Wonder Woman 1984 is a riveting, heartfelt blast. A gloriously show-stopping tale that shifts between heartbreak, wonder, and dazzling action set pieces. It’s set to be a sure-fire hit for Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot.
Gal Gadot returns as the iconic Wonder Woman in the second film, that surpasses the first film in many ways, especially with Gadot’s improved performance. In 2017, Wonder Woman was released and had fans in awe. Once again with this sequel, these same beats hit as one can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the orchestral pounding of Hans Zimmer’s score clashing with Gadot flying through the air. Moments of pure joy litter this adventure. Diana’s story fascinates and captivates, one almost wishes it were just her and the villains were smaller in screen time. That’s down to how great Gadot is – she really is show-stopping.
Beautifully shot by cinematographer Matthew Jensen with the most lush of colors, the blues and yellows of the Amazon’s sun-drenched island are to be revered. Some scenes will make your jaw drop as you gaze upon the luscious depth of its IMAX shot portions, employing the camera’s ability to capture the greatest of depths in composition. Not just for the cameras, but the scope that’s captured in those rare few scenes, it’s quite harrowing. The opening sequence in Themyscira is a non-stop thrill in all of its heart-pounding glory. The build-up as you watch young Diana best the greatest of Amazon warriors is intense, enthralling, and a spectacle to watch. The sweeping blue seas, the ravishing greens and the glorious structures of Themyscira feel almost real, as if one had been transported there. It’s immersion to the max.
Years have passed since Diana (Gal Gadot) bested Ares at the height of World War II, now she walks among us, working a job and living life in this very-futuristic world, compared to the 1940’s. The year is 1984, Diana lives in America as opposed to the dingy smog-filled streets of London that she witnessed prior. During a robbery, shortly foiled by Wonder Woman, a group of ancient artifacts are taken and examined by Doctor Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a new employee where Diana works. In comes Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a fake tycoon searching for riches in oil and anything he can get his hands on. Maxwell attempts to swoon his way through Barbara, flattering her in order to get his clutches on a very specific item she possesses. In addition to this, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) mysteriously returns from the dead and helps Diana on her mission. Diana must take on her duty and protect the world from Maxwell Lord’s nefarious actions, but Cheetah, who possesses super strength and agility, is set as a physically threatening foe to stop Diana.
Wonder Woman 1984 enthralls. The film possesses much of the greatness of Wonder Woman, however, the story is very different and is more normal in a strange way. The setting of the first film puts Wonder Woman in a situation where the world would’ve wished such a fearless and powerful person existed to aid in the war effort. The actual wonder of the situation is perhaps a factor in why the first film bests the second, as the 1980’s Washington-set plot offers less Diana and more end-of-the-world-like plotting that can become a bit on the cheek. Maxwell Lord’s mission is something we have seen before, but the God-like threat of Ares and his mysterious control over the war was somewhat fresh.
Nevertheless, just because Wonder Woman is brilliant, that doesn’t mean Wonder Woman 1984 is much less than that. It’s really great. It has that same passion, especially evoked through all of Diana’s screen-time. Unlike the first, more screen-time is devoted to its villains, Cheetah and Maxwell Lord. Whereas, most of Wonder Woman was focused on Gal Gadot’s Diana with a few inserts of Dr. Poison, Erich Ludendorf, and at its climax, Ares. Wiig brings a certain scariness that aids to Pascal’s Maxwell Lord being more of a tyrant than a diabolic, scary threat. Pascal brings a devotedly menacing feel that intrigues, both him and Wiig are ably good, but one is left yearning for more and more Gadot as Wonder Woman. As it is her story that compels, but perhaps with a little less villain plotting time it would’ve nearly come up to the heights of the 2017 film. A few side snippets with Maxwell could’ve been removed, as sometimes it feels a little over-the-top for his character.
The sequences in the shopping mall, Themyscira, and a certain moment in the sky are where Wonder Woman 1984 is at its best. Patty Jenkins does a fine job delivering a cohesive and engaging adventure, backed by Hans Zimmer’s pounding score. Zimmer rips into your soul, tearing emotions out of you. It’s a great extension of Rupert Gregson-Williams score, although the first remains iconic and superior. Remember when Wonder Woman left audiences overwhelmed by her spectacular feats of heroism? The bad*ss, villain-thumping, No Man’s Land storming feeling remains, although, with a shift in tone to something less personal, but nearly equally as exciting. Sitting in the cinema one can remember the jaw-dropping shivers felt during such scenes in Jenkins’ first film and the same is felt with this sequel.
Steve and Diana’s relationship is what bewitches. The way that Steve is brought back is cleverly done and convinces within seconds. The exploration of the 1980’s is best told through a few snippets of Diana slinging her way around a mall and then with Steve’s amazement at the shift in culture. Jenkins prospers most when focusing on the two as it feels contained and personal, like a reunion for not only the characters but the audience alike. The chemistry between a very naïve Steve and an in-the-know Diana is the perfect switch from Wonder Woman. It’s the exact opposite to their relationship in the first, now Diana must introduce Steve to the world.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a worthy and great successor to the first which holds a very special place in this reviewer’s heart. It is and will continue to be a momentous task to overtake Wonder Woman. However, the sequel lives up to the anticipation and delivers about everything to the highest of degrees. Gal Gadot is once more, absolutely enchanting and is cemented forever in the Hall of Justice as one of the greatest portrayals of a superhero ever.
Wonder Woman 1984 debuts in theaters and on HBO Max December 25! International release begins on December 16 in certain locations.
Follow Senior Film Critic Ben Rolph on Twitter: @THEDCTVSHOW