I still can’t believe that Warner Bros is continuing along with the DC Extended Universe. It’s had its ups and downs (quality-wise and financially), but Wonder Woman was the lightning rod for fans to flock to for both parameters. It did well, and was generally well received. What could go wrong? Well, too much creative freedom, it turns out.
Director and lead Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot reunite once again for the sequel, which is set in 1984. Continuing the story of Diana Price (Wonder Woman), a mysterious artifact (which grants wishes, with a price) is set to wreak havoc on the world. Enter two antagonists, oh, and a magical return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine): her companion from the original film. Confused yet?
What ensues over the next two and a half hours can only be described as a confused, but somewhat spirited trek across DC and various parts of the world. There isn’t a lot of action (what is present is a strange amalgamation of CGI), which is going to turn off some people immediately. Motivations and decisions aren’t very clearly portrayed; as several characters are wrestling with their own inner demons. But I couldn’t look away!
Gadot has been hit with some criticism over her portrayal of Wonder Woman, but she’s been consistently fantastic at nailing the role. Her stoicism fits her acting style just fine, and I actually like her reserved take on the character: it makes sense that Diana Prince would want to maintain a relatively low profile in alter-ego form (despite some of the outlandish absurdity in this movie that isn’t directly her fault). Although the excuse to bring him back is tenuous at best, seeing Chris Pine again is fun, and Pedro Pascal knocks it out of the park as the egomaniac Maxwell Lord.
Now onto the gripes: here’s a minor one. Why did this need to be set in the ‘80s at all? There are very few scenes that actually justify the time period, and outside of one very funny moment with Chris Pine’s character (in which he manages to make a fanny pack look cool), there’s almost no reason why this tale could be set in any other time period. Although (I’m being vague here) nuclear weapons vaguely play a role, any sort of “big weapon” or threat of nuclear war would have worked during many decades.
It’s also mind-boggling, as the trailer had that great orchestral mix of Blue Monday. Where was the new wave? Instead, we got an extremely bland and serviceable/safe soundtrack from Hans Zimmer that could fit in any superhero movie. I promise, it’s still a minor gripe! We’re moving to the major ones now. Tonally the film is very strange, too, as Pascal does his best to maintain a very campy, but ultimately captivating villain; which Gal Gadot, at times, feels like she’s acting in a different, more grimdark movie altogether. Jenkins occasionally embraces the cheese, but then pivots right back to utter seriousness on a moment’s notice. It’s jarring, even if both tones do work on occasion.
Whatever you may think of the various character motivations, twists, or turns, the script remains one of the biggest mysteries. It’s bloated, not-all-there, and doesn’t bother to answer a few lingering questions. By the time the credits rolled, I found myself wondering how the world managed to “sort itself out,” as every loose end is neatly tied up far too swiftly.
Funneling right back into that same issue, the runtime of this film is over two and a half hours and it absolutely has no right to be. There was plenty of time to edit it; which begs the question, was there even any editing? What could they possibly have even cut, as well? While we’ve seen plenty of cases of studio meddling with Warner Bros and the DC extended universe, this feels like an instance of no one telling Patty Jenkins and company “no.” It’s interesting that Jenkins co-wrote the script this time around with two others: juxtaposed to the more pinpoint single screenwriting credit from 2017’s Wonder Woman production. “Too many cooks,” as they say.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a strange case of WB still not understanding how to capture the essence of the myriad classic characters that they have the rights to. While Gal Gadot is still Wonder Woman to me, this wasn’t a very good vessel to continue her story.