Few would disagree that when it comes to superhero movies, Marvel's Cinematic Universe is the gold standard. Decades in the making, it has brought countless fantastic characters to the big screen, and done so brilliantly. DC on the other hand has had a more turbulent experience, with several of its initial movies leaving us wanting more, however, with this being said, the DC Extended Universe has also delivered one of the strongest leading female superhero protagonists in current cinema: Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman. Following the success of her first standalone film, Gadot's Diana Prince is back in Wonder Woman 1984, an 80s romp packed with action, emotion and a bunch of new and familiar faces.
The story picks up many years after the first movie, and decades before the events of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and if you haven't caught any of the trailers yet, there will be a few spoilers here regarding the plot direction.
Wonder Woman 1984 starts seeing Diana living in the 80s, working at the Smithsonian museum for her regular job, whilst also stopping petty crimes and protecting the people of Washington D.C. as a more covert, less-renowned version of Wonder Woman. During this time Diana struggles with fitting in as a person, but finds company in Kristen Wiig's clumsy and socially-excluded Barbara Minerva (another worker at the Smithsonian).
Shortly following this friendship, several mysterious artefacts arrive at the museum, with one in particular catching the eyes' of Diana, Minerva and oil magnate Maxwell Lord (played by Pedro Pascal). We discover that this unusual rock is an ancient relic forged by the Gods that has the power to grant wishes to anyone who touches it, but at a great cost. For Diana, this means wishing for a certain individual played by Chris Pine to once again be a part of her life - for a price that has always pretty much defined her. As the storyline develops, Lord uses the rock (which we learn is called the Monkey's Paw) to gain immeasurable power, ultimately pushing humanity to the edge of destruction, leaving Diana to trade in her happiness to save the world once again.
When you skim over it, the plot of Wonder Woman 1984 isn't all that different to the first movie. It never really does a whole lot to push the boundaries of what this character can be. In the first movie, it comes to Diana to save the world from the war to end all wars - and in this sequel it once again falls to Diana to save the world, this time from humanity's greedy nature. Whilst Wonder Woman 1984 does deliver an exciting story across its lengthy 151-minute running time, it doesn't dare to stray from the formula that made the first movie one of the better DCEU movies.
Gadot on the other hand, once again shines in this role. When you see Gadot suit up in the iconic red and gold outfit, you can't help but feel chills run down your spine - it's almost like she was born to play the character. As Diana, Gadot never fails to radiate heroism, and she does so with the utmost class. Even though I'm not sure this movie itself is better or an equal to the original, it does confirm that Gadot's Wonder Woman is the anchor and lifeblood of the DCEU right now, in a similar way to what Robert Downey Jr. did for the MCU as Tony Stark / Iron Man.
Likewise, the top supporting cast do offer up stellar performances. Wiig's Minerva is believable when she's both clumsy and shy, and when she's confident and dangerous as she transitions into Cheetah. I will say that the full transformed version of Cheetah is a little uncomfortable on the eyes and doesn't make for a very compelling match against Diana's unwavering strength, but Wiig makes it work. Pine's performance as Steve Trevor once again works great alongside Gadot, and the pair bounce off of each other brilliantly. Pascal's Maxwell Lord is charming, devious and little terrifying in his controlling nature, but like Cheetah, he doesn't exactly feel like a villain, which is generally a part of this film that feels lacking - a dominant, clear antagonist.
Wonder Woman 1984 does deliver gorgeous cinematography across many of its scenes, and there are routine occasions where you are left in awe. The choreography of the combat is also tight and well executed, making for incredibly exciting action scenes. And to cap it all off, the soundtrack once again brings a deep heroic feeling to all of the most important scenes - although I do feel like the soundtrack missed out on some prime opportunities to engage in the 80s setting.
One area that left me feeling conflicted was the introduction of Diana's new skills and abilities that really didn't seem to have any more value than as plot fillers. Whether that is swinging from lightning bolts with the Lasso of Truth, making a jet turn invisible, or even flying, a lot of it felt like it was added to simply further the storyline, serving no real alternative benefit to Diana at all. This even extended to the iconic Golden Eagle armour that was introduced as the Armour of Asteria (an Amazon warrior). The suit felt irrelevant in the grand scheme of things and it wasn't introduced into the story in an interesting way at all, it was just there in a cupboard in Diana's house from the get-go.
For what it's worth, Wonder Woman 1984 is a truly enjoyable movie to watch, even if the first hour serves as a very slow method of delivering plot with little to no action involved. If you come to this film expecting an evolution of what Patty Jenkins delivered in Wonder Woman, this won't do that, but it will offer another solid entry into the DCEU. Considering what the DCEU has offered previously, a safe, reliable and exciting romp makes for a pretty good sequel, but I do really hope that the next Wonder Woman standalone - that is expected to be Jenkins' final project with the character - is a more daring escapade, one that gives Gadot and Diana Prince a chance to shine with the best of them: As she clearly, as we have seen here and in the past, has the potential to do so.
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