James Jay Edwards

Wonder Woman 1984 Is a Visually Stunning Rehash

(Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films)

James Jay Edwards reviews Wonder Woman 1984, a new Wonder Woman film with Patty Jenkins returning as director and Gal Gadot as star. (Warner Bros. Pictures)


A while back, Warner Brothers made headlines when the studio announced that their slate of 2021 movies would be released simultaneously to both theaters and to their streaming site HBO Max. Movie fans don’t have to wait until next year to start seeing these returns, though; one of the most anticipated (and most delayed) tentpole movies of 2020, Wonder Woman 1984, will utilize this release method on Christmas day.

Just as the title implies, Wonder Woman 1984 puts Diana Prince (Gal Gadot reprising her role from the first Wonder Woman and Justice League) in the eighties, decades after the love of her life, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, also back from the first movie), has passed away. The immortal Diana works in the anthropology section of the Smithsonian while continuing to perform her superhero deeds as Wonder Woman on the down-low.


(Wonder Woman 1984, official release poster, Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films)

When an artifact shows up at the museum that can grant wishes, Diana and a new colleague named Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig from Bridesmaids) both inadvertently use its power. But an oil conman named Maxwell Lord (The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal) shows up with more nefarious plans for the object, and everyone soon learns that the wishes come at a terrible price. Max’s actions could put the world on the brink of annihilation, and only Wonder Woman can stop him. But Barbara—and her own wish—stands in the way.

Along with Gadot and Pine, Wonder Woman writer/director Patty Jenkins has returned to the fold for Wonder Woman 1984. The script was co-written by DC veteran Geoff Johns (Aquaman, Arrow) and unconventional action screenwriter Dave Callaham (Godzilla, Zombieland: Double Tap), so there are plenty of the typical trappings of the superhero movie. Wonder Woman 1984 is packed full of spectacular set pieces and dazzling visuals, just as the previous Wonder Woman joint was. There’s some cheap fan service and some wink-wink-nudge-nudge female role model stuff, but nothing that’s out of character for Wonder Woman, or even for DC Comics.


(Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films)

In many ways, Wonder Woman 1984 is the epitome of a comic book movie. Every shot feels like a panel from a graphic novel, complete with exposition consisting of characters absently talking to themselves or awkwardly explaining their plans to each other. All that’s missing is the dialogue bubbles. The best scenes are, predictably, when the talking stops and the action takes over. Wonder Woman is a force to be reckoned with, and Gadot proves once again that she is a bona-fide action star.

And in emphasizing the action, Jenkins effectively turns Wonder Woman 1984 into a case study of spectacle over substance. The film attempts to make social statements about greed and envy, about materialism versus what’s really important, but in the end, it just tosses around breathtaking imagery without saying too much more. It’s fun to watch, but there’s nothing to set it apart from the crowd like there was with Wonder Woman. It’s just more of the same formula.


(Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films)

Like Wonder Woman, as well as most other superhero movies, Wonder Woman 1984 is about half an hour too long. And it is, unfortunately, the final battle that suffers. This is when audiences get to see Barbara in her final villain form as Cheetah, but by then, fatigue has set in. It’s still an impressive, multi-part climax, but the audience has seen all that it needs to see by then. It’s all repetition at that point.

Surprisingly, Wonder Woman 1984 does not lean as heavily into eighties nostalgia as one might expect. There are a couple digs at the fashion of the time (fanny packs?) and one of the best action sequences is set in a mall (kind of makes those old enough to remember a little teary-eyed), but basically, the eighties setting is not an exploitational gimmick. It’s a bit of a bummer that a movie set in 1984 doesn’t have more of a kicking soundtrack, though. All that Wonder Woman 1984 has is a couple of Gary Numan jams and a Frankie Goes to Hollywood tune. With a $200 million dollar budget, Patty Jenkins could have thrown a few bucks at music licensing.


(Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films)

No one expects high art from superhero movies. They may get it sometimes, but no one expects it. In this case, they don’t get it. Wonder Woman 1984 is essentially a popcorn flick, and a mediocre one at that. So, even those who opt for the HBO Max release instead of braving the theaters should still get some corn popping, if only to give them something to gnaw on in between action scenes.

Oh, and also in the tradition of the typical superhero movie, there’s a mid-credits scene that is not to be missed.

Wonder Woman 1984 is in theaters and on HBO Max starting Christmas day.



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