You Can’t Handle The Truth
Wonder Woman 1984 is a love letter to the early days of the superhero genre but fails to live up to the standards established in this new era. While it’s story is emotionally charged and investing, the overall excitement in action and pacing is severely lacking making the overall experience lackluster in comparison to the first. Gal Gadot is fantastic and the themes of love and power hit home more in the times we are in, but there aren’t enough thrills to make this a necessary watch this holiday season.
Taking place well after the World War I era of the first film, the latest installment finds Diana working as a researcher for the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C. When a businessman begins messing in matters he doesn’t understand, it will take Diana’s best efforts along with her former lover Steve Trevor and new friend Barbara Minerva to stop him.
Gal Gadot continues to be fantastic as Diana Prince as she commands the character with the proper balance of strength and vulnerability. While Diana is physically a God with an eternal lifespan, she is still a human with very real needs and desires. The film examines her loneliness that comes with immortality while raising the emotional stakes for her character. The growth and development she experiences in the film is one of the best character arcs seen in a superhero movie that caps up with a well-earned yet borderline cliche conclusion.
The supporting characters aren’t given as powerful arcs as Diana, they still serve an interesting insight into the concept of having everything yet nothing. Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord is a well developed villain whose motivations are easy to connect with. The actions he takes may be over the top, but the heart of what he is pushing for is compelling. Meanwhile, Kristen Wiig’s Barbara borders along an 80’s stereotype for women, but a few key scenes are able to showcase the loss of humanity at the expense of gaining approval effectively. Chris Pine’s return as Steve Trevor isn’t exactly warranted for the development of his own character but an excellent folly that raises the emotional buy-in for Diana’s. His fish out of water element lands a few laughs, but by the end of the movie I didn’t really care that he was here. His involvement is sort of necessary for Diana but inconsequential for the narrative as a whole.
What does make this movie fall drastically short of others in the genre is the poor pacing and lack of action-packed thrills. I didn’t feel truly invested in the plot until about half way through, and up until then the movie is just a lot of set-up, exposition, and posing questions to the audience as to how everything connects. These scenes could have easily been cut short or thrown out entirely as there isn’t anything that truly connects to the second half of the film. Characters walk around and talk, Steve Trevor mistakes a trash can for art, and Barbara tries to become independent on her own. These come off as boring and the lack of any sort of action in these first two acts hurts the overall pace of the story.
While I did see Wonder Woman do a few signature Wonder Woman moves, I felt like that film was severely absent of any real action sequences. There are a few moments that kept the tension elevated for a brief minute or two, but nothing compared to the No Man’s Land sequence seen in the first film. It actually takes about an hour and a half before we see Diana truly in action, and by then I was already bored with the drawn out set-up. It makes the film feel less exciting than it actually is and actually takes away from the tension of the narrative when there isn’t any cool or superheroish to behold on screen.
Granted, this film does have one of my favorite third acts to a superhero film that trades CGI action and spectacul for a display of love and compassion. While the first film was highly criticized for its CGI heavy third act, Wonder Woman 1984 opts for the emotional and moral themes that packs a different punch in the year 2020. Seeing Diana wrestle with her moral decisions while choosing to save the day with truth and empathy is an intriguing and compelling angle to take the film. While the first film had a brilliant first two acts and a lackluster third act, the second film inverts making only about 30 minutes of this movie truly investing.
It’s a mixed bag of a film, one that has a great emotional development of its central character and villain but lacks the excitement and blockbuster feeling of a superhero film. I always will choose the emotional and character side over constant action, but this film didn’t strike the right balance for me. It does feel like this is the Wonder Woman movie Patty Jenkins wanted to make, but it lacks the proper pacing to truly be worth investing two and a half hours of your time. If you have access to HBO Max, it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re an avid DC fan. But I don’t recommend going out of your way for this one.
Yes, I am updated my rating system. Check out my new thoughts: