Movie review: After delays, 'Wonder Woman 1984' fails to live up to massive hype

Fred Hawson

Posted at Dec 31 2020 09:50 AM

Movie review: After delays, 'Wonder Woman 1984' fails to live up to massive hype 1
Gal Gadot is back as Wonder Woman

It was 1984, a more mature Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) was working as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian. She struck a friendship with the geeky newcomer to the museum, geologist Barbara Ann Minerva (Kirsten Wiig). One day, they were studying an unusual piece of yellow crystal with Latin inscriptions, which was part of the loot of a jewelry store robbery foiled by Wonder Woman at the local mall. 

Without the knowledge of the two women, it turned out that this stone could grant wishes, but these came at a hefty price. Diana got her wish to get reunited with her departed great love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Barbara got her wish to become a strong confident woman like Diana. A businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) seduced Barbara to gain possession of the stone to make a major wish he knew would turn his failed business and life around. 

Gal Gadot was the one good thing going for "WW 1984" and her presence here automatically gave the final rating one full point. She was perfect for this role, no matter whatever else was going on around her. She was no-nonsense here (maybe a bit too serious), and looked great both as Diana (with her smart intellectual demeanor) and as Wonder Woman (with her flawless fighting form). If she was made to do or say something uncharacteristic of Wonder Woman, it was never Gadot's fault, only the script was to blame.

It had been more than 50 years since the events of the first film, but Diana was still discovering new things about herself and what she can do. Only here did she realize that she could actually make a jet fighter invisible; or that she could ride the air currents to simulate flight. Her Lasso of Truth had so many additional functions here. It was, in fact, a major part of every action scene, with Diana using it to swing herself around, knock people off their feet, propel air like giant fan, and even conduct Diana's voice to be broadcast over the airwaves.

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While it was good to see Steve come back to life again, how his character reentered Diana's life in the body of another man (Kristoffer Polaha) was not executed very well in that one scene that caused much confusion. In a reversal of roles from the first movie, this time it was Steve who was the fish out of water in 1984. Pine may have been a riot as Steve, trying out cheesy '80s outfits in the mall or being in awe of high escalators, but most of his parts were not really substantial, just comic relief. 

Kristen Wiig was an unexpected choice to play Barbara, but her portrayal of this character was right up her usual comedy style. I thought that each person can only make a wish on the stone once, but Barbara was able to make a second wish to become an alpha predator. Her transformation into the Cheetah came too abruptly, and her climactic fight sequence at the hydroelectric plant against Diana was not particularly spectacular, except for the detail that Wonder Woman was wearing the shiny armor of legendary amazon, Asteria. 

Pedro Pascal played Maxwell Lord as a devious megalomaniac with full relish, much in the vein of Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor in the original Superman films. His madness was at its peak when he was in the TV studio granting wishes all over the world on air. In a bit of inclusive casting, he was given a young son Alistair, played by Lucian Perez, who was of Latino-Asian descent. There was one head-scratching moment when father and son were able to run into each other's arms when it looked as if they were miles apart the scene just before.

There had been an extreme hype of anticipation over Patty Jenkins's much anticipated sequel to the critically and commercial success that was "Wonder Woman" (2017), which may have caused the audience to conjure up unreachable expectations for it. Hence, "WW 1984" turned out to be a bit of a disappointment -- how the screenplay by Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham stretched a story of wishes going wild into an unwieldy 151-minute film, marred by unsteady pacing and illogical plot details. 

Thankfully, it closed with an iconic surprise in an extra mid-credits scene which surely made fans very happy. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."

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