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Friday, December 25, 2020

WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020) Spoiler-Free Review


Gal Gadot returns.

It's Christmas Day and WONDER WOMAN 1984 has dropped in selected theaters and simultaneously in theaters. Was is as good as director Patty Jenkins's inaugural entry in the series? Here are my thoughts on the matter, speaking as a lifelong Wonder Woman boster who was raised by a first-generation reader of the comics during the Golden Age:
  • I enjoyed it but it certainly is not without flaws, chief of which is its unnecessary over-length. The same story could have been told with at least a half hour judiciously edited.
  • Diana is seen in costume and superheroic action for less than fifteen percent of the film, so don't go in expecting what you got from her in JUSTICE LEAGUE. She's still a fun character though, and Gal Gadot manages to give her charm and personality, both aspects that, despite Diana's iconic status as a comics archetype and pop culture figure, she seldom possesses in most media. She's always been a great visual and symbol, but it takes someone special at the writing helm to make her more than just a distaff Heracles.
  • I initially balked at the casting of Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva/the Cheetah, but she did a very good job with the role.
  • Pedro Pascal's Maxwell Lord is every bit the on-the-nose Donald Trump analogue I expected, but he's also quite good.
  • I could have done without the inclusion of Aristea's golden eagle armor, as it was quite nakedly included to provide a merchandising alternative to Diana's signature look. It has no charm or anything that really makes it visually interesting, but at least its screen time is short.
  • The return of Steve Trevor actually makes sense and does turn out to be a major crux in the plot, so that gets a pass. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine works well and is more believable than many romances in superhero cinema.
  • What museum keeps a stock of fully-fueled and operational aircraft? Also, ace pilot or not, there is no way Trevor would have been able to just sit down and suss out the controls on a fighter jet roughly 66 years more advanced than the prop planes of his era.   
    The inclusion of longtime DC Comics antagonist Simon Stagg (from the cast of Metamorpho) and mention of first generation Wonder Woman villain the Duke of Deception. The latter figures majorly into the overall plot, but he is never actually seen.
  • The film features four action set pieces and all are fun, though I found the climactic set-to with the Cheetah to be somewhat of an anti-climax. To tell the truth, when really examined, her part in the story could easily have been left out, but the Cheetah os arguably Diana's Number One "Big Bad," so she kind of had to be in this film, I guess.
  • One definite selling point is that though the story is set in 1984, the soundtrack does not take that as an excuse to bombard us with ’80’s pop music hits. In fact the only such usage I noticed was a snippet of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” during a party scene, and it wasn’t even one of the more obvious parts of the song. 
    Stick around for a fun mid-end credits bit that is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of longtime Wonder Woman boosters.
Bottom Line: WONDER WOMAN 1984 is a fun flick and a better-than-average sequel that actually sticks to the themes of its character and what she's about at her core. It's too long for its own good, but it's paced briskly enough and does not fall flat at the ending like the first film did. (That said, the ending may come off as a tad less flashy and slam-bang as some might want, but I thought it fit Diana and her themes.)
Lastly, as a film for ending this utterly miserable garbage fire of a year, this film solidly delivers a much-needed dose of sunshine, kindness, and hope. B+

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