So I must admit before continuing this, I used to not care about Wonder Woman at all. I never grew up with the cartoons, the comics, the movies. I knew very little about the character and my first official introduction to her was actually Batman v. Superman. I have since come to love and cherish the Star Spangled Goddess.
Her second appearance in the DCEU was more than a welcome one with more of that stellar score, but also for being a WWI action flick. The film dropped the ball in the third act, but made up for it with plenty of just shockingly gorgeous cinematography, some hamfisted but touching scenes, and plenty of action on and off the battlefield.
We won’t talk about the mess that was her appearance in Justice League (2017), fuck you Joss Whedon.
So what came next for the Amazonian Ass Kicker? Well, nobody would’ve expected an adventure film the likes of The Mummy or Indiana Jones set in 1984. I didn’t also expect it to cause such a confusing reaction to it.
With stunning performances from Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal, an interesting villain with a creative twist, color galore on screen divorcing itself from 90% of the grey muted color palette of most superhero films, invigorating action with an attention to non lethal action. It was something different among a deluge of the saturated superhero genre, making itself more a modern adventure film that bounces semi-coherently from point to point.
I could gush about the film all day, and since this is my review I will. Let’s start with the setting and time period, and how just like The Legend of Korra, the setting fits the theme! While this isn’t completely necessary in a story, it is greatly appreciated (by me at least). What the fuck am I talking about though?
Well in The Legend of Korra, the setting of the show harkens to something similar to the 1920’s, a time of power vacuums and opportunities abound (the show kinda drops the ball with themes about (((metaphorical))) economical divide and other things but now’s not the time to talk about that.)
Wonder Woman 1984 does the same thing, theming itself around greed and consumerism with its villains and its story, the setting and time period enhances that. The 80’s were a large boom in both consumerism and advertising. It is considered by many as the “shop-til-we-drop” decade. The time period was also a time of power struggles, with the US and Russia butting heads during the Cold War, [Unspecified Foreign Territory with Border and Immigrant Struggles, I’m not touching that topic with a ten foot pole], businesses fighting to make the next big boom with an exploding economic spike.
Let’s talk about another thing that The Legend of Korra and Wonder Woman 1984 have in common. The hero learning and improving upon themselves from the villains ideologies and morals. Like holy shit its so fucking cool that not only did Wonder Woman deal with Max Lord in a non lethal way but that she also did it from understanding him and speaking to him from his point of view AND that she participated in the same thing she is trying to stop because she knows the harm it can cause.
Like holy shit I can’t think of many films that deal with such a conflict in a somewhat reasonable matter, rather most films deal with something like this with conflict or with some bargain. It’s refreshing to have a film appeal to sensibility and conversation rather than just punching away your problems or bargaining your problems in some game of wits.
The ending also feels like the director, Patty Jenkins, responding to the criticisms of the first film’s third act with Ares. The film appeals to both teams with a fun action-y fight with Wonder Woman fighting Cheetah (still being non-lethal trying to subdue her rather than to kill her) and a reasonable confrontation that’s more a struggling conversation than it is a fight with Max Lord.
Let’s talk about that Max Lord though, we’ll get back to Cheetah. Max Lord in this film is played none other than the Star Wars bounty hunter of the recent hit show The Mandalorian, and MAN does he absolutely kill it! His performance in this film is one that helps you connect with Max on a human and emotional level. A man whom was let down by trying to follow his dreams. Trying to climb up the corporate ladder, each rung just a little further out of reach. His charming personality fit for a con-man down on his luck hiding it behind a thinly veiled confident facade. His intentions are driven by determination and corrupted with power.
The twist about him? He’s not a bad guy, I mean he is the antagonist of the film, but he isn’t really the kinda villain you see in most superhero films. He’s someone who gives before he takes. It helps reveal other’s greed, and shows them the consequences of that. You can’t really punch human nature. So what better villain to have a unique confrontation than one you can’t really confront with violence. Max Lord is not the villain but is rather a conduit for the consequences of others.
Now what about the fans who wanted the Amazon Nazi Neutralizer to throw some punches? Well in comes Barbara Minerva AKA The Cheetah, played by the lovely Kristen Wiig, best known for her role in Bridesmaids.
A shy, sweet, intelligent woman whom was ignored by many, in the shadow of her friend Diana, who hopelessly wishes to the wishing stone to be just like her friend. Her wish comes true and she garners the attraction and admiration of her friend alongside her powers, but the stone giveth and taketh, and the stone slowly chips away at what made Barbara, Barbara. The once helpful, caring, empathic woman turned a spiteful, violent, arrogant menace.
Her actions are understandable though, she kills her sexual assailant in a fit of rage. The power to do so is invigorating, empowering. She was no longer the shy weak girl, no longer vulnerable. You get it, you understand it. She only goes to stop Diana at the white house because she doesn’t want to lose that feeling. Nobody in their right mind would relinquish such a immense power. That is until they get something better. She relinquishes her wish, asking for something new, she wishes to be an apex predator, something that cannot be reasoned with humanly. The Cheetah.
The film also has something that I absolutely love to see in more and more superhero films, COLOR. Jesus christ Wonder Woman 1984 is colorful, and even better it has a consistent yet colorful pallet consisting of a graining yet bright aesthetic emulating something along the lines of CinemaScope with it lighting and grain that fits the 80s setting. The films isn’t as colorful as Birds of Prey (but let’s be honest not many films have the balls to be that colorful), but does separate itself from the slog of cape flicks with a distinct visual style and look.
Now it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t touch on some of the flaws that this film has, the main one (outside of some questionably moral arguments about consent and how they dealt with bringing back Steve Trevor) being that Gal Gadot isn’t really good at acting. She really can’t carry a lot of her scenes with he delivery. She looks great but that’s about it. The film does also admittedly have some pacing issues, though I don’t mind them myself, I wouldn’t be upset if the film was edited shorter. Some of the special effects are a bit off-putting, jarring, and/or kinda bad.
The film also annoyingly uses Adagio in D Minor during the transition from the second to third act, and while the song itself isn’t bad, far from it actually, the use of is almost lazy and off putting if you’re familiar with the song. It’s even more upsetting that the film has a leitmotif for Wonder Woman that could’ve been modified to fit the scene OR even better they could’ve used the soundtrack from the first film calling back to Steve Trevor’s sacrifice, but the song reverses the two’s themes so that it reflects the sacrifice Diana makes. Wishful thinking.
Okay now one more thing that I must praise, and why I really don’t mind the pacing hiccups of the film. The film presents itself as an adventure film more than it does a superhero film. What do I mean by that? Well it’s hard to explain, but I’ll do my best. The film has a slightly different structure with the film being more of a wild goose chase for the stone (and then Max Lord) kinda like Indiana Jones being on a wild goose chase for The Ark of The Covenant.
It’s more a fun adventure with high stakes than it is a high stakes mission.
I could keep talking your ear off for hours and hours about why I love Wonder Woman 1984, but I think I’ll cut myself short and I’ll accept that some people will never enjoy this film. Maybe they hate fun or maybe they hate Gal Gadot. There are always going to be people that hate a certain movie or whatever, but I love this one.