Wonder Woman 1984 or WW84, directed by Patty Jenkins and written by Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham, and Jenkins, takes place roughly 60 years after the events of the first film and follows Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and her past love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as they face off against Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). The movie highlights how absolute power can corrupt oneself, the importance of earning one’s dreams instead of taking shortcuts to achieve them, and letting go of things that can’t be brought back while being a globe-trotting, actioner. And although the spotlight should be on the titular superhero, it’s rightfully stolen by Pascal’s committed performance.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, Gal Gadot and her history with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), how she had made a pro-Israel Facebook post after over 2000 Palestinians were killed, and how a scene of Diana saving a couple of Egyptian kids from a military convoy has been pointed out as an attempt to whitewash her image. I don’t believe in the whole “separating the art from the artist” bullshit. If the artist is an asshole, no matter how beautiful their art is, it sucks. Be a good person and then I’ll appreciate whatever the f*ck you make. Now, Gadot has avoided any kind of discussion about that part of her history. So, I’ve no clue if her sentiments have changed. That’s why I can’t let it impact this Wonder Woman 1984 review. If she hasn’t changed, please let me know and I’ll promptly turn that rating to zero.
Wonder Woman 1984 is directed by Patty Jenkins. It’s written by Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham. The music is by Hans Zimmer, cinematography by Matthew Jensen, editing by Richard Pearson, production design by Alien Bonetto, art direction by Peter Russell and Alex Baily, set decoration by Anna Lynch-Robinson, costume design by Lindy Hemming, hair and make-up by Karen Cohen, Sean Flanigan, Mindy Hall, Eva Marieges Moore, and more, the visual effects are by DNEG, Host VFX, Method Studios, Framestore, and The Third Floor, and stunts are by Rob Inch, Christiaan Bettridge, Dacio Caballero, Whitney Coleman, Fizz Hood, Antal Kalik, and more. The story revolves around Diana (Gadot) and Minerva (Wiig) who come across a wishing stone, an ancient artefact that Max Lord (Pascal) is after as well, that somehow brings back Steve Trevor (Pine). However, there’s a catch to it all and after shit goes sideways, Diana must find a fix.
In terms of writing, Max Lord is much interesting than Wonder Woman and that’s both good and bad.
Let’s talk about the positives first. Max Lord is a brilliantly layered character. He has hit a sort of ceiling in terms of success and wants to do the act of “selling his soul to the devil” to achieve great things for himself and his son. He obviously takes a shortcut which causes catastrophe because he fails to see the damage that he’s inflicting upon the world as he’s too busy securing his personal future. He embodies the working-class mentality that the more you toil, the more you will earn, and the consequences are bearable even though in reality they are not. Additionally, his arc shows that when absolute power is handed over to one person who isn’t willing to take second opinions, things are bound to go to hell. And I think the way these elements are portrayed and concluded are pretty educational given how deep-rooted our love for capitalism has become right now.
The thing with the rest of the characters is that they’re all reacting to Lord, which is partly good and partly bad. I don’t think I’ll be spoiling anything by saying that Trevor is just the comic relief here. Nothing more, nothing less. Barbara’s arc is very basic ordinary-to-extraordinary stuff which then takes a sudden hard and predictable turn for the worse. But the main problem is with Diana. During the second half, the writers want us to believe that she’s a superhero and she’ll do anything to save the common folk. But after watching everything that has happened in the world for 60 years, she wants her dead boyfriend back? Really? If they would’ve replaced sub-plot with, let’s say world hunger, and then continued with Diana’s deterioration, thereby bringing her to the realization that there’s no easy fix for world hunger, that would’ve slapped! But no. Let’s bring the dead boyfriend back and do an exposition dumb to cover up the lack of character development.
Patty Jenkins starts things off brilliantly, handles Max Lord immaculately, and then ends WW84 on a profound note. Everything in between all that.
That opening scene is great. The cinematography, Hans Zimmer’s score, the VFX work, the stunt work, everything is just perfect. I honestly would’ve loved to see an entire movie set in Themyscira where he would’ve gotten to see Diana grow up instead of seeing it in bits and pieces with the story being retrofitted to match each movie’s central theme. However, then the movie takes several dives in terms of quality, starting with the mall scene. I have seen many say that it’s campy and intentionally dorky and whatnot. And I would’ve accepted that if the editing, the wirework, and choice of shots didn’t feel so out of place. It isn’t up till we are introduced to Lord that the movie gains momentum and starts to do some crazy shit. But then again, the movie forgets about all that until the White House sequence and the final faceoff between Diana and Lord.
See, the main villain i.e. Lord isn’t an action-heavy villain. He’s manipulative and will throw things at you, literally and psychologically, to attack you. But he won’t actively engage with you because he’s a coward and values his life more than the “message”. So, pitting him against even a semi-powered Wonder Woman just feels unbalanced. That’s why even though that whole chase sequence in Egypt has some spectacular CGI-work, I didn’t feel any sense of danger in it because you aren’t going to kill the main villain and Diana is still a Goddess, so no one is getting hurt. They do the exact opposite of all that during Diana and Lord’s final altercation, use some brilliant editing to sell what’s at stake and it works! Sadly, that’s absolutely shit upon by the memory of Barbara’s costume design and character design. In her final fight, you can’t even figure out what’s happening because her colour matches with the rocky background, and don’t you dare say “that was the point”!
This is Pedro Pascal’s world and we are just living in it. The rest of his WW84 co-stars’ performances are just fine.
Can we just take a moment and think about how Pedro Pascal has given us such great performances in The Mandalorian, We Can Be Heroes, and WW84, all within the span of one week? Done? Alright. On the surface, it might very well seem like Pascal is absolutely swinging for the fences. Everything from his clothes to his physicality, his hair, and his expressions are over-the-top to match up to his TV anchor personality. But he constantly manages to embed his character’s insecurities throughout the opening minutes of the movie so that his eventual transformation into this vampire-like being feels like the most natural thing that’s happening on-screen. He just lights up the screen every time he enters the frame even though he shouldn’t because on paper, the person in front of him is superior. But he exudes that dark charm that his character needs to exude all the time, thereby making Max Lord one of the best villains of all time.
As for the rest of the cast, they fare just fine. Chris Pine proves yet again that he has amazing comic timing and is very enjoyable to watch no matter what he’s doing. Kristen Wiig is good. Her character is not that well-fleshed out so plot beats like Barbara standing up to her harasser play out in a villainous manner (Pointed out by film critic) and thereby demand her to seem, well, villainous. But it’s such an awkward thing to do, because anyone with half a brain would play it out in a triumphant manner, that she kind of half-arses it and that’s why her whole act falls apart. Please keep in mind that that’s on the writers, not Wiig. Gadot is just blah. I have seen her four times as Wonder Woman now and she’s doing nothing for me. Her stunt double is probably doing more. In this case, the writers can be blamed as well but she is doing little-to-nothing to elevate the written material.
Here are the good things about Wonder Woman 1984: The opening sequence, the final montage, Hans Zimmer’s score, Pedro Pascal, some of the VFX work, all the stunt work, the themes about power, toxic love, and corruption, Kristen Wiig when she’s improvising, Chris Pine’s comedy, and have I mentioned Pedro Pascal already? Here are the bad things: the editing and green-screen work during some of the scenes, Diana Prince’s characterisation, Gal Gadot’s acting, Barbara Minerva’s costume design and her final character design, and the pacing which makes the 2-hour-something long film feel like a 5 hours. So yes, it’s a perfectly average film with some good stuff and some bad stuff in it. And that’s the tea (Starting and ending the review with a proverbial thing. Neat!).
Cover image courtesy: Warner Bros. Pictures