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Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984 Delivers Throwback Fun

Wonder Woman 1984

The much delayed and anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 has finally been released in an unprecedented roll of the dice and experiment by Warner Bros. and its parent company AT&T. Released on HBO Max and in theaters, the film has pivoted a few times due to the current pandemic and shifting needs of consumers. Taking advantage of my big-screen television and surround sound, and not wanting to risk COVID, I took advantage of my HBO Max subscription to watch the film and in doing so, I felt transported back decades to the early years of comic film adaptations. That’s both a good and bad thing in the end. But, the end result is a film that’ll be polarizing and over years most likely dissected, analyzed, and opinion will shift for the positive.

Shifting the setting decades from the original, Wonder Woman is now in 1984 living her dual life. Longing for the return of her Steve Trevor, she’s been lonely and somewhat isolated. Enter the dreamstone, a MacGuffin that can make wishes come true. A failed businessman, Maxwell Lord, also wants the statue in hopes that he’ll be able to turn around his ventures and become a worldwide business dynamo. What results is a film that examines the 80s while also upending superhero movies in many ways.

Directed by the returning Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman 1984 features a story by Jenkins and Geoff Johns with a screenplay by Jenkins, Johns, and Dave Callaham. The story and direction have their bumps but overall the film feels like a throwback to earlier years of superhero films both in tone and look. This isn’t a film filled with cynicism and negativity. Instead, it’s a story about hope, love, and a positive future. It’s bright at times and wears its pacifist leanings on its armored sleeve.

The biggest break from other superhero films is the lack of a villain with a motivation to cause harm. Played by Pedro Pascal, Maxwell Lord is Donald Trump mixed with 1980s television hucksters. It’s established early Lord is a fraud attempting to make money through a pyramid scheme. He wants a successful business not to rule anything and we see that through his actions.

In the end, the issue presented is desires uncontrolled. Lord’s plan spirals out of control putting the world on the brink of nuclear war. In that way, we get a very different story from DC and Marvel films of the past. This isn’t a nefarious plan so much as a mistake. It’s a scam that gets out of control and results in unintended consequences.

Jenkins attempts to have fun with that spiraling out of control world as things amp up slowly and then the avalanche. Lord wants more and uses his newfound powers in an attempt to enrich himself and at the same time also create some stability… which only creates more instability. We’ve seen a similar plot in Bruce Almighty. While that film stayed isolated to Buffalo, this takes it to a global scale.

The team slowly builds Lords out of control failure from his empty office, to the Middle East, to the White House, and then beyond. It’s a ramping up of an out of control power and a man desperate to figure out what to do next. He easily could have just made himself the ruler of the world but he doesn’t. He wants to be “the” businessman.

Jenkins attempts to bring an 80s vision to the film’s 1980s setting. That results in a mixed result. The tone of the film has much more in common with Richard Donner‘s Superman than it does with anything post-2000, the “modern superhero film era”. Its colors, lighting, and overall attitude are one of positivity. It has a light tone never taking itself too seriously and playing loose with the logic of the story. We’re treated to a finale that breaks from the traditional punching that crescendoes most comic films. It puts an exclamation point that the film attempts to do something different.

But what the film really does is remove itself from the meta-cinematic universe we come to expect. Yes, the film has the return of Steve Trevor from the first story but it has little direct impact on other DC films nor does it set up or continue a meta story that involves 20 other films. It’s a two-issue story arc giving us breaks between drawn-out “events”. It’s supposed to be a breezy popcorn film focused on fun and it generally succeeds.

The film absolutely has issues with its story. Trevor’s return has a lingering of rape due to how it’s done. Kristen Wiig‘s Barbara Minerva/Cheetah is underused. Some of the film could have been tightened up in the details. The film is loose with some fat to it. Minor changes would have made a leaner and tighter film. Special effects at times are rough and some fight sequences feel a bit uninspired. But, every comic film released has had problems none are perfect and there are modern releases that are in a far rougher shape than this.

The actors all bring some interesting aspects to the film. Gal Gadot is supposed to be front and center and while she plays alone very well, she doesn’t quite have the draw power she had in the first film. That’s partially because everyone else is so over the top in their performances that her Diana/Wonder Woman comes off as too serious and dour at times.

Returning is Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. Pine has the most fun of the actors continually being excited about the world he’s returned to. The joke happens over and over but Pine’s delivery never gets old and through him, the film gets to poke a lot of fun at the time period. Pine is our time capsule reminding us of the fashion, dances, and innovations of the decade.

Joining Gadot and Pine are Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva and Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord, the two “villains” of the film. I put that word in quotations because neither is truly evil.

Wiig plays the bookwormish Minerva who also works in the museum with Gadot’s Diana. In Diana she sees someone she inspires to be and her wish to do so brings unintended consequences. Wiig does a fantastic job of evolving from one thing to the other playing a convincing flower blooming. She does the stumbling nerd well and then the confident woman everyone wants to be around. There’s a lot of 80s John Hughes in the performance and it captures the decade well.

Pedro Pascal puts in an over the top performance tapping so much of what was wrong the decade. His scheming Lord is the insecure loser and con-artist we knew so many of the titans of the time were. Donald Trump, televangelists, late-night infomercials, Lord is all of these things in a bad wig. He’s the embodiment of everything wrong during that time period and does it with a delivery that emphasizes the slime. But, he also gives us a villain who isn’t so much one and as we learn someone the audience can relate to more than they want to admit.

Wonder Woman 1984 feels like the enjoyment will be directly inversed to how cynical one is. The more you are, the less you’ll like it. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself seriously and just roles with its ideas. The action sequences are enjoyable, performances a bit over the top, and a story that you just roll with. This is a popcorn film that wants you to not think and just go for the ride. It’s comic book escapism that takes its tone and look from comics delivering popcorn digital enjoyment.

Overall Rating: 8.0

Wonder Woman 1984 Shines in its First Trailer

The first full trailer for Wonder Woman 1984 is here and it shines in fully embracing the 80s.

Fast forward to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big-screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.

With director Patty Jenkins back at the helm and Gal Gadot returning in the title role, Wonder Woman 1984 is Warner Bros. Pictures’ follow up to the DC Super Hero’s first outing, 2017’s record-breaking Wonder Woman, which took in $822 million at the worldwide box office.

The film also stars Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Kristen Wiig as The Cheetah, Pedro Pascal as Max Lord, Robin Wright as Antiope, and Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta.

Wonder Woman was created by writer William Moulton Marston and artist H G. Peter and debuted in All Star Comics #8 in October 1941.

Wonder Woman 1984 is set to open June 5, 2020.

Wonder Woman Fast Forwards to the 1980s as the Film Begins Production

Wonder Woman was one of the biggest hits of last year and it’s not surprising that the film is getting a sequel, Wonder Woman 1984. The movie has begun production and is currently filming in the Washington, DC region as it transforms the area into its 80s self.

Wonder Woman 1984 will find the hero up against The Cheatah played by Kristen Wiig. Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor a mystery since his character seemingly died in the previous film. Also new to the film is Pedro Pascal and Gale Gadot returns as the hero.

Patty Jenkins is directing the film and she’s joined by director of photography Matthew Jensen, Oscar-nomination production designer Aline Bonetto, and Oscar-winning costume designer Lindy Hemming. Oscar-nominated editor Richard Pearson will cut the film.

In addition to Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia, filming will take place in the UK, Spain, and Canary Islands.

Wonder Woman 1984 will be in theaters November 1, 2019.

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

“You can save the world.” Those words are spoken by Chris Pine who plays Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman, the latest superhero comic adaptation film that debuts in theaters this week and has all eyes on it for a long list of reasons. While those words focus on Wonder Woman’s role in the film it can also be taken as a statement about the movie as a whole which has the potential to transform cinema or become an excuse that’ll damn it for decades to come. I can’t think of a movie that has more pressure on it and has the potential to shape cinema like this film does.

Played by Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman is the film that many are looking towards to see if DC Comics and Warner Bros. can right their cinematic universe, whether a woman can headline such film and turn it into a blockbuster, and if so how much of a blockbuster can it be. It has the potential to shatter a ceiling that has plagued women led action films and especially comic films which have been dominated by testosterone. And, much like the rocks on the side of a tower as she climbs it, Gadot, director Patty Jenkins, and everyone involved crushes it delivering a film that while not super, delivers consistent entertainment that is one of the best origin story comic adaptations released by any company.

Wonder Woman is fun. Wonder Woman will have you cheering. Wonder Woman will put a smile on your face. Wonder Woman delivers the summer experience and leaves you wanting more and wondering why we’ve waited so long.

Much like Batman v Superman, Wonder Woman is framed through Bruce Wayne picking up from that film and the mysterious photo from World War I. Through that narrative we’re taken through an adventure that begins with Diana at a young age and her growing up until a mysterious individual crash lands in the waters off the shore of their island. Man has found their land of Themyscira the magical and hidden land of the Amazons. With war looming we learn of the mission of the Amazons, to protect the world from Ares who may or may not be behind the “War to End All Wars.”

The use of World War I as the setting, as opposed to World War II like some suggest, shows some of the intelligence that went into the film as the details, no matter how subtle, that create a film that soars. World War I provides the setting and helps with the theme of the birth of technology on many levels as technology is part of the enemy here embodied in Dr. Maru played by Elena Anaya. That extends to the world of the Amazons being shaken by the introduction of man and their technology easily represented by the bows versus guns battle that really kicks the film up a notch and Diana having to enter that new world to save it and defeat Ares.

Again, it’s the details that makes this film soar with its feminism firmly in place. Diana, as she’s introduced to the world of man, questions its norms through her actions, her words, the looks on her face. This is a warrior who fights for equality and freedom and has a pure innocence that radiates. She questions why a woman is a secretary. She questions why a room is just of men. She questions why she’s not allowed to speak up. She’s a stranger in a strange land and through her we’re shown that all of mankind is corrupted in different ways. She’s similar to Leeloo in the Fifth Element in a way. Innocence as a warrior who will save the world from a god.

But, what might have surprised me most is the film’s comedic tones to it all. While it could easily have taken a serious tone in lecturing the evils of man, instead, much of that is addressed through comedy. Much of that is just through Gadot’s actions and facial expressions showing this actress can do more than kick ass. She was surprisingly funny, not something I’ve ever seen in the previous action films I’ve seen her in. She’s helped by Pine who brings his usual charm but Gadot also plays off the brilliants cast including Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, and Eugene Brave Rock, with whom the film turns into a version of the Dirty Dozen.

Visually the film is engrossing from the varied Amazonians to a diverse cast, here the use of colors is deliberate taking place mostly in the drab mechanical world contrasted with the beauty of Diana’s homeland. While some have complained of the pallette choices of previous DC films, this one it adds depth and to the story.

Not everything is perfect though, the film falls a little flat in the final boss battle, though almost all comic adaptations have fallen flat in similar ways. The genre hasn’t overcome that villain in storytelling, yet. The story also has a little too much Steve Trevor who acts as Diana’s guide throughout the film and while their missions are on similar paths, at least aren’t one and the same.

95% of the film is fantastic and while it doesn’t do anything superb, it does everything to such a level I left entertained in a way I haven’t been at a film in a long time. This is one of the best comic origin stories to have been released and one of the best comic films to be released hands down from any company. The crowd cheered at the end with smiles, laughter, and energy buzzing about. Wonder Woman defeats the villain in the end but also feels like it will shatter the box office in many ways.

Overall Rating: 9.5

A First Look at Wonder Woman

wonderwomanfirstlookFolks have been waiting, but the filming for Wonder Woman is under way. Warner Bros. has announced that production is underway in the UK, France, and Italy, and the film will be out in 2017.

Actress Gal Gadot has posted a photo of herself in her superhero outfit on Twitter and Facebook.

The film will be directed by Patty Jenkins and the cast includes Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Chris Pine as Captain Steve Trevor. Other casting without specific roles include Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner, Saïd Taghmaoui, Elena Anaya, and Lucy Davis.

As Gadot says, this is something almost 75 years in the making…

Around the Tubes

We’re at Gen Con today and some of the team are getting ready for Boston Comic Con, but we’ve been slowly getting through reviews. What have you enjoyed so far this week?

Around the Tubes

The Outhousers – Chris Pine Officially Joins “Wonder Woman” – So he’s not Green Lantern?

CBLDF – Charleston Principal Removes Some Girls Are from Summer Reading List – Sigh.

The Mary Sue – Diversity in Entertainment and the Media: Then and Now, and How Far We’ve Come – Some interesting history.

 

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