Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman 1984 is now available in theaters and select IMAX screens wherever Covid-safe protocols allow it. The film is also on HBO Max streaming for the next several weeks at no extra cost for subscribers. As noted, this has been a major point of contention this month as studio backlash ensued behind Warner Bros. Pictures’ choice to go the day-and-date route, and the next few days will tell what commercial earnings will arise, although we already now know what most of the reactions are if the influx of negative reviews at Rotten Tomatoes this weekend are any hint.
If RT isn’t your metric, then that’s cool too. The film is totally recommendable to watch, but this push doesn’t come without some conditions. It does get a little cheesy and overlong in its story progression and build-up to the action, but the major plusses with Wonder Woman 1984 deal largely for its big-spectacle, timeless love story and emotive delivery as a tale of romance and moral rather than one of hard-edged superheroics. It does have its golden-era moments though, with our titular heroine sweeping in to thrwart a heist at the near-top of the film that ultimately connects to the rest of the story as audiences are introduced to oil mogul and TV personality Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) and socially awkward gemologist Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig).
The big crux of this story involves an ancient dreamstone with the power to grant wishes, but at a severe price, and the film builds further on that modifer going forward as Diana and Barbara get to know one another, in addition to Max investing his resources at Diana’s Smithsonian lab, and the sudden appearance of the late Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), reincarnated through Diana’s eyes in another man’s unwilling body.
There’s a lot that’s touch and go with Wonder Woman 1984 that won’t win over everyone in the superhero movie crowd. The action takes a long time to pick up amidst the elongated drama which makes the movie feel longer than it is to the point where you wanna tune out, and then there’s the supposed cringiness of Steve’s return; I’ve seen some reactions in the last twenty-four hours by some folks who didn’t take this end of the story very well and couldn’t understand the point behind letting this persist. In my view, I think it was necessary seeing as the wishes the dreamstone grants are a curse that even Diana can be susceptible to. She’s been grieving over Steve since the events of the first film, and so it makes sense for her to feel the way she does.
Therein, of course, lies how this all connects to the film’s prologue where a younger Diana competes in an Amazonian race with several much older Themiscyrans. At one point when Diana falters, she decides to troubleshoot in the middle of the race, only to be hindered from the last hurdle when Antiope (Robin Wright) intervenes, ensuing an important lesson in truth, and why it matters when considering the things we want and wish for without what they may cost us in the end. This is the catalyst that brings Diana and Barbara to a head when Barbara falls ill to her own temptations, ultimately using the stone and transforming herself from a gawky, curly haired introvert to a sexy, superstrong dame who ends up not only corrupted by the stone, but the benefits of protecting Lord when he uses it to his own ends.
There’s a lot that this film could have handled better, but for me, the big pay off was watching Diana grow closer to what she’s meant to be. I didn’t read a lot of comics growing up, but I am familiar with some of the lore, and so it was really exciting not only to see Diana in her armor, but also evolve in her own physical abilities, with Trevor being the spiritual avenue she needed. Seeing these scenes made me wish Warner Bros. Pictures did what celebrated director Patty Jenkins here did in the span of two movies, transitioning Diana through the kind of progressive, storied nuturement. Perhaps following 2013’s Man Of Steel, we would still have a DCEU, a fact seemingly signaled by the departure of the animated ‘hero line-up’ DC logo as seen at the top of 2017’s Wonder Woman.
I should also point out just how absolutely regal Hans Zimmer’s new score is for WW84, essentially bringing the Wonder Woman theme full circle following the treatments of Junkie XL and Rupert Gregson Williams. The orchestration heard here invokes an almost nostalgic air harkening back to what would have been a great Wonder Woman movie theme in the 70s and 80s in the wake of Richard Donner’s Superman.
Love it or hate it, whether or not you’re down with some of the sappy romantic tropes and characterization, or even the mild rummage of the 80s political Cold War climate in this story, at least partly, Wonder Woman 1984 serves its purpose. Gadot’s central performance of Diana delivers a heroine who is far from her perfect-seeming façade. At her very core, she is a woman with feelings like anyone else, she’s tangible, knows what it means to love and to cope with tragedy and loss, and the pain of letting go. At the end of the day, she’s a superhero worthy of our attention as her story continues into a hopeful third.
Watch Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max.