If I were to have one wish with “Wonder Woman 1984,” that wish would be that it didn’t continually bash me over the head with its theme. Much like a wish that should be renounced based upon its selfish values, there’s much to enjoy with Patty Jenkin’s follow-up to “Wonder Woman” that I hope DC could do a little more often. Separating itself from the dark, murky world of Zack Snyder, “Wonder Woman 1984” sets its backdrop against an era fluent in bright colors, magical sunshine, and flamboyant fashion. Thankfully the newest Wonder Woman film doesn’t lose itself in nostalgia like “Stranger Things” does. The 80s is more of a backdrop accentuating how Diana (Gal Gadot) has adjusted to the world of men.
How man’s ego would result in itself continually devolving into endless war via the first film’s theme is relevant in “WW84” if not contradictory to itself. When stumbling upon the dream stone, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) utilizes its power to become a genie himself; you can very well guess what happens from there. According to Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham, the world must be an incredibly distrusting place. Their screenplay displays human civilization minus our titular hero as a society loaded with self-absorbed, greedy narcissists. When everyone comes to their senses suddenly, humanity’s destructive tendencies are miraculously forgiven. Perhaps Ares was correct all along.
To address the elephant in the room, Ms. Jenkins’s adaptation of Maxwell Lord is indeed an allegory for Donald Trump. As a guy who doesn’t hide his disgust for the man, I get tickled whenever anyone attacks the orange blob’s fragile psyche. For a general audience in what is otherwise a kid’s picture, I question how far mom and dad will go along for the anti-Trump ride. The message of mankind’s ravenous thirst for power to disguise their insecurity is a beautiful thematic choice of narrative dinner. Wrapping its overall package through the image of a troubled con artist sporting a lousy haircut leaves a poor aftertaste in the viewer’s mouth. After enduring four years of misery, I’d like to enjoy a film that pays no attention to the loser in chief.
Everyone’s wishes get the better of them; even Diana’s desire merely serves herself. Wonder Woman must face a character-building truth when reincarnating Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) into another man’s body. The reveal of Trevor is skillful. From the outside, Steve looks indistinguishable from a total stranger. But once Diana realizes who he is, all we/she is the man she loved. Pine is always a blast to observe in the role reversal where the male is the damsel opposite the girls who go around, kicking as much butt on camera as they can muster. Mr. Pine’s vulnerability worked before, and it does now. Since he’s not played like a useless punchline, Pine’s human imperfections serve as a compelling voice of reason amongst the movie’s CGI mayhem that’s spotty at best. Luckily, this picture’s final act doesn’t end in a computer-generated festival of lights, for the most part.
December 25th couldn’t be a coincidentally better time to release “Wonder Woman 1984.” Inadvertently “WW84” is a summation of 2020. The planet is filled with people whose dreams are grander in consequence than they can imagine. Suddenly, a global catastrophe tosses a wrench into everyone’s plans, engulfing the planet into chaos, all under the strings of a clueless fragile monarch wannabe whose daddy never really loved him. The only difference is Maxwell Lord has a heart along with this film. Much of the cast poured their hearts into this project. Gal Godot seems to fit a bit more comfortably in Diana Prince’s boots with each subsequent movie she does. Pedro Pascal’s exuberant personality is hilariously over the top in just the right way. When Kristen Wiig ditches her usual attractive shy girl act, her Cheetah shines beyond its third act semi “Cats” deformed body.
Missing from the sequel is a meaningful sequence like the no man’s land raid on the Germans. Bless their effort, Patty Jenkins, along with her team, reaches towards a worthwhile sentiment. That memorandum’s effect dissipates around the millionth time, Pedro Pascal utters the word “WISH!” Still, these are movies made for kids. While the first “Wonder Woman” strived toward a younger audience, it maintained a glimmer of that Zack Snyder grit, but just the correct amount to appeal to older comic book fans. Here, everything is heavily inched at children, where the movie plays out a bit like a classic Richard Donner “Superman” flicks. Freed from the tone-deaf shackles of “The Justice Leauge” (until the Snyder Cut comes out), Ms. Jenkins is allowed to have more fun with her character if maybe too much of it. For a movie to watch with the family on Christmas Day, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a suitable suggestion. Inferior to the original, but still with a charm of its own, I appreciate “WW84’s” attempt to be a different movie from the original while continuing its thematic elements of hope amongst a morally hollow populace.
“Wonder Woman 1984” is available in theaters and digital via HBO Max on December 25