By Marine Saint, First Year, English and History
The sequel to the 2017 reboot, Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), has the difficult challenge of both maintaining the dynamism of the first film as well as reopening cinema releases. Whilst not as cohesive as the first, it offers pure escapism which makes up for its confused plot-lines.
Set 66 years after the first DC live-action Wonder Woman (2017), WW84 follows Diana (Gal Gadot) who is now working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC as she befriends an awkward archaeologist Barbara Minerva (Wiig), who is investigating stolen antiquities, one of which is a dream stone with mythical powers. The dream stone pits Diana and a reincarnated Steve (Pine) against Barbara and Max Lord (Pascal) as they battle over the consequences of granting wishes.
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince once again delivers an empowering and emotive performance. In a particularly impressive opening, we look back at Wonder Woman’s origin story as a young Diana (a role reprised by Lilly Aspell) somersaults through a gruelling Amazonian tournament. Gadot continues her physically demanding role in a series of athletic fight sequences and missions, yet it is her appeal for humanity which ultimately saves the day against antagonists Barbara and Max.
Wonder Woman’s overall character, however, seems less complete than in the first film, with the miraculous reappearance of her love interest Steve: a role even the charisma of Pine cannot fully substantiate, adding little sense or value to her story. As a heroine Diana Prince is of course inspiring and empowering, but in this second instalment director Patty Jenkins sets her up against a universal issue – human greed – which seems an impossible task for even an Amazonian warrior-superhero to solve.
New additions to the cast, Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal offer the promise of diversifying the story, but their characters Barbara and Lord feel like caricatures without properly explored storylines, their personal trajectories reaching a climax far too late into the film. Wiig plays the role of clumsy colleague to Diana turned powerful villain with potential, but her rushed evolution into the Cheetah dismisses the possibility of an interesting ending for her character.
Pascal’s Lord embodies the flashy persona of a TV presenter as well as a stereotyped crazed dictator, who we learn, like Diana, has a difficult backstory. The attempt at the rags to riches trope is nevertheless not as endearing as Lord’s relationship with his son, which is the one redeeming aspect of his storyline and offers a basic attempt to correct all the plot holes which are left in the wake of his schemes for world domination.
Aside from cliched characters, the significance of the 80s setting is never elaborated by Jenkins. Although the film opens with music from the decade and the bright colour palette of aerobics and mini metropolises of malls, the score quickly switches to Hans Zimmer’s sweeping accompaniment and the backdrop returns to an indistinct urban North America. Perhaps this is to make way for the chaotic plot development, but it does seem as though WW84 misses the opportunity to create a nostalgic and unique setting for its superhero story and settles for generalisations.
Gadot’s rendition of Diana is undoubtedly the best part of this over-long film. Nonetheless, the success of Wonder Woman 1984 at the box office, with a surprising $85 million revenue so far, affords it the title of biggest cinema release during the pandemic. WW84 may not be as spectacular as its predecessor, but its reception certainly suggests that a heroic fantasy may be just what is needed to save cinemas.
Have you been able to see Wonder Woman 1984?