Coming off the heels of 2017’s Wonder Woman, many fans, including me, were excited when it was announced that Patty Jenkins would be returning to direct the sequel. The trailers showed many things that left me shaking my head in confusion, such as Chris Pine returning as Steve Trevor despite the character’s death in the first film. Did Wonder Woman 1984 live up to the hype, or did it fall short of the original’s excellence?
Wonder Woman 1984 follows Gal Gadot as the title character once again, except this time she is dealing with a less straightforward conflict: human greed. After saving a mysterious stone from the black market, Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) and her work colleague, Barbara Minerva (played by Kristen Wiig), discover it has the ability to grant the one holding it any wish they desire. Unknown to them, the failed oil businessman, Maxwell Lord (played by Pedro Pascal), seeks the stone to fix his many poor business decisions. Wonder Woman must stop him and regain the stone before he causes irreparable damage to the world.
Before I get into the issues I have with this film, let’s discuss the positives. Patty Jenkins proved that she could handle super hero action and bombastic visuals extremely well in the first film, so I was ecstatic when this remained the case here. There are several absolutely gorgeous scenes in the movie, but the one that stood out the most was when Steve and Diana were flying in the jet amidst the 4th of July fireworks. The brightness of the lighting created by the fireworks perfectly reflects Steve’s joy of experiencing all the new technological advancements. While the action never quite reached the same heights as the No Man’s Land scene from the first film, the action here is still solid. The best action sequence in the film is easily the opening prologue on Themyscira, but I find it odd how that sequence has little to do with the rest of the movie (more on that later).
Hans Zimmer returned to DC to work on the score for Wonder Woman 1984 and he was great as always. While there were no particular stand out themes, his music greatly added to the emotion, especially during the third act. This is incredibly important as Wonder Woman 1984 relies heavily on emotional drive and Zimmer’s score compliments this perfectly. My only issue is that the main Wonder Woman theme, that Zimmer originally composed for Batman v Superman, does not play as much as I expected, and, when it does play, it is softer and less outrageous than it was in the other films it has appeared in. I believe this is likely due to the theme not fitting Jenkins’ interpretation of the character, since it was originally made for Zack’s Snyder’s version of Wonder Woman. If you love Zimmer’s Wonder Woman theme, you may be left a little disappointed by this score.
Probably the strongest element of Wonder Woman 1984 was the acting. Gal Gadot displayed a wide range of emotion, which allowed me to truly feel for the character. Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal also give it their all here and are incredibly delightful when they are on screen. Sadly, Chris Pine seemed to not get enough material to work with here. He isn’t bad per say, but he felt underused here.
The point where Wonder Woman 1984 begins to seriously diverge from the greatness of the original is its writing. Without spoiling anything, the writing of this film is kind of all over the place. Subplots get introduced without a larger reason for their existence. Characters appear briefly, only to be used for exposition and then briskly shoved away. However, the worst offender is probably the way Steve Trevor is brought back. To be fair, it was not as bad as I expected, but it feels rather loose in how it is tied to the story. This plot thread works great for Diana’s character, but Steve receives little conflict with his sudden return to the land of the living. It is entertaining to see him be a “fish out of water” again, but we got that in the last film, so why do we need it again here?
The villains are an extremely odd pairing here. I get that Barbara is meant to represent the greed of man with how they perceive her over the course of the movie and how she reacts to it. It is also entertaining to see her interact with Diana. However, Barbara’s transformation into Cheetah feels like it is only there to give Wonder Woman someone to fight. This plot thread should have been shelved for a future film. The conflict with Maxwell Lord is interesting enough to take up this entire film; we did not need a secondary villain. This is the same issue Aquaman had, only it is more obvious here.
Luckily, Maxwell Lord’s less physical, more mental conflict is perfect for a Wonder Woman film and something I thought the first movie would have heavily benefitted from. His hunger for power that is grounded in relatable desires make him feel real despite his cartoony mannerisms. I particularly loved how Jenkins, Pascal and the writing team showed his gradual loss of humanity throughout the film.
While the writing is quite shoddy at best, it still got me to feel emotional and that is what matters most to me. If the silly classic comic-book-style writing of films like Aquaman bothered you, it will likely make Wonder Woman 1984 unwatchable for you, and that is perfectly understandable. However, this film got me to care about its crazy plot enough to bring tears to my eyes. I am excited to see where Patty Jenkins takes the next one; I just hope she has different co-writers the third time around.