Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig, Robin Wright, Lilly Aspell
Director: Patty Jenkins
Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
The flight is fast, says Steve Trevor, the dishy American pilot who’s in love with Diana Prince. It is, he adds, ‘wind and air.’ Everything you need to know is how you can catch it, ride it, and get involved. But is that what there is to high-flying? Certainly not when the flight route is as complicated as the one that the sequels were set for by Patty Jenkins’ 2017 megahit Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman 1984 manages only intermittently to be a smooth cruise. It is floating on a single wing, the returning Gal Gadot. Gadot is undeniably in top form and she is well assisted by Kristen Wiig as the nerdy Barbara Minerva who achieves Wonder Woman-like power but lacks her humanity-a two-and-a-half-hour film needs much more. Sturdy as that wing is.
WW84 (written by Jenkins with Geoff Johns and David Callahan) fails to find real inspiration when Gadot doesn’t do her number-swooping down to save mankind in her red-and-blue Golden Eagle armor, rising above the mundane to peddle her super-heroics or rein in criminals with her glowing lasso of reality.
The film provides old-fashioned, not necessarily electrifying, escapist entertainment. It passes muster because it has the classic components of a superhero film in the mix – a lot of drama, an emotional heart, some wit, and a lot of wish-fulfillment that draws a price from the recipients on the screen and the audience (by way of a willing suspension of disbelief).
WW84 manages a respectable take-off – it begins in a flashback prelude on the mystical Futuristic island of Themyscira that shows a key rite of passage in the evolution of Diana until it moves the audience to mid-1980s Washington DC, propelled by a market hysteria – but it never reaches the dizzying heights of the previous film.
WW84 relies less on wind and air than on an ordinary-looking antique stone with exceptional qualities, amid some rousing action scenes and high-drama licks – a Macguffin that propels the fight between Wonder Woman and her two key adversaries.
WW84 is a simplistic, morally earnest fairy-tale yarn, like all superhero movies. It depends on the powers of reality, love, justice, and true heroism – embodied by Wonder Woman (Gadot) and Steve (Chris Pine), who appeared in the Cold World era after heroically perishing at the end of Wonder Woman in World War I – taking on a villain whose sole desire is to exert control over the whole world. For irony or cynicism, the staples of the contemporary superhero film, there’s no room here, but there’s enough social commentary.
The protagonist, Maxwell Lord, is a TV personality who sells gossamer fantasies (“Life is good, but it can be better,” is his favorite punchline), a failed businessman, and a delusional hustler who makes a total mess of it when he acquires the power he wants. Does not the Lord remind us of a man who is about to demit office as the most powerful man in the world (in the same town where WW84 is set)? In reality, Maxwell Lord, whose aim far outweighs his ability, reminds us of many other such clueless megalomaniacs running their countries ragged.
Lord, played by Chilean-American actor Pedro Pascal (of The Mandalorian) with very large strokes, does not acquire the aura of invincibility that could drive Wonder Woman against a wall all the way and compel her to tap into her distinctive strengths. If Diana is unsettled by something, it is the emotional upheaval and moral dilemma triggered by Steve’s return.
Wonder Woman, in WW84, isn’t at all vengeful. All she is involved in is saving mankind from the anarchy that Max Lord has unleashed. She is not out to kill but to cure and give even her rivals the opportunity to apologize. Redemption comes easily for her. Not such a bad idea for humanity – and for blockbuster movies – in the light of the kind of year that 2020 has been.
Gal Gadot is a charmer who’s still able to act. Without losing her composure, she articulates pain, altruism, and declaration, all in one sweep. The beautiful Chris Pine serves to brighten up the proceedings when the action slows down in the middle portions of the film, dedicated to the joy of a woman reunited with a lover she lost in World War I.
Young Diana (Lilly Aspell, who played the same part at the age of 10 in Wonder Women) learns a lesson in playing straight and fair early in a multi-discipline rivalry in Themyscira against older Amazons in the lively prologue. Throughout the film, the moral tip she gets from her stern aunt-mentor Antiope (Robin Wright) remains with her. Young Diana is told, “A true hero is never born from lies,”
In the American capital city, which has been invaded by flashy and fast cars, in-your-face clothing, tomahawk hairstyles, and other garish accouterments defining the age, we then catch Diana. Diana, who works at the Smithsonian Institute for antiques, does her best to stay out of the limelight.
She saves people from speeding cars or avoids shopping mall heists when she doesn’t take care of the valuable objects of the Smithsonian, where she is a senior cultural archaeologist. Yet her act of savior is performed incognito. But that’s only before Max Lord rises to the surface and the Dreamstone takes hold of him. Again, the planet needs savings.
The foiled robbery – the objective is a jewellery tale, which in rare antiques turns out to be a front for an illegal enterprise, is the catalyst for the subsequent proceedings of the film. The Dreamstone, part of the transport to the shopping centre, enters the Smithsonian.
A new hire in Diana’s department, a nerdy, under-confident woman, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), idolizes her and wants to be like her. Thanks to the ancient citrine stone she is entrusted with caring for, her desire comes true. Her appreciation turns to envy, adulation to competition, and the “apex predator Cheetah mutates into herself.”
Wonder Woman 1984, out in the Indian multiplexes on Christmas-eve, offers bushels of it in a year in which moviegoers have been deprived of big-screen entertainment. Not all of it holds water, so why lament when Gal Gadot shoulders all the flair at her command with her part of the bargain. She moves WW84 beyond the mark that is passable.