A crime-fighting anthropologist battles a megalomaniac armed with the power of wishes in Wonder Woman 1984.
It’s been just three years since 2017’s blockbuster superhero film Wonder Woman reset the boundaries for both audiences and DC Comics. It feels like so much longer. The franchise’s latest entry does little to help us rekindle the original film’s energy or, I fear, its success.
It’s now been six decades or so since Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) first left the confines of her utopian Amazonian island, and she hasn’t aged a bit. These days, she lives a rather quiet life — at least by superhero, crime fighter standards. She spends her days working for the anthropology department of the Smithsonian and the rest of her time surreptitiously thwarting would-be crooks. It all feels empty, however, as she clearly hasn’t healed the emotional scars of losing the love of her life — pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
One day, the museum unpacks a mysterious quartz-like stone object that quickly changes everything. For starters, it’s the target of local minor business celebrity Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). He’s got big ambitions, but little else, aside from a horribly ingratiating behavior. However, Max knows that the curious relic is the mythical Dreamstone, which has the power to grant wishes. He knows exactly what to wish for.
Diana and her staff inadvertently trigger the Dreamstone’s powers to various effect. One staffer simply wishes that he had a coffee, and presto, he’s got one moments later. The department’s latest hire — a bumbling, disheveled, bookish woman named Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) —wishes that she were just like the glamorous Diana. Of course, Diana wishes that Steve was still around. I’m sure that won’t be a big deal.
Let’s start off on a positive note. Gadot’s got it. She’s absolutely mesmerizing. As much as I enjoyed the first film, she often seemed overwhelmed by it all. Nothing could be further from the truth here. She shines in nearly ever scene, especially the less super, more down-to-earth moments. That presence bodes quite well for a future beyond the confines of her current wardrobe.
Unfortunately, that pretty much wraps it up on the positive side of the ledger. Playing Diana’s underling, Wiig does a decent job, but her SNL-like performance wears thin and totally goes off the rails once she embarks on a Cats-like journey. Playing the main antagonist, Pascal is the most controversial. Some will likely find his Donald Trump-like characterization a good fit. I found it to be a huge distraction. His performance literally ruined much of the film for me.
Added to this is a never-ending barrage of logic-crushing plot elements. Diana’s in senior management at the Smithsonian, but no one notices that she’s never aged?
When Pine’s character rematerializes out of nowhere, Diana barely raises an eyebrow even though he’s been dead since the Woodrow Wilson administration. He’s also able to hop into a fighter jet and, after a moment or two, get it airborne even though it’s nothing like the wooden aircraft of his time. There’s also the glaring question of why a jet in a museum is fully serviced, fueled and ready to fly. We’re also told that he took days to find Diana, but once they meet, he acts like he’s never seen a plane, a train, an auto… you get the picture. How is that even remotely possible?
Director Patty Jenkins also can’t seem to make up her mind with regard to the seriousness of the plot and its characters. There’s an opening mall sequence that’s just painful to watch and already feels dated. The special effects are oddly jerky, inauthentic and downright distracting.
Once it’s finally winding down after an interminably long 2 1/2 hours, the big payoff has no oomph. We have to accept that the bulk of the film is just one overly-simplistic, poorly-conceived, heavily-clichéd waste of time. This is definitely not the film that I wished for.