Wonder Woman 1984 review: Patty Jenkin’s sequel is a pale imitation of the warm, heartfelt original
Truth and strength
It's been a while since I've watched 2017's Wonder Woman. Much of its plot and characters have since been lost in the torrent of superhero movies I am subjected to (for work, or otherwise), but if there's anything I recall, it's the overwhelming pluck and moxie underlying the entire film, accompanied by an earnestness conveyed in the dialogue and performances by Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Questions with regard to Diana Prince's origins or weaponry is guaranteed to prompt a blank stare on my part — whereas what sticks is her untainted views on chivalry and honour; the simplicity of a hero to root for portrayed as overwhelmingly good.
It's a shame, then, that WW84 retains none of that charm or sincerity. Instead, we are presented with a lacklustre and contrived plot comprising a mythical rock that grants wishes. The film transports us from the bleak, war-torn plains of World War I to Washington D.C. in the '80s; a candy-coloured universe of video game arcades and neon-lit malls. Diana (Gadot) continues to lead a relatively solitary existence since Steve's (Pine) death, her days monotonous and predictable until said rock lands on her new co-worker's desk.
What follows next is cartoonish and underwhelming in equal measure, from the badly paced plot to its barely developed characters. Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig are the villains of WW84; a failing businessman and socially awkward gemologist respectively temped by the powers of the stone. Of course, the stone lands in their laps, incurring dire consequences. Maxwell (Pascal) desires all the oil and riches in the world, while Barbara (Wiig) wants to possess her friend, Diana's, confidence and power. This translates to straight-out chaos, most notably evidenced by an actual, towering wall emerging from the streets of Cairo, separating the poorest districts from their only water source. Yikes.
One of the WW84's biggest failings is that there is nothing inherently convincing about our villain's motivations — or the mythology behind the stone. I'm struck at every turn by the gaps in logic presented in the story, from Steve's sudden re-appearance in another man's body (where did the real guy's consciousness go?) to Maxwell's decision to transform himself into the stone. Diana's acceptance of this body-snatching situation despite her rock-solid moral compass is confounding, too, as is everyone's unanimous decision to renounce their wishes at the end of the movie. It's jarring enough that even the action scenes can't save it, where the cue-up of Diana's signature theme song fails to inspire anything beyond a prickle of interest.
If there's anything redeemable about all 151 minutes of WW84, it is its pitch-perfect casting of veteran actors and actresses. The ensemble cast does what it can with the lacking script. See: Wiig masterfully transforming from wilting wallflower to Venus flytrap in the time it takes her to strap on a pair of sky-high heels. I, too, am impressed by the makeup and hair department in their commitment to transform Pascal — roguish, rakish, very much attractive Pedro Pascal — into a slick fraudster with a blonde helmet 'do.
Ultimately, there's nothing engaging about WW84; a pity, really, considering the sheer anticipation built up from its delayed release. COVID-19 might have been the reason behind its postponement, but it seems even a pandemic can't hold off a (inevitable) train wreck.