Wonder Woman 1984 (Cert 12)

1 Disc DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Warner Bros.) Running Time: 151 minutes approx.

Release Date – March 22nd

A bit of pointless trivia to start this review: I was going to see this film in the cinema when it was released last December, but the night before, the government announced a second lockdown, and the screening was cancelled. Here we are four months later with this Blu-ray release. Was it worth the wait?

When robbers with stolen rare artefacts from a black market dealer are stopped by Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the FBI sends the loot to the Smithsonian Museum for identifying, where Diana Prince works. Also asked to help is new employee expert Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), an insecure wallflower who is flummoxed by what she thinks is a cheap knockoff. When Diana reads the Latin inscription on it she realises it is a Dreamstone and makes a wish, as does Barbara – to be more like Diana. The next day, Barbara is suddenly popular with everyone and seems physically stronger.

Meanwhile, struggling businessman Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) is about to lose his only investor when he learns about the Dreamstone when offering to make a donation to the museum. He woos Barbara to get the artefact from her then makes his wish – to become the Dreamstone and be able to grant wishes to improve his wealth and influence. Instead, his greed causes global chaos and Diana has to stop him before it is too late.

There is a bit more to the plot which I will get to later, as there should be for a film that runs for two and half hours, except this excessive length isn’t really justified, partially as it seems to have two separate stories it wants to tell. One is the main plot with Lord’s greed to drive home the moral of “Be careful what you wish for”, whilst the other is a time hopping love story that could have worked on its own.

Patty Jenkins is once again in the director’s seat for Wonder Woman 1984, in which the ageless Amazonian is still kicking butt 70 years on from the first film. There is sense to this decision since the central motive of the villain is greed, so why not set it in the decade when capitalism was king and the mantra “Greed is good” was first coined?

For the benefit of those, like me, who did live through the 80s, the nostalgia engendered from watching this replication of the era isn’t as strong as it could have been. Sure, there are some gaudy fashions and dodgy haircuts but not enough of them; and one track from Frankie Goes To Hollywood does not a classic music soundtrack make. Talk about a wasted opportunity to immerse the older audiences in their youth once more.

Ironically, Jenkins does borrow heavily from 80s superhero films in the presentation, the first act medley of Wonder Woman being a heroine about town recalls Superman’s first night of action in 1978’s Superman The Movie. The collision with the robbers in a shopping mall closes this sequence, heavy on action and big set pieces, with the tone kept light which is continued into the next act.

Barbara is a bit of a cliché – straggly hair, glasses, dowdy clothes, ignored by everyone, and a briefcase that falls open spilling papers everywhere – until her wish to be like Diana changes everything. Thankfully, the shift in Barbara’s personality is exponential, but the moral ambiguity of the effect of this newfound empowerment on her is only half explored. Unlike Lord, whose route to villainy is already paved with duplicity and fraud, yet he has an anchor for his humility in young son Alistair (Lucian Perez).

Running concurrently is the subplot of Diana’s wish: to have her love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) back. The Dreamstone obliges, sort of, by having his soul possess another man’s body, but only Diana can see him as Steve. But, when a wish is granted, something is taken in return – in this case, Diana gradually losing her powers, leading to a unique shift in dynamic where Steve has to protect Diana.  

You can tell there are many interesting ideas present but cramming them into one 151-minute film means they don’t get the development they deserve. This dilution is doubled when you factor in the action sequences, which are typically big and bombastic and huge fun. The first 15 minutes of the film before the plot even begins is comprised of the aforementioned hero montage as well as a prologue with a junior Diana competing in a race back in Themyscira.

Essentially, it is a film that will have audiences divided over which parts they liked best rather than being invested in it as a whole – some will enjoy Steve’s comic acclimatising to the 1980s, others will be waiting anxiously for the Barbara vs. Diana showdown; if not, then there is Lord’s Trump-like delusion as he seeks global control and takes the world to hell with him. All three plots have potential to entertain in their own right, but as opined earlier, bringing them together as one was a tad overambitious.

Gal Gadot always seems more comfortable as Wonder Woman than she does as Diana to me, and gets to show a bit more of her human side this time around, especially in the climax. I am not a fan of Kristen Wiig at all, but I must concede she handled the early stages of Babara’s transformation rather well. Pedro Pascal was completely over the top as Lord, somewhat justifying the 80s setting. And old school Wonder Woman fans should stick around for a treat during the end credits!

I didn’t hate Wonder Woman 1984 like others seem to do. For an escapist comic book blockbuster it delivers exactly what is expected from it, the only issue is the attempt to appear substantial by running too long from having too many subplots weakened the focus, resulting in a reliance on clichés. Otherwise, perfectly acceptable popcorn flick fun.

 

Extras (Blu-ray):

English Language DTS-HD MA

English Language Dolby Digital 5.1

English Language Descriptive Audio

Italian, Mandarin Language 5.1 Dolby Digital

English SDH, Italian SDH, Simplified Chinese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish Subtitles

Scene Studies:

The Mall

The Open Road

The Making Of Wonder Woman 1984:

Expanding The Wonder

Small But Mighty

Meet The Amazons

Gag Reel

Black Gold Infomercial

Wonder Woman 1984 Retro Remix

Gal & Kristen:

Friends Forever

Gal & Krissy Having Fun

 

Rating – ***  

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