Somehow streaming services, like HBO Max, have become the one thing they sought to replace: Cable packages. Pay-per-view movies evolved into bundled options, just like “Wonder Woman 1984.” As the first major Warner Bros. film to arrive on the small screen, Diana Prince’s second outing isn’t worth a monthly charge.
The latest entry into the DC Universe’s film catalog sees director Patty Jenkins return at the helm, along with Gal Gadot as the titular heroine. Chris Pine also returns as Diana Prince’s long dead love interest, Steve Trevor (it’s like a “Ghost” scenario, but less weird and with more Pop-Tarts.)
The first “Wonder Woman,” set in the midst of World War I, was a surprisingly great film. Gadot introduced a version of the character with depth, strength and passion. The only thing that “WW84” shares with its predecessor is a brand name.
Jenkins didn’t write the story for the first movie, but did for the sequel. The plot kicks off centering around a young Wonder Woman’s first interaction with the truth (which is ironic considering the truth has become political), and that the truth is the highest law of the land. Then it takes all of that badass character development from the first movie and kneecaps it for a moping Prince, staring at a passing plane wishing Trevor were still alive.
Then there’s this magical stone that totally grants any wish possible, but at a cost. It’s something along the lines of “The Monkey’s Paw,” or more accurately, equivalent exchange. Each wish comes at the cost of something of equal value.
Pedro Pascal of “Game of Thrones,” “Narcos” and “The Mandalorian” fame plays shifty con man Max Lord, who sells shares of his crowdfunded oil company with the promise of making anyone’s wish come true. He is the villain of course, using the stone’s ability for his personal gain. But Pascal also gives the strongest performance. The least truthful person in the movie is actually the best thing in the story.
Enter Kristen Wiig. Guess what, she plays a goofy character with a black hole for confidence who idolizes Prince, a woman she just met and never knew existed until 10 minutes into the movie. That’s about all the character development she gets, until she turns into a poorly CGI’d cheetah-person unwilling to “see the truth.”
And that is the main schtick of this movie: The truth is hard to swallow, but more important than the wishful reality these characters hope to inhabit. Unfortunately, the film creates so many hollow plot points and character beats (like Wiig’s transformation into an evildoer) that the truth doesn’t matter again until the second-to-last scene.
The 1980s aesthetic really doesn’t seem to matter too much in the film. Sure, there are ridiculous neon clothes and fanny packs, but that’s about all there is to show this movie is set in a decade of excess. The fanny pack is actually Trevor’s defining character trait (an empty, useless front-facing pouch), outside of his being a foil to Prince realizing what “the truth” is.
Oddly enough, there is not a single song in the film from an artist of that decade. Instead Hans Zimmer, the film’s composer, did what Zimmer always does: Make a great score and move to the next job.
It is a bummer that this movie was not better. The hype machine surrounding the film made it seem like it was going to save the world and the film industry, but the truth is “WW84” stumbled on the momentum created by a great first entry into the story.