WW84 soars and falls like a bird that just discovered its wings.
Director Patty Jenkins
Screenplay Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, David Callaham
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Lilly Aspell, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen
There is a breeze that runs through Wonder Woman 1984 whenever someone makes a wish on the mysterious dreamstone. This is the result of a wish being granted. By the time the story is completely told, there is a veritable wind howling through each scene. It might tempt people to think that the film is lighter than air. Fortunately, Gadot has eyes that show the depth of her experience as a superhero for nearly a century. Her kind face tells a story without using words, and this is an invaluable skill as an actress.
The second story in the WW franchise starts off with a morality tale. Young Diana Prince (the delightful Aspell reprising her role in the first film) has an opportunity to win a contest pulled from her grasp. She learns and important lesson which serves to resonate as the backbone of the film’s resolution.
By 1984, Diana is a wise and mature woman of the world of archeology, working for the Smithsonian. She meets Barbara Minerva (Wiig) who is an ungangly but personable co-worker and together they come across a stone among other things the FBI asked help with after a botched burglary (which Wonder Woman helped to foil).
The piece has been obtained in the black market, and it was set to be obtained by Maxwell Lord (Pascal), who runs what can best be described as an oil subscription scheme that is about to go bust. When he learns of the stone’s whereabouts, he quickly inserts himself as a donor to the museum to get close to it.
Diana and Barbara, having read the inscription on the stone, make wishes to themselves and they begin to come true. This puts each in the unenviable position of the monkey’s paw. For every wish, something is lost. Lord pushes the concept farther once he obtains it, and things go completely sideways.
WW84 benefits from a strong cast and Jenkins instinct to resist going overboard in effects and absurdity into which sequels inevitably fall. There is a silliness to its villainy, which stems from people with good intentions feeling like they can outdo fate. Minerva is really a decent person who falls for the allure of power, but only gradually. Lord’s character is really a shyster with a heart of gold. There is no one here who wants to bring the world to its knees, and it is a light, breezy relief.
Diana comes across her old flame, Steve Trevor (Pine). She knows how she got here, but she needs to know more. As she begins the quest to find Lord, we get to enjoy Steve’s experiences in the new world of 1984. There are several scenes adorably played with humor and humility.
When it comes to kicking ass, WW84 does so judiciously and with great care. Human lives are not tossed aside carelessly. The one time one of the villains gets a chance to exact revenge, it is uncomfortable, even if it is relatively bloodless. We are under the sway of Diana Prince’s respect for life, and that it is a great feeling to borrow her sensibilities. The action scenes still have a plethora of gunfire, but this doesn’t ever do more than show that Diana’s powers are in serious peril. Still, it’s great to see a true superhero play the part of rescuer in chief.
The insertion of the morality combating greed in the mid-80’s is intentional. It’s regarded as the decade of obtaining things. Thankfully, they don’t go overboard in making mankind look unworthy of being rescued. Diana Prince has hope in humanity that the filmmakers agree with. They do give the President a little too much desire for war, indicating this is the key behind the arms buildup in the ’80’s. I thought this too back at the time. It’s been 4 decades since then for us to realize the error of believing this fallacy.
The last act of the film alternates between silly special effects and sad sack excuses for bad decisions. Jenkins exemplifies the chaos inherent in the consequence of everyone getting their wishes granted without getting caught up in minutiae. The best moment is when she and Steve limp through it all after a beat down at the White House. It’s plain in her eyes that she wishes she could help every desperate person that they encounter. It leads to a nice moment of sacrifice that is forced upon both of them. It only makes sense if you go with it…
There will be many who shoot this Wonder Woman 1984 down as it takes wing. I think it would have been a breath of fresh air in a normal summer blockbuster season. WW84 soars and falls like a bird that just discovered its wings. Hopefully people look past it’s blockbuster trappings and takes it for what it shows heroes can be if they use their heart.
(**** out of *****)