Wonder Woman 1984 Review: Better Look. Better Vibe. Better Movie?

How WW84 Shows Us That Cheating Has A Price

This past Christmas holiday saw the long-awaited release of Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max and in theaters. Since its release, there have been many social media outlets that have had its patrons voicing some divisive opinions, to say the least. Whether it was the constant delays, the fact that expectations have reached astronomical heights for films of the genre, or that we haven’t seen a new movie in so long that we are all out of sorts is hard to say. All I know is that fans either love this movie or hate it. I’m here to give my own two cents and hope that my review will help you walk into the movie from an unbiased standing and see what it is for yourself, so let’s dive into WW84! (Sorry for the late posting by the way!)

The first few moments of the film layout the lesson of the entire movie with a young Diana competing in the Amazonian Olympics; by the end, she thinks that she will win even though she cheated to get ahead but she is snatched away by her mentor, Antiope, (seeing the always awesome Robin Wright returning). The lesson she learns is that there are no shortcuts to greatness, and it is definitely not the way to be a hero. From there, we see the scene transition, with an awesome synth undertone, to the titles and the year 1984. Our first exposure to the ’80s places us in a world of leg warmers, big hair, bright colors, and shoulder pads as Wonder Woman saves those in need without actually being seen. Her patrol puts her in a mall where some guys are trying to rob precious artifacts from a jewelry store. This is where we first see Wonder Woman with a much brighter outfit and an overall vibe reminiscent of the classic TV show. Seeing her subdue the criminals was a fun time and a great display of the level of control that she has over her powers and lasso (aka one of the coolest things to watch in the movie).

The movie’s focal point revolves around a dream stone, an artifact that can grant the user one wish. This affects Diana and newcomers Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), who act as the film’s antagonists. Overall, I would describe the movie as an action/adventure film that features a lot of globetrotting and harkens back to films of the era and the genre. Effects wise, the movie is largely stunning to look at, with vibrant colors and sequences that don’t feel too hard to believe. In fact, a lot of the “magic” of the film was done with practical effects! For every wish made, a small gust of wind can be seen. Which, in a way, is funny because the biggest thing in the film is brought to life with a fan. My favorite effect of the film has to be the inclusion of Wonder Woman’s classic invisible jet. It is one of the coolest effects that you can’t see and without spoiling anything, the sequence that follows is nothing short of beautiful.

Without spoiling the story’s basic plot, as stated before, the film is about the dream stone and how it can grant one wish to anyone who uses it. However, as the film progresses, many will learn that these things aren’t as simple as they seem. I felt this aspect of the film was done very well and actually offered up a great parallel to the desperation and greed we feel today; what would we do if we actually had the chance to have one wish? The other aspect of the film that I felt was done really well was seeing Diana deal with her heartbreak of losing Steve in the first film and, ultimately, how we see her grow from that. While not perfect, the story does a fantastic job at completing most of its character arcs.

Acting-wise, there wasn’t anyone in the film who missed their mark. Gal Gadot brings the same warmth and affection to Diana that we know and love and even makes her more fun because she doesn’t have the baggage we see her with in Batman v Superman nor does she have the naivete to the world that we see her with in the first film. She also has some awesome style that really harkens back to her TV roots. Always dressed to impress and with the confidence to back it up, there wasn’t a scene where she didn’t have style (also, her golden armor was amazing and a great nod to the comics and games). This Diana is used to the world around her and loves not only helping innocents but marching to her own beat and giving off a confidence that everyone aspires to, which actually is the perfect segway to the next character!

Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva, aka Cheetah, is the physical threat of the film. However, she starts off as the clumsy nerd with glasses trope when she meets Diana. You know, like Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 or Catwoman in Batman Returns, or The Riddler in Batman Forever, or Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (wow DC….you guys really do that a lot). While I found her full transition into Cheetah to be a delight and the one thing I was most excited for in the movie, I have to admit; I was tired of the character with low self-esteem gaining confidence and being cool because they took off their glasses. While her origin and motivation are different from the comics, seeing Cheetah battle it out with Wonder Woman was a dream come true. Also, not for nothing, but while the execution was different, they did an awesome job at showing how power can corrupt, and getting unwanted attention doesn’t automatically mean you’re “cool.” It’s a great lesson I think many people should learn.

For me, the highlight of the film was Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord, an over the top philanthropic villain and the moral/ mental enemy to Diana. Not only did he bring a lighthearted and campy energy to the movie with a demeanor that seems ripped right out of the TV show, but he also brought a lot of heart and motivation to the role that will separate him from people like Lex Luthor in terms of why he does what he does. The best thing about his character, to me, was that Pedro really looked like he was having a blast making this movie. Changing Lord from what he is in the comics and making him incredibly layered was a smart move and showed just how dangerous greed can be and how badly it can corrupt. Absolute power will always corrupt absolutely, and both Max and Cheetah exemplify that.

Last but not least was the return of Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. Sadly, I can’t say much about his role in the story without spoilers, but I can say that having him back was a welcome surprise since his announcement, and seeing him react to the 80s was one of the highlights of the film. Steve brought the most laughs to the screen and he also reminded me just how beautiful something as common as flight truly is and the things the human race has achieved just to soar even higher. Proving that you don’t need powers to make a difference, I think it stands to mention that without Steve’s influences and love Diana would never have reached the potential and heights that she does in the film.

The action of this movie was also something I really enjoyed. I always thought it was both cool and strange seeing how Wonder Woman fights because it always looked like she was sliding and never really lifting her feet; however, this movie really uses it to a great effect, and it was a blast seeing her move! Her fight with Cheetah was a huge highlight for me and while I did wish it was longer, it was cool to see the sharp claws and strength of Cheetah compete with the ballerina-like movements and finesse of Diana. The convoy scene where we see her strength used was also a great addition and reminded me of Indiana Jones if he had the strength of a God. While there were some moments where logic was thrown completely out of the window, it was hard to be too critical of those because the entire movie is about Gods and magic.

From the freeing music of Hans Zimmer to the tiny nods to the greater DC universe with Simon Stagg and more, WW84 had a lot of heart; it also had a very long runtime of just over 2 and a half hours, which is about ten minutes longer than the original. The beginning does feel like it drags as it tries to set up all of the characters and motivations, but the film’s last leg does it’s best to pay it off. The only character that I felt needed a better conclusion was Cheetah, who was left alone for the climax, following her big fight. The movie closes off with a promise of so many things to come, and those things look to be even grander than what came before; however, I did feel that before we move to the next thing, it is important that some of the loose ends (and there really aren’t many) get tied off before the credits roll.

I compared this movie a lot to the classic Lynda Carter series, and I still feel that holds true. It is campy, colorful, fun action, big heart, great for kids, and holds an important message. But that last part is what really made the movie as enjoyable as it was for me. In a world where we rely so heavily on instant gratification and stepping on each other to get ahead, being told that you can’t find an easy way to achieve your dreams really resonated. To cheat to get ahead means you lose a bit of yourself and may not like what you see. Wonder Woman 1984 does a wonderful job at peeling back the veil of how we are as a society, and because of that, it gives us the chance to see the truth, and nothing is more powerful than the truth.

Wonder Woman 1984 8.5/10 (make sure to stay for the mid-credits!)

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