Director: Patty Jenkins | 2h 31mins | Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has been fighting crime and keeping her head down since she helped the war effort during World War I. When her co-worker Barbara (Kristen Wiig) stumbles on an ancient artefact that grants wishes, oil entrepreneur Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) tries to acquire it for his own greed.
Patty Jenkins’ 2017 Wonder Woman was a triumph both critically and financially. It was proof that, in a male-dominated landscape, a female-led and female directed blockbuster could receive just as much acclaim as any other. So it’s no surprise that a sequel was green-lit as soon as possible and while the first was never a masterpiece, the second can’t even rise to the level of its predecessors temperamental quality.
A change of scenery from the first’s World War I setting, Wonder Woman is now fighting crime during the vibrancy and style of the 1980’s. If you weren’t sure when it is set (despite the title), then the orgy of 80’s nostalgia in the opening mall heist scene should inform you. There’s no real reason for the film to be set in the 80’s; it feels more like an effort to capitalise on the world’s obsession with the time rather than any narrative relevance. But as certain things unfold and old characters emerge, the setting is used wisely as a source of world rediscovery.
During the film’s prologue, a young Diana is competing in an Amazonian obstacle race against some of her fellow warriors, and when the race doesn’t quite work out her Mother gives her the profound message, “Nothing good is born through lies”. The message plays a key role in the events that follow as Diana and her unnoticed coworker Barbara (played charmingly by Kristen Wiig) succumb to the seductive power of an ancient artefact that grants wishes.
Jenkins is great at flowing the personal anguish of our hero within the runtime; it’s just a shame that the film is unnecessarily long in the first place.
While the artefact is just about as fantasy as you can get, it’s the humanity it inspires that gives the film it’s strongest scenes. Because of this artefact, Diana inadvertently wishes for her long lost love Steve (Chris Pine) to return to her and the biggest personal conflict for her is the feeling she deserves this one thing because of all the good she does. Jenkins is great at flowing the personal anguish of our hero within the runtime; it’s just a shame that the film is unnecessarily long in the first place.
Also on the hunt for the powerful wishing stone is Max Lord, a failed entrepreneur, father and TV personality. He’s played with slimy confidence by Pedro Pascal, who is ever on the rise as an actor with versatility. As superhero villains go, Lord is pretty fleshed out as a character. He’s the poster-child for greed, hunting for as much power as he can get his hands on while losing sight of the very reason he’s doing it, his son. It’s not the most immaculately constructed villain of all time but it certainly outdoes the first film in that respect.
There’s a number of positives to take from this sequel: the recurring Amazonian battle music, the charm of Diana and Steve’s romance, even a villain that feels far more fleshed out than most. But much like the first film, Wonder Woman 1984 struggles to surface in an ocean of bland CGI and toneless action. It gleefully jumps from scene to scene leaving little to chew on. There’s White House showdowns, invisible jets and even a ginormous dividing wall in the heart of Cairo but all of these events struggle to stay in the memory, providing us with showiness all while lacking substance.
In a year of heartache for the world, Wonder Woman 1984 could very well be the escapism you need. In its two and half hours, you’ll be able to shut off your mind and rejoice in a story full of fantasy and action. But the grip of the film only exists within it’s runtime. It struggles to break free from the confines created by it’s predecessor, leading to an end product that is a little bland and easily forgettable.