world leaders, and in payment, he becomes more and more powerful, shaping the world as he sees fit. Wonder Woman must not only stop Max Lord but also Cheetah, a now transformed and deranged Barbara. Diana, Max, and Barbara eventually realize that playing god has consequences and sometimes those consequences cannot be undone.

The Good:

  • Gal Gadot. The original Wonder Woman film worked due to a strong storyline but also due to Gal Gadot smashing it as Diana/Wonder Woman. While Linda Carter may have originally defined the character, Gadot has now taken over the role of the iconic superhero for a new generation. Gadot is amazing in Wonder Woman 1984 as she carries the film on her back with her strong acting, while conveying Diana/Wonder Woman into the most realistic character in the DC film universe. It’s just a shame that the story couldn’t have been as phenomenal as Gadot’s acting.

The Bad:

  • Run time. At a run time of 151 minutes, Wonder Woman 1984 is, at times, tough to get through without looking at the clock. Just because you can add more to a story, doesn’t mean that you should and that is what I found in Wonder Woman 1984. The lack of action, the film only has three “real” action sequences, is fine for more films, but for a 2 ½ hour superhero film, long droughts of action hampers it and drags down the momentum of the film.

The Middling:

  • Max Lord. While Pedro Pascal delivers a fantastic acting performance, his character’s motivation for being the most powerful being is lacking. Besides a 30-second montage of Lord’s life that doesn’t occur till the end of the film, the audience never fully understands why Lord is obsessed with being the most powerful person in the world. I understand it takes place in the 1980s when greed was good and that plays into Lord’s motives and outside of that loose explanation of Lord trying to make his son proud, the motive for Lord is lacking. Since films and comic books are completely different mediums, I try to remove a lot of my comic book history when I see a superhero film and not be that “type of person”. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that in Wonder Woman 1984 as the great comic book character of Max Lord, does not translate to this film. Pascal’s character could have been any other character from the comic books and it would have been fine but this Max Lord character is not the evil, take-no-prisoners character that comic book readers have read about for years.
  • Unconventional choices. While the results weren’t always successful, I will applaud Patty Jenkins for taking multiple chances in a sequel that could have been an easy recycled storyline. Jenkins decided to go full throttle into the mythical powers of Wonder Woman, as well as adding villains that have never been given their cinematic due, and taking a chance on a fable-like storyline. Unfortunately, taking chances also comes with a high chance of those choices not paying off, as they do in Wonder Woman 1984. Casting Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva/Cheetah was a gamble, and through no fault the actress, it didn’t fully work as the character seemed like a rip-off of the Selina Kyle/Catwoman character from the classic Batman Returns film. In addition, the monkey-paw fable that the whole film is centered around felt nothing more than a storyline Warner Brothers “settled” on as a way to bring back fan-favorite Steve Trevor.

Final Grade: C+ (Average)

Despite the excitement and hype for another installment in the Wonder Woman films, Wonder Woman 1984 is much like the 1980s that the film is set in: loud, excessive, and with little heart. The film feels as if Warner Brothers realized they had potential for a good DC film franchise and rushed a second film into production without a story that benefits Wonder Woman.

That is not to say the film is bad, far from it, but Gal Gadot had to do a lot of lifting with her acting in order to pull this film into the “average” category. It’s a shame as there are several bright points: the actors/actresses involved, the character of Wonder Woman herself, and the introduction of new villains on screen. Unfortunately, the plot is messy and doesn’t seem to fit with the Wonder Woman character, the choices of the characters is questionable, and the length of the film fails to make this film a suitable companion to the original Wonder Woman film.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Amazon Music and other podcasting apps. You can listen to their latest episode right here.

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