Home Art & Culture ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Review: It’s Not About What We Deserve

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Review: It’s Not About What We Deserve

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When Wonder Woman first hit the big screen in 2017, the possibilities for the character felt endless. After 76 years without a blockbuster to call her own — she muscled into comics, bracelets flashing, in 1941 — she had made it, becoming a box-office sensation. And, yay! The movies love sexpot vixens vamping in fetish wear (meow) and nice girls simpering in the wings, so it was relief that this Wonder Woman was neither. She was sovereign, powerful and lightly charming, and even when the movie had teasing fun with her it took the character, her mighty sword and cultural significance seriously.

The first movie is set largely during World War I, which set a lofty bar for the scope and the import of future adventures. The sequel’s title, “Wonder Woman 1984,” suggests that some juicy Orwellian intrigues are in the offing. Will Wonder Woman, a.k.a. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), hijack a Soviet cruise missile, toss jelly beans at Ronald Reagan? As it turns out, the year mostly proves an excuse to pile on side ponytails, fanny packs and nostalgic nods to the kind of Hollywood blowouts that feature cartoonish violence and hard-bodied macho types. What is Wonder Woman doing in these campy, recycled digs? Who knows? Clearly not the filmmakers.

Patty Jenkins is behind the camera again, but this time without the confidence. Certainly some of the problems can be pinned on the uninterestingly janky script, a mess of goofy jokes, storytelling clichés and dubious politics. (It was written by Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham.) There’s a mystical artifact; an evildoer seeking world domination (bonus: he’s a bad dad); and one of those comic-book wallflowers who morphs into a sexy supervillain — you know, the usual. It’s a whole lot of unoriginality, but the used parts aren’t what sink “Wonder Woman 1984.” Familiarity, after all, is one of the foundations (and pleasures) of cinematic genres and franchises.

What matters is how awkwardly these elements — the heroes and villains, the jokes and action sequences — are put together. For starters, as is the case with many contemporary pictures, this one starts better than it finishes. (It plays like an elevator pitch, all setup without the delivery.) It opens with a leisurely flashback to Diana’s princess childhood during some kind of Amazonian Olympics, with aerial gymnastics and tight, muscular thighs astride thundering horses. This gambol down memory lane may have been necessary for viewers who didn’t see the first movie. But in the context of the rest of this movie, it vibes like a one-hit band opening with its sole claim to fame.

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