Sunday, December 27, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984


Based on the DC Comics series by William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman 1984 is the sequel to the 2017 film that has the titular character deal with an oil baron who gains the power of a mysterious object that allows him to grant wishes to everyone but with a price as the Amazonian princess deals with a wish that she made where she is reunited with her true love in Steve Trevor. Directed by Patty Jenkins and screenplay by Jenkins, Dave Callahan, and Geoff Johns from a story by Jenkins and Johns, the film explores the idea of truth and the fallacies of wishes where Diana Prince deals with her choices and its costs but also in unexpected foes including a woman who wanted to be like her as Gal Gadot reprises her role as Prince/Wonder Woman and Chris Pine also returns as Steve Trevor. Also starring Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig, Connie Nielsen, and Robin Wright. Wonder Woman 1984 is a wondrous and exhilarating film from Patty Jenkins.

Set in 1984 during the Cold War, the film revolves around Diana Prince who works at the Smithsonian as an anthropologist while doing hero work as Wonder Woman in secrecy as she and a gemologist discover a mysterious gem that grants wishes as a failing oil baron gains access to the stone and becomes the stone to gain power prompting Prince to stop him. It’s a film with a simple premise of sorts yet it explores the idea of wishes but also the lesson about the cost of a wish. Patty Jenkins and co-screenwriters Dave Callahan and Geoff Johns do explore the themes of wishes in the form of this object though there are some spotty moments in exploring that theme but also in some of the character development for a few characters. The film begins with a brief sequence of a young Prince (Lilly Aspell) who takes part in a multi-stage athletic competition that plays into lessons she would have to learn from both her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) as it would play into everything Diana would have to face.

The antagonist in Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is an oil baron who is also a TV personality who wants to present this idea of success as a way to improve the life of himself and everyone else but is already in debt as he hopes to obtain this ancient stone to make himself rich and powerful. Lord isn’t an evil person as he has a son in Alistair (Lucian Perez) he cares about but his desire for greed and power makes him lose sight of things. Another person who becomes entranced by that stone’s power is a gemologist in Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) whom Diana befriends as Minerva is this shy and awkward woman that wants to be like Diana yet the wish she makes has her becoming a stronger, confident, and sexier person but there’s some flaws into the development into how she sides with Lord. The story about this stone is a strange MacGuffin of sorts as Trevor, who returns because of Diana’s wish, believes that the stone is a variation of a Monkey’s Paw where whoever grants the wish is forced to sacrifice something and the only way it can be stopped if that person renounces its wish. For Diana, she is forced to make some difficult decisions just as she copes with what she has lost upon the wish that she made.

Jenkins’ direction has these elements of something grand in its opening sequence of a young Diana to this weird sense of nostalgia set in Washington D.C. in 1984. Shot on various locations at the Warner Brothers Studio at Leavesden, England as well as location shoots in Washington D.C. and its nearby areas as well as parts of London, the Canary Islands, and Almeria, Spain. The film does play into this air of 1980s Cold War but also what the 80s was like in America as one of its early sequences involve a robbery at a jewelry store that is foiled by Prince as Wonder Woman as it has this element of humor but also nostalgia for those times. Jenkins does use a lot of wide shots to establish these locations but also in the world that Prince ventures into including Egypt and other parts of the world in some broad action set pieces. Still, the film is grounded by some close-ups and medium shots to play on this sense of loss that still looms over Prince as it relates to Trevor as her wish, that she unknowingly did, to have him back would come true but it also plays into the fact that she’s had trouble moving on and still holding a torch for him as he’s inhabiting another man’s body as it does play into some of the humor with Trevor being the fish out of water as it relates to 1980s culture.

While the film does have some humor as well as light-hearted moments in the action, there are still this air of suspense and danger that Prince does encounter as it relates to what she sacrifices upon making her wish. Especially during the film’s second half where Lord gets more powerful to great extremes though some of the execution relating to his development does get spotty as well as the development in Minerva who would make another wish that leads to the film’s climax. The climax is grand though it has some clunky moments as it relates to what Minerva has become where the visual effects don’t really do justice despite the stakes of what Prince has to do. Her confrontation with Lord in that scene does say a lot about the fallacy of wishes and the need for truth though its execution is clunky despite its good intentions. Overall, Jenkins crafts a compelling and thrilling film about an Amazonian princess battling an oil baron and an unexpected foe to save the world from greed and lies.

Cinematographer Matthew Jensen does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with its usage of vibrant colors for some of the daytime exterior scenes in Washington D.C. and Cairo as well as the usage of low-key lights for some of the interior/exterior scenes set at night. Editor Richard Pearson does terrific work with the editing as it has some stylish rhythmic and jump-cuts to play into the action as well as some of the suspense and drama. Production designer Aline Bonetto, with set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson plus supervising art directors Alex Baily and Peter Russell, does amazing work with the look at some of the places that Prince goes to including her own apartment in Washington D.C., the interiors of the Smithsonian, and at a communications base for the film’s climax. Costume designer Lindy Hemming is brilliant for not just the design of the 80s clothes of the times that feature some funny and awkward moments but also in some of the designer dresses that Prince and Minerva wear as well as a legendary costume that Prince wears for the film’s climax.

Hair/makeup designer Jan Sewell does fantastic work with the look of the characters including the look of Minerva from her nerdy look to being this confident yet dangerous woman. Special effects supervisor Mark Holt and visual effects supervisor John Moffatt do some superb work in the visual effects in some of the set dressing and action set pieces though the design of Minerva’s final evolution as Cheetah is one of the clunky aspects of the visual effects where it doesn’t feel like it’s finished. Sound designer Michael Babcock, along with sound editors Jimmy Boyle and Richard King, does fine work with the sound in creating some sound effects as well as maintaining a raucous atmosphere for some of the big scenes in the film. The film’s music by Hans Zimmer is wonderful for its bombastic music score as it play into the action along with serene orchestral textures for some of the dramatic moments of the film while music supervisor Carmen Murlaner provides a soundtrack that largely features the music of the 1980s from Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Duran Duran, Gary Numan, Clinton Shorter, and John Murphy doing a piece by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The casting by Kristy Carlson, Pat Moran, and Lucinda Syson is marvelous as it feature some notable small roles from Gabriella Wilde as Lord’s secretary, Natasha Rothwell as Minerva’s boss, Kristoffer Polaha as the man Trevor inhabits, Amr Waked as an Egyptian oil baron that Lord makes a deal with, Stuart Milligan as the U.S. president, Oliver Cotton as Lord’s frustrated investor Simon Stagg, Kelvin Yu as a colleague of Minerva at the Smithsonian, Ravi Patel as a mysterious man who knows about the history of the stone that Lord wants, and Lucian Perez in a grating performance as Lord’s son Alistair as a kid who just whines all because he wants to be with his dad. Lilly Aspell, Connie Nielsen, and Robin Wright are excellent in their respective roles as the young Diana, Queen Hippolyta, and Antiope with Aspell reprising her brief role as the young Diana for the film’s opening sequence while Nielsen and Wright’s sole scenes in the opening sequence do provide some gravitas to the lessons that Diana would instill on her journey.

Kristen Wiig is alright as Barbara Minerva as a geologist/gemologist who admires and wants to be like Prince as the wish she makes would have her go from awkward geek to a strong yet cold woman as its development is hindered by the fact that Minerva is underwritten in how she loses some of her humanity and how she would become the villainous figure that is Cheetah. Pedro Pascal is amazing as Maxwell Lord as a TV personality/oil baron that wants to succeed as he believes that this ancient stone would give him everything he wants as Pascal displays some charm but also a man who loses his own humanity that makes him a complex villain of sorts. Chris Pine is incredible as Steve Trevor as Diana’s former lover who returns mysteriously due to a wish as Pine gets to show a lot of humor in his interaction with 1980s culture but also some truth about why he is back as it is a grounded performance that allows Pine to be someone that has to remind Diana about some of the darkest realities of the world but also the good aspects.

Finally, there’s Gal Gadot in a phenomenal performance as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman as the Amazonian princess warrior who moonlights as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian while secretly being a superheroine as Gadot brings some charm but also some vulnerability as a woman still driven by loss and the reluctance to let go. Notably in her scenes with Pine as it plays into a woman that still carries a torch for Trevor as she does come to terms with this loss as Gadot brings in these somber moments in another defining performance for the famed superheroine.

Wonder Woman 1984 is a remarkable film from Patty Jenkins that features a towering performance from Gal Gadot. Along with the strong supporting performances of Chris Pine and Pedro Pascal as well as grand action set pieces, some humorous moments involving 1980s nostalgia, and its exploration of greed, wishes, and truth despite a few spotty moments. The film is still a heartfelt superhero film that does bring in a lot of adventure but also wonderment and the need to accept what people have instead of what they want. In the end, Wonder Woman 1984 is an incredible film from Patty Jenkins.

DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - Suicide Squad - Wonder Woman - Justice League - Aquaman - Shazam! - Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) - Zack Snyder's Justice League - The Suicide Squad (2021 film) - (Black Adam) – (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) – (Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom) – (The Flash) – (Blue Beetle) – (Batgirl)

© thevoid99 2020


Ruth said...

Hey Steven, great review but I guess we'd have to agree to disagree on this one. I wish I could say I loved the movie, like I did w/ the original, but I can't even say I like it. Trevor being the fish out of water in the 80s is fun to watch, but hard to forget that he's using someone else's body like an Uber as a reviewer said, with no consent or regard to that random guy's existence.

Jay said...

We both loved it here. Definitely ditto about the cinematography, and about the wonderful transformation from Barbara to Cheetah - it's so subtle at first but really fun to react to. I really loved the young Diana warrior games too.

Brittani Burnham said...

We landed in a similar spot with Cheetah. Pine and Pascal were great at least.

J.D. said...

I still prefer the first WONDER WOMAN movie but I like this one a lot. Gadot has improved as an actor and isn't quite as stiff as she was in the first one. This movie has a strong emotional core that works quite well with Trevor coming back into Diana's life. I quite enjoyed this!

thevoid99 said...

@Ruth-Yeah, I can understand your qualms as when it comes to HBO. I'll see how I'll react to it.

@Jay-I enjoyed the opening sequence and the look of that film.

@Brittani-The look of Cheetah wasn't good at all.

@J.D.-I still prefer the first one as I just think it's an overall great superhero film though this one was still good.