What’s your greatest wish?
Whether it’s world peace, romance or even just ‘more wishes’, everyone has something that they would ask for if given the chance. But what are you willing to sacrifice to get it?
This is the primary question behind Wonder Woman 1984 (or WW84), the follow-up to Patty Jenkin’s 2017 blockbuster that revived a flagging DC cinematic universe. Once again directed and co-written by Jenkins, WW84 is bombastic blast of colour that never loses the character moments that gives this franchise its heart. While it isn’t as ground-breaking as its predecessor, WW84 is still a thoroughly enjoyable follow-up that continues the journey of the Amazonian princess and solidifies her as one of the great cinematic superheroes of the modern age.
Set amidst the vibrant and sleek 1980s, Wonder Woman 1984 finds Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) keeping a low profile amongst the mortals that she loves so dearly. Working as a museum curator, she only steps into the heroic limelight if she can do so without public acclaim. However, when an ancient artifact with magical abilities draws the attention of the smarmy businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), Diana must not only face off against a growing evil but her own battle with temptation as well.
Though this is a film that truly does deserve the big screen treatment, it is significant that WW84 followed through with its 2020 release date, even if it must be on demand instead of its planned theatrical rollout. (Honestly, who could’ve expected that this would be the only superhero epic that we got to see this year?) With its bright colours, infectious energy and positive messages, it’s fair to say that this may be the blockbuster that we have been waiting for in 2020. (No offense, Tenet.) While one would be hard pressed to say that this film were gritty or self-reflective in any way (again, read: Nolan, Christopher), WW84 still proves poignant as it emphasizes the importance of living in the truth of the moment as opposed to clinging to false dreams or ‘what-if’ scenarios.
For her second time leading the franchise, Jenkins’ work in WW84 continues to impress. As only her third feature (!!), she understands the sort of character development required to engage the audience without losing the impact of the action sequences. Given the setting, this is a film that leans heavily into nostalgia, even in its set pieces. (In fact, even an early fight scene in the mall feels like a campy throwback to the very earliest of superhero films like Superman: The Movie) Keeping the tone light throughout the film, Jenkins allows the fun to shine brightly yet still manages to give the drama some real emotional stakes. (Heck, she even manages to bring back the deceased Steve Trevor in a way that feels justified within the film.)
With every turn as the character, Gadot grows more confident and comfortable in the role of Diana Prince. What’s more, her onscreen chemistry with co-star Chris Pine continues to ground their characters, as they support and challenge one another in various moments. (In fact, in an interesting twist, WW84 actually flips the dynamic between the two characters from the first film, with Pine’s Trevor as the somewhat naïve soul learning from the more confident and self-aware Diana.) However, the real surprise of the film is Wiig who clearly relishes the opportunity to take on the role of villain. Known for her comedic work, Wiig’s performance feels familiar at the film’s outset as the awkward and self-conscious Barbara Minerva. However, as the film progresses, Wiig truly settles into the role, imbuing Barbara with a dark ambition that makes her a suitable foil for Gadot’s Diana.
Whereas the film’s ‘period setting’ admittedly felt gimmicky when details of the sequel were first announced, it’s extremely appropriate for the film. Set at the height of the ‘Me Generation’, WW84 makes good use of the psychology of self-improvement and selfishness that defined the 80s. Drenching the film in golden colours throughout much of the film, Jenkins leans into this notion of self-indulgence by creating a visual world of luxury that would make King Midas jealous. At a time of financial excess and an obsession with the ‘image’, this was an era that sought to teach us that who we were was never enough and to always reach for more. (“Life is good, but it could be better,” Lord repeats.)
However, without giving away any spoilers, it’s worth noting that WW84 recognizes the damage of this greediness and its effect on others. For every wish that’s fulfilled, there comes a cost to be paid by the person who makes the request. The more one leans into their own selfishness, the greater the impact on those around them. As such, the film calls for global humility in order to survive and serves as a reminder that self-sacrifice is required by all in order to heal the world. (Again, a much-needed commentary during the current pandemic.)
Fun and enthusiastic, Wonder Woman 1984 sparkles with joy. Rather than use the sequel to create a ‘darker’ entry into the franchise, Jenkins continues to allows heart, love and reason to win the day. In essence, WW84 is a film about finding contentment in the moment despite our circumstances and working together to build a brighter future.
And, in 2020, what more could you want?
Wonder Woman 1984 is available in theatres and on HBOMax on Friday, December 25th, 2020.