To be frank with you, it feels like a long time ago when I and many other audiences were looking forward to watching “Wonder Woman 1984” early in this year. The movie was supposed to be released around the world in June 2020, but, alas, just like many other big Hollywood blockbuster films of this year, it was struck by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and then got its release date delayed again and again, and it was only released in theaters a few days ago here in South Korea while it came to be mainly available on HBO Max in US.
Anyway, I must tell you that the movie itself does not live up to our accumulated anticipation, but I must also admit that I had a fairly entertaining time with it. Yes, it has less wonder and excitement compared to its predecessor, and its story often stumbles due to several reasons including its weak and sprawling narrative, but, at least, it is still equipped with what makes the predecessor so special.
As reflected by the very title of the movie, the story is set in 1984, and its first act quickly establishes how Diana Prince / Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) has lived in Washington D.C. under the disguise of a respectable senior anthropologist working at the Smithsonian Institute. Although she happens to reside in a certain famous building associated with that infamous political scandal in the 1970s, Diana continues to pursue truth and justice as before, but she often feels alone and lonely while remembering her true love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who, as many of you remember, bravely sacrificed himself during the climactic part of “Wonder Woman” (2017). She certainly knows too well that he would have gone away from her in the end just like many other mortals in her long past, but she cannot help but yearn for being with him again because, well, she does have a heart despite being an immortal demigoddess.
And then there comes an unexpected thing into her life. Shortly after she does another public service as stopping a clumsy jewelry shop robbery, her new workplace colleague Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is tasked with evaluating a bunch of seemingly valuable old artifacts discovered inside the jewelry shop, and one of them happens to draw Diana’s attention. According to the Latin inscription written on this artifact, it will grant one big wish to anyone holding it for the first time, and both Diana and Barbara do not take the words that seriously, but, what do you know, Diana later discovers how powerful it really is via Steve’s unlikely return to her.
To Steve’s viewpoint, everything in 1984 looks pretty strange and awesome to say the least, and the movie accordingly goes for a little more humor as Diana gladly shows Steve how much things have changed during last seven decades. Although he is actually occupying someone else’s body as a spirit coming back from the netherworld, he still looks same as before to Diana, and she surely feels happier than before as strolling here and there around Washington D.C. along with her dear lover.
However, it soon turns out that there is a catch in that artifact. As delving more into its history, Diana and Steve come to learn that it is quite more dangerous than expected due to its enormous magical power, but it has already been snatched by Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a power-mad huckster who has disguised himself as a successful oil business tycoon and TV celebrity. He has been planning to use it for being on the top of the world forever, and, unfortunately, Barbara happens to get involved with his evil plan after experiencing a magical transformation via that artifact.
Although the screenplay by director/co-producer Patty Jenkins and her co-writers Geoff Johns and David Callaham sometimes loses some of its narrative momentum as trying to juggle too many elements together, the movie subsequently recovers when its heroine is on her full-action mode later in the story. Jenkin delivers several good action sequences as required, and Gal Gadot diligently delivers a number of electrifying moments of physical action with her graceful physical presence while never overlooking her character’s vulnerable sides.
The supporting performers surrounding Gadot fill their respective spots as required, and their results are rather mixed on the whole despite their good efforts. It is really nice to see Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen reprising their roles in “Wonder Woman” during the prologue scene set in Themyscira during Diana’s childhood period, and young performer Lilly Aspell is also solid as before as young Diana. While Chris Pine dutifully holds the ground for Gadot, Pedro Pascal chews his scenes as demanded as a villain who cannot help but driven by his inferiority complex to the end, and Kristen Wiig has some juicy fun with her character’s transformation along the plot, though her climactic showdown with Gadot unfortunately takes us back to that horrible movie version of a certain musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber in last year.
In conclusion, “Wonder Woman 1984” is one or two steps down from its predecessor, but it has enough entertaining elements to engage me during its 151-minue running time. I doubt whether it will really galvanize the gloomy current status of theater business around the world, but I am still eager to see whatever will come next after this, and I sincerely hope that I and many other audiences will be able to watch that in a far safer theater environment.
Was the first film popular in Korea? I remember going to see it in Busan a week or so after release, and it had already disappeared.
SC: I don’t remember well, but I liked it a lot.