‘Wonder Woman 1984’ review: There’s a superhero movie in here somewhere


Somewhere inside Wonder Woman 1984, there’s an exciting superhero movie.

Moments of excellence break through, mostly when Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) doffs her scientist garb and puts on her superhero suit, replete in bright, primary colours, evoking memories of the original superhero movie era of the ’80s. (Appropriately enough, the movie takes place in 1984, but it might as well be any era, as it doesn’t really make any difference aside from a few nods to the fashion and hair.)

When we watch a superhero movie, whether it’s Superman, Batman or whoever, we want to see the hero. We want to live in the backstory, see how they came to be who they are, understand the internal and external obstacles they face. In WW 1984, we only get but a taste. If you’ve seen this movie’s predecessor, that might sound familiar.

What do you mean by that?

Wonder Woman (2017) suffered from the same problem, though at least in director Patty Jenkins’ first foray into the franchise we got more of a sense of Prince’s background and who she is. Here, again, we start off in Themyscira, Prince’s homeland, and she’s just a little girl taking part in an adult women’s competition. Arguably, this is the best segment of the movie, literal candy for Wonder Woman fans. It’s fast-paced, fun and we get to see Prince in her element. Young actor Lilly Aspell steals the show.

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Then, as in Jenkins’ first movie, just as we’re settling into the awesomeness of Themyscira, we’re back with regular humans and a long, meandering plotline that doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Are you saying we don’t get a lot of superhero action?

Immediately after we leave Themyscira, we’re treated to an acrobatic superhero scene at a mall. I must say my hopes were high as we went from intriguing action to more intriguing action, but as soon as Wonder Woman saves the day and leaves the mall, it’s into the doldrums for the majority of the rest of the 2.5-hour running time. Read: a lot of dull exposition and dialogue with nothing to break up the mundanity.

The first baffling thing about WW 1984 is this insistence on bringing back Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Prince’s (supposedly dead) boyfriend. He thunks into the plot like heavy lead, and adds nothing more than occasional quips and wonderment at how advanced the world has become. Love scenes with the pair are wooden, at times laughable. This brings us to the other leading man in the movie: Pedro Pascal as DC supervillain Maxwell Lord, the “enemy.”

Here, Pascal is playing his best Superhero Movie Villain™, but is it ever a slog. Why do we care about this man? His son? His motivations? We spend far too long on Lord’s backstory, and by the end of the movie, you wonder if the film should’ve been called Maxwell Lord, Featuring Wonder Woman. In a movie that’s supposed to be about a woman superhero, it certainly spends a lot of time focusing on the men.

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How is Kristen Wiig’s character?

Wiig plays Barbara Minerva (a.k.a. Cheetah), another known character in the DC Comics universe. Some liberties are taken here with her backstory, but it’s not a total fail. Minerva is interesting, and you become attached to her struggle — a credit to Wiig’s charisma. More time should’ve been spent with her instead of this incessant focus on Lord. It’s as if the movie purposefully aims the camera away from what you really want to see.

An example (no spoilers): In one scene, Prince shows Trevor a glorious suit of armour and we’re shown how it came to be forged through a brief flashback. Here’s an idea — how about taking us deeper into that story? Show us the full armour backstory. Instead of spending 10 minutes with Prince and Trevor in their post-coital bed, why couldn’t we go back to ancient Themyscira again?

How will kids react to the movie?

Honestly, I don’t know. The whole middle section of the movie dedicates far too much screentime to the Steve-Diana romance, something kids will have zero interest in. Then there are a bunch of scenes with Lord travelling around the world amassing power, going international without any real explanation on what’s going on. I can foresee children getting bored and lost throughout, except when Wonder Woman finally appears. Again, there is so much plot and character potential, it’s really a shame.

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So what’s the bottom line?

A movie with promise buried deep, Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t know what it wants to be. Viewers will be tantalized by the occasional action scenes peppered throughout — a glimpse into what it could’ve been. Diana Prince is boss. Wonder Woman is boss. But we’ve yet to find a way to encapsulate her and show her off on film.

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ premieres in Canada on Dec. 25 in theatres (where open) and through select video-on-demand services for $29.99. After the film’s theatrical screening window ends, ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ will be available on Crave at no additional charge to subscribers in 2021.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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