Released: 26th December
Seen: 26th December
Last year we were all treated to the most elaborate superhero movie ever made with Avengers: Endgame. For all intents and purposes, that movie was a landmark moment, proof that a cinematic universe could not only be a joy to watch being built but actually climax to something. Now the way things were meant to go was that the Spider-Man movie would act as a coda, then 2020 would come along and basically remove all superheroes from the roster.
I mean, we had Birds of Prey right near the beginning of the year but beyond that? Maybe we’ll be generous and count New Mutants, but no superhero movies people were actually excited about. Black Widow and Eternals were meant to happen this year but got pushed back to 2021 and for the longest time it looked like Wonder Woman 1984 was going to head that way too until WB decided to throw all its movies on HBOMax and in cinemas at the same time (In America only… down under we still are expected to wait for the cinematic releases because apparently it’s impossible to let us stream things that are available in America).
Wonder Woman 1984 takes place in… well… 1984, the title is very helpful there. Wonder Woman AKA Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is trying her best to live her normal life, working at the Smithsonian and using her knowledge to help coworkers like Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) with their day to day duties. One of those duties happens when Barbara finds a strange crystal with writing on it that suggests that it grants wishes… a crystal that also seems to be wanted by famous billionaire and TV personality Don- I mean Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). Turns out, that writing wasn’t a suggestion. The crystal actually does grant wishes… but in the same way that the paw of a monkey might, and Diana needs to stop it somehow before it causes the end of the world… also, Steve (Chris Pine) is back and that throws a mild spanner in the works.
So, the entire film is based around a megalomaniacal alleged billionaire with bad hair who discovers the power of lies will give him power, power that he wields irresponsibly, and makes large promises to people that he knows he can’t keep but he does it anyway in a search for power, respect and the love of a father who never hugged him as a child… Oh, and his one big weakness is a woman who has something that will force him to tell the truth. I wonder if this film is in any way commenting on current events! It’s not even subtle about it, and I love it for that. It’s about us, today and how easily we fall for comforting lies that keep us from facing harsh realities.
This idea of truth being the ultimate power that Wonder Woman possesses is something that really works well for her and seeing her battle between embracing the truth over the comfortable lie is the emotional heart of the film. It’s not really a spoiler because it’s in every trailer and he’s been on the press tour but this film does bring back Steve in a way that really gives the big moral choice (Harsh truth or comfortable lie) something that the audience can really grab onto. It also helps that Chris Pine playing “Guy from 1918 who wakes up in the 80s” is one of the funniest goddamn things I have ever seen. His reaction to an escalator killed me.
The movie itself ends up being stolen by two people, Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig. The original Wonder Woman had a serious villain problem, namely that they did a stupid surprise reveal villain that just ends up not working and is there purely for a climactic battle scene. This movie makes up for that in spades with two fascinating and sympathetic villains. Even though Pascal’s Maxwell Lord is clearly just Donald Trump if he looked like a human being, the character also clearly is doing everything for his family and has been trying to make it his whole life and finally just snapped when he had the chance. There are moments where you almost want him to succeed… I mean, until the nukes get brought in (Hey, remember the cold war? This film does) and then you kinda hope he fails badly.
Kristen Wiig is a revelation in this, she starts with that same charm and wit that we know and love her for but by the end she is a formidable beast of a character who you also really sympathise with. Since you see how much she gets put down by those around her it almost feels rewarding to see her turning up rocking some high glam 80s fashions and getting all the attention… and then the finger on the monkey’s paw curls and oh god is it not worth it. She plays it all so well that I genuinely hope she comes back for more, because we all know they’re going to make more of these, right?
The downside of this film is that it’s packing everything in, to a level of indulgence that it didn’t need. A lot of lingering shots and cutting to people staring in awe as Wonder Woman does things that Wonder Woman did before. I don’t even mind all the story threads here because they all tie into the central theme and all culminate pretty well at the end, but there’s just so many times when they’ll linger on something that they didn’t need to. I get lingering on things like the fireworks sequence (because it’s goddamn gorgeous) or even a few shots of the new things Wonder Woman can do in this film, but so often it just felt like they were padding out time which wasn’t needed.
Also, and this is weird to say, this film could’ve used a lot more 80s cheese. There was a fair amount here, the outfits and hair were just pulled straight out Dynasty and that was great but I was waiting for a purer 80s vibe than I got. I mean, I don’t even remember if Blue Monday was used and that song basically sold the entire trailer. Maybe it’s just me but when I’m promised 80s cheese, I want pure 80s artery clogging cheese to the point that I become lactose intolerant. Instead we get another Hans Zimmer score and, while Hans is great… come on, we could’ve had 80s soundtrack fun!
On the whole though, Wonder Woman is still one of the best things that DC has going for it. Everything about this film is delightful, it’s certainly less action oriented than other films in its genre but it makes that work in this situation. While it might not be the absolute revelation that the first film was, it’s still a lot of fun with some great performances by one of the most charming casts to grace a superhero film. If nothing else, the escapism and return to a familiar feeling blockbuster makes for one hell of a great time… plus, again, ALL THE CORNY 80S FASHION!
Oh, and there’s a mid-credits scene that’s absolutely brilliant and they had better use the main portion of that scene in the next sequel, we deserve that after this year!