A Little Less Wonderful
by Jeff Bowles
When the first Wonder Woman film hit theaters three years ago, it was met with substantial fanfare. The Greek goddess superheroine is more than just a cultural phenomenon, she’s a feminist icon, a symbol of strength and nobility for millions of people all over the world. Her first major foray onto the big screen meant more to some people than anything else DC Comics has ever produced, so yeah, its sequel has quite a bit to live up to.
Wonder Woman 1984 is, if nothing else, an interesting product of its time, 2020, a year in which it was supposed to have been released in theaters in July. Coronavirus forced Warner Bros. to push the film until December, and the studio chose to do so by mixing a theatrical release with a special limited release on the home video streaming platform, HBO Max. So you can watch this movie right now at home for a small membership fee, kind of a remarkable thing in the history of cinema. New movies always used to be, you know, out at the movies. But now, who knows?
Subsequently, the flick has been met with much less fanfare than its predecessor enjoyed. Wonder Woman 1984 has been a success of sorts, but it’s doubtful to make much of an impact beyond that. The reasons for this aren’t merely limited to its precarious release schedule. The story makes some choices that keep it from being quite as wonderful as it deserves to be.
For one, Wonder Woman 1984 revolves around a somewhat ridiculous McGuffin that allows for wishes to come true. This is a comic book movie, of course, which I have to admit I’m a huge fan of, even when they’re loud and dumb. But it’s almost as if the entirety of the plot was constructed on a simple and somewhat lazy notion to resurrect one key dead character. That would be Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman’s traditional love interest. The movie works best when the two share screen time. Their chemistry is relatable and infectious, so it’s no surprise writer/director Patty Jenkins wanted to pull him back into the fold.
Also returning is Gal Gadot as the titular hero, and she’s still great. More comfortable this time around, perhaps, but then, she’s played the character a total of four times now. SNL alum Kristen Wiig joins the cast as a relatable if slightly goofy foil/villain whose wish to be just like Wonder Woman goes wrong in all the right ways. The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, a DC bad guy who first appeared in a 1987 Justice League comic and who has now been given the 1984 self-help guru treatment. Pascal gives the guy a lot of juice. A lot of juice. Perhaps its best not to say too much more about it than that.
One of the problems with the movie is that it doesn’t seem to feel the need to indulge in 80s-themed nostalgia in any major way, not like other recent shows and movies set in the decade have done. Odd, considering they wanted me to know the year it takes place months and months before it ever came out. Oh, there’s some paltry lip service to the year 1984 scattered here and there. An early action set-piece takes place in a mall, for instance. But again, no 80s tunes or anything? No Simple Minds? No New Coke references? What gives, dudes?
Wonder Woman 1984 comes together all right in the end, but really, it’s just another example of a DC Comics adaptation that’s barely handled well enough to justify its own existence. I’m a pretty big comics fan when it comes down to it. Gosh, it’s getting harder and harder to compete in that space. They’ve already announced Wonder Woman 3. Let’s hope Patty Jenkins and Warner Bros. bring a bit more punch to the superhero party next time.
Jeff’s Movie Reviews gives Wonder Woman 1984 a Six out of Ten.
Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!
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