It’s finally here! Wonder Woman 1984 has had a bumpy ride getting to its audience but after numerous delays and virus woes the Gal Gadot-led blockbuster arrives just in time for Christmas. It lifts the spirits to deliver us the first major blockbuster since the pandemic changed the world, and that in itself is cause for celebration.
It’s still not great out there but there’s a lot of movies waiting to be released and Warner Bros’ controversial plan to release their upcoming slate directly to US streaming platform HBO Max is one that has certainly divided the film community, and rightly so. The future of our entertainment industry hinges on the survival of venues and cinemas, so it needs new content to showcase and draw in the punters once again.
That conversation could go on forever, so rather than dwell on that topic I’ll instead focus on the film itself, which presents a different viewing strategy on these shores compared to the States. With a theatrical-only window of at least a month, the film is expected to then get an early VOD release in 2021. So is Wonder Woman 1984 worth leaving the house for? Let’s take a spoiler-free look.
This is a hugely anticipated movie and the first genuine new blockbuster in months, so if your regional tier allows it and if your local cinemas (and its patrons, of course) are doing what they can to adhere to the rules, then Wonder Woman 1984 does deliver a matinee action film that entertains throughout. But elements of the story and some of the set-pieces felt a bit too predictable and the end result is a movie that has its moments but isn’t the easy win it should have been.
It’s a different movie to what I was expecting, especially after the first teaser trailer dropped with that iconic New Order Blue Monday instrumental, which really upped the excitement levels. It suggested, perhaps, a more energetic and 80s fuelled trip down memory lane. There are highlights to be had and some nice ideas present, but there’s also some ropey (pun intended) CGI and plot points that aren’t allowed to breathe properly. Also the soundtrack seems like a massive missed opportunity – surely they could have thrown in some classic tunes from 1984?
The film opens with a solid action sequence where the young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competes against other Amazonians in an endurance race of strength, speed and agility. We then join Diana (Gal Gadot) in 1984, working at the Smithsonian and still saving the world in secret as Wonder Woman, but who still hasn’t gotten over the loss of her one true love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
She befriends a new colleague named Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a bookish wallflower who looks up to Diana. A new investor, local oil tycoon and TV celebrity Max Lord (The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal) takes an interest in an artefact that is being researched by Barbara at the museum. This could hold the key to an ancient power and a devastating threat to humanity, which Lord has set his sights on. But can Diana even face this threat? Her limits will be tested when a face from her past makes a surprising reappearance, and offers her a chance at happiness that she thought she’d never get to experience.
Gal Gadot is as superb as ever and leads the film very well. I think the script really shines when Gadot and Wiig spar with one other. Their initial friendship works really well onscreen and the two make for a compelling duo. Wiig is very entertaining and handles her role with aplomb. Chris Pine is his usual, reliable self and does a great fish-out-of-water routine as he comes to terms with a future he should never have seen. Pedro Pascal steals the film though – he clearly has fun here and is very enjoyable to watch as a flash businessman who is keeping up appearances. The story involving his son is also well played in parts, and give him enough material to make Max Lord more than just a one-dimensional villain.
That’s also where Wonder Woman 1984’s shortcomings become apparent. The film does have a good central message about the excesses of power and with a bit more dialogue and nuance, this could have developed far more onscreen. For a film that’s 2 and a half hours long, it could have lost a lot of CGI and replaced it with more character-based scenes which would have propelled the story and given more emotional weight to the narrative.
I mentioned before that some of the CGI looks a little ropey in Wonder Woman 1984 and that’s a sticking point. In 2020 I don’t think the visual shortfalls we see pop up in this film should be present at this level. It distracts, and when compared with other effects-heavy modern movies it just doesn’t measure up which is a real shame. Gadot running at super-speed still looks hammy, and the visuals of her swinging through the clouds with her trusty lasso don’t look as smooth as it should. There’s also no stand-out brilliant set-pieces either. The desert car chase (that features in a lot of trailers and promotional clips) just underwhelms, a shopping mall fight lightly echoes Christopher Reeve’s Superman work but is never developed but the final showdown between Gadot and Wiig looks quite solid.
The strength of Gal Gadot and the exuberance of Pedro Pascal do enough to make Wonder Woman 1984 a fun watch. It might not be the film we were expecting but it certainly does enough to warrant your attention and looks best on as big a screen as possible. Hopefully, Gal Gadot has one or two more Wonder Woman adventures under her bracelet because she is too good to end her run here. There is lots still to explore and I hope she gets the opportunity to tell those stories on the big screen, perhaps with a new writing team. Wonder Woman 1984 is a perfectly enjoyable, if overlong, way to gently welcome back event cinema to the masses.
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal Director: Patty Jenkins Writer: Patty Jenkins, Dave Callaham, Geoff Johns Certificate: 12A Duration: 151 mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 16th December 2020