2017’s Wonder Woman still clocks in as one of the best superhero movies ever made and showed the world that Warner Brothers can make a DC Comics film just as good, if not better, that Disney’s Marvel films. But the success of that film meant that the inevitable sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, was all set to be a let down. And FBOL Head Honcho Rich Drees found it to be one.
However, I beg to differ. Wonder Woman 1984 is an absolutely brilliant piece of film making. It’s not 100% perfect, there are flaws, but it a fitting follow up to its precursor while being a really good comic book film as well.
Since we last saw Diana (Gal Gadot), she has been trying to make the world a better place as anonymously as she can. Currently, she is keeping Washington, D.C. safe from muggers, reckless drivers and thieves while working at the Smithsonian. After a foiled robbery at a mall jewelry store reveals a black market artifact ring, the relics are brought to the Smithsonian for examination by Diana’s colleague, gemologist Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). When a piece of “worthless” citrene meant for shady oil speculator Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) turns out to be a mystical talisman that grants the holder any their heart desires, it sets our characters down a road where they find their wishes come at a very high price. And the ultimate cost might be the end of world as we know it.
The more I see of Patty Jenkins’ film making, the more impressed by it. A lot of the good things I gave her kudos for in my review of the first film stands true here–the pacing, the balance of humor and action, etcetera. But I was amazed numerous times during this film at Jenkins’ economy of storytelling and the creative decisions she made. Jenkins expects you to pay attention to this film, but if you do, you will be rewarded. Jenkins conveys information in interesting ways. Diana’s life between films is told by the camera panning mementos on the shelf. The diversity of people’s reaction the the inciting incident for the film’s climax is shown by one dolly shot down a city street. It’s the best kind of film exposition, one that other filmmakers don’t seem to ever want to employ but that Jenkins is a master of.
I’m starting to think Jenkins’ name should be listed among the highest echelon of directors working today, right up there with Nolan and Spielberg. She’s that damn good.
Another thing this film gets is the characters. The villains are more than one dimensional. The two main bad guys are shown as, at heart, good people, but with catastrophic flaws that compel them to villainy. This makes them far more interesting to watch, which make this film all the much better. But where the film excels is the way the “get” Wonder Woman. The “warrior who fights for peace” is a hard dichotomy to wrestle with. But Jenkins and the screenwriters, including comic scribe Geoff Johns, nailed it.
Case in point, pay special attention to the stand-off between Barbara and Diana in the White House. Look at what Diana does. It’s a fight scene as character development. I couldn’t help myself but to shout “That’s brilliant!” as the scene developed. It sums up what the idea version of Wonder Woman should be.
As to the flaws, well, let me admit once again on this site that I am not a fan of Kristen Wiig. I consider her style to be a collection of physical tics, weird faces, and hammy voices in lieu of actual acting. And when she first appears on screen as the awkward Barbara Minerva, all of these bad qualities are on full display. It’s was almost unbearable to watch. However, as the film progressed and Barbara became more corrupted, I found that Wiig’s performance became less grating and more grounded in reality.
As for Pedro Pascal’s performance, I’m a lot more generous than Rich. I will admit that he was miscast in the role, but I think he made it work the best he could. His performance was cartoonish because he is playing a living cartoon character. He’s essentially playing a buffoon who stumbled into power he was ill suited to wield. Pascal played the character well enough in that range for me to enjoy it.
All in all, I found the film to be an exciting ride, one with emotional resonance and impact. It’s not only a great comic book film, it’s a great film, period.