The "wonder" years
The cinematic universe for DC's comics has been in a whirlwind of changes this past year. Between the announcement of the Zack Snyder cut of a re-worked Justice League arriving shortly in March, a sequel for Aquaman currently underway and the luke-warm reception to Birds of Prey earlier this year hampering the possibility of any more sequels, the biggest question was when were we finally going to get to see Wonder Woman 1984 since majority of all theaters still remain closed as of this posting? Well, HBO Max answered that for us, which now presents an even bigger question: does the sequel deliver? As is the case with any follow-up, the film helps the audience "catch up" so to speak to get viewers up to speed on who Diana (Gal Gadot) was before donning the infamous tiara and suit. After a daunting lesson of honesty and unselfish righteousness, we fast forward to 1984, 66 years after the events of the first film where we find Diana continuing her never-ending crusade for justice and looking out for others while "moonlighting" as an anthropologist (much like how Superman works at the Daily Planet as Clark Kent). Despite her dedication, Diana questions if it's all in vain and still hasn't overcome Steve's (Chris Pine) death. At her job, Diana meets Barbara (Kristen Wiig),
a gemologist who's a bit of an introvert but not quite as thoughtful or charismatic. The two become quick friends and are tasked with investigating a gem dubbed the "Dreamstone" the FBI came across from a robbery Diana foiled earlier. The stone catches the attention of Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a power-hungry businessman who knows the actual secret about the stone as well as the immense power it holds. It's clear that in regards to tone, Wonder Woman 1984 differs significantly from its' predecessor. This sophomoric chapter has an upbeat, campy feel that goes along well with it's 80s esthetic that wouldn't have worked in a modern setting; here it's on at full force and to good effect. Gal Gadot shines [literally] as the amazonian princess once again with some brilliant character development. Kristen
Wiig brings her good acting chops in her role as the complex yet amusing Barbara and Pascal does the same as Maxwell, bringing a certain pathos to the villain that actually makes him sympathetic. In terms of action, the film forgoes spectacle and focuses on making them personal to add emotional depth to their inner conflicts. On paper, it's great the filmmakers didn't forget that superheroes aren't totally invincible and still have to deal with real issues such as grief and placing importance on the needs of others. However, it's because of this the film feels weak trying to do so, and given the long run time the film had to take advantage from, I can't help but feel it could've been utilized better especially in creating more action set pieces or mayhap reduced the time to improve the pacing. These drawbacks aren't deal breakers and overall, Wonder Woman 1984 is a solid sequel that clearly has heart and courage along with an excellent performance from Gadot to make this nostalgic 80s' trip a memorable one.