“Well, shit Diana.”
Other than an elongated opening sequence that proves more visually appealing than narratively necessary, the first thirty minutes of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 completely and entirely embraces its iconic, retro setting. The colors, style, and vibe are unapologetically on point as the film reads like a historically acute cinematic work of undeniable genius.
Then, out of nowhere, it is gone.
An original story taken loosely from the DC Comic source material, 1984 returns Gal Gadot as the titular character. Though some forty years have passed since the events of the 2017 original, the story primarily centers on Diana’s attempt to adapt to her surroundings, adjusting expectations as she works to co-exist in a world that doesn’t know who she is or her full-scale capabilities.
We meet Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva early on as Jenkins hopes to establish the kindness of her semi-passive demeanor to more strongly exemplify her foreshadowed transition into one of Wonder Woman’s more iconic nemesis, Cheetah.
An early interaction between the two strong females lends a firm hand to how the story will play out, solidifying 1984’s lack of large scale creativity as we witness the discovery of an ancient artifact that grants wishes, one per person. Diana brings back her love, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor. Barbara’s isn’t quite so innocent - the ramifications of which are exponential.
But this is where the fundamental issue with this film exists: Cheetah is not the primary villain. In a twist of fate, 1984 opts to introduce two foes to our leading lady, the second being Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), an oil scam artist who is in desperate need of money, power, and fame. From a narrative standpoint, the creative choice is acceptable. But even in a film that runs a few minutes over two and a half hours, it causes the situation to feel rushed and crowded.
It is difficult to fathom the lack of compelling storytelling within such a long timeframe; however, the decision to double up on the oppositional force prevents the story from going any deeper than surface level. The result reminds me of old school superhero films; however, in this new age of character developed pieces that dive into darker, meatier material, it doesn’t satisfy.
That said, Wiig and Pascal are fantastic in the film. Though I initially poked fun at the leaked photos of Wiig’s Cheetah transformation, the full scene works. Whether that is the result of intense post-production or the benefit of the medium, I have no idea. But altogether, it manages well. Sadly, she is only decked out once, making the reveal less dramatic as her rise and fall is as quick and uninteresting as the final altercation in the original film.
I do credit Jenkins for providing hope. Though Diana is one of the strongest warriors ever to grace our planet, she relies on society to win the war. If only the film hadn’t been so silly on its way to such a positive message. Still, it’s hard to knock the final product. Is it great? Absolutely not. But it gives us exactly what we need as one of the most turbulent-laden years draws to a close: a fun, exciting, and dare I say optimistic viewing experience.
*This film is available in theaters and on HBO Max.