Wonder Woman 1984 Movie Review: Gal Gadot shines in a middling sequel
Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins are back with their successful DC superhero, but fall a few notches short
When Wonder Woman came out in 2017, director Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot had the huge responsibility of reviving the slumping DC Extended Universe. They were quite successful in doing so and brought about a refreshing change to the gloomy universe. The stakes were also high in the film’s plot: the Amazonian goddess had to help stop World War I and the annihilation of the human race. Fast forward to 2020, the stakes are much higher for Wonder Woman 1984, and its responsibility goes beyond the realm of DCEU. The film must now help in reviving the entire movie business that is yet to recover from the Covid shock. Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman does all the heavy lifting here (sometimes, literally), but the banality of the plot and unexciting not-so-supervillains make the prospects of Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot striking gold not so promising.
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal
Director: Patty Jenkins
However, Wonder Woman 1984 does have some good chops like the film’s opening and best action sequence. We are back in Themyscira, where young Diana is competing with her fellow Amazonians, who are much older than her. The breathtaking visuals coupled with Hans Zimmer’s score remind us why we enjoy watching movies in theatres. The Amazonians are no match for Diana; she is far ahead of them in the race. But, she is forced to take a shortcut that makes her aunt Antiope disqualify her from the competition. The sequence ends with a lecture — Diana is told to accept the truth even if it's painful. Undoubtedly, a brilliant prologue/set up to the moral conflict the superhero is about to face.
Later in 1984, Diana Prince is an archaeologist in the Smithsonian museum, Washington DC. She hasn’t moved on from her only love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and refuses to have a social life. But for some reason, she befriends the demure and socially-awkward new colleague Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wigg). While Diana yearns for her lost love, Barbara yearns to be Diana. So, when a magical stone that grants wishes arrives in the museum, both ask for what they dearly miss. But the catch here is that the stone grants you things at the cost of something you have. The good ol' monkey's paw business. So, when the archetypal greedy villain, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), lays his hands on the stone, it brings doom, and Diana has to save the world at the cost of the one thing she wants in life.
Of the three of the arcs, I liked the journey of Barbara best because there is more of showing than telling with her arc. She goes from being this meek gemologist to the ‘apex predator’. We get to witness the gradual shift in her demeanour and outfits. Also, she has the strongest and most human motive among the three: envy.
With Diana and Steve Trevor, we don’t get anything that we haven’t seen before in Wonder Woman (2017). Yes, it was interesting to see how the tables have turned. Back then, Steve took her on a tour showing around the world, which the Amazonians were isolated from. Now, it's the heroine’s turn to show this man from the past the modern civilization and its absurdities. Except for a few good moments, there was little to get out of this romance. And there is no doubt that Pedro Pascal's Maxwell Lord has the most underwhelming arc. Although his wish is in equal parts intriguing and natural, Patty Jenkins fails to exploit this potential. In the end, he turns out to be nothing more than a stereotype.
Martin Scorsese might have been right when he said ‘nothing is at risk’ in superhero movies and they seem to be ‘closer to theme parks’. We know Wonder Woman is going to save the day and there will be no surprise on that account. What we seek is the illusion of fear during the roller coaster ride with complete awareness that we are going home in one piece. That's an illusion that Wonder Woman 1984 unfortunately fails to deliver.