Friday, December 25, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984

By s. Friday, December 25, 2020 , , , , , , ,

(spoilers!)

It's been a long, long wait. Back in the summer 2017 we were delighted by Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman. It had thrills, laughs, emotions and most of all - so much heart. Now Jenkins returns with a highly ambitious sequel, which is very, very different from the original film. The saddening and dark setting of the World War I has been replaced with vibrant colors of the 80's, the serious background is now a fantastical tale and Williams' gentle, lovely score made way for Zimmer's music which sounds as if he did few lines of coke on a rolllercoaster. But it still feels like a familiar Wonder Woman story because Gal Gadot's Diana is back. And she is the same as we remember her - both an inspiring goddess and a highly relatable person with hopes, fears and desires. We know her, we like her, we admire her. We want to follow her on her journey. And the heroes we see ourselves in are those who end up inspiring us the most.

In Wonder Woman 1984 Jenkins gets to tell a morality tale about universal themes, the score is bombastic and grand and the production design and costumes are truly an outrageous, colorful wonder. It's the purest, loveliest escapism. 
I think there will be two very controversial things about this movie - the plot and the action scenes. The plot is silly but nobody is pretending it isn't. For me what matters in a movie like this is not what the plot is, no matter how nonsensical, how implausible, how insane, but what it is used to accomplish by a storyteller. Jenkins takes the tale with magic at its center and uses it to tell the story about very human, very relatable dilemmas and the film really hits hard thanks to that. If it wasn't for the plot devices that allow for literal magic to occur on the screen, the decisions Diana makes wouldn't have the same impact - thanks to the use of magic the stakes are higher. Jenkins brilliantly used the genre and its lack of limitations to ask difficult questions and conjure sequences that will stir the heart and inspire hope. Just like the first movie was hit with utterly nonsensical claims of weak third act and  villains there seems to be a lot of criticisms directed at this one already, but the history will judge those movies kindly and those claims will be looked down upon as they should be.

I adore the first movie but one of the very few issues I had with it were the quick cuts in action scenes - some scenes weren't allowed the room to breathe they needed, some shots didn't linger as long as they should. It's also the issue here - Chris Pine is clearly giving us priceless reaction shots but we don't see him long enough to really register them. The way action scenes are made here - filled with slapstick humor, unique placement of the camera, very obvious green screen and over the top, even for a superhero movie, happenings will have their detractors. But it's all intentional to make it feel like the 80's movie. Take the goofiness of the action, the grandiosity of Zimmer's score and the beauty of central themes and you have a cocktail like no other action movie served us in a very long time. Unfortunately, I think that the very young audience, those who didn't grew up with action/adventure films made in the 80's won't understand what Jenkins did here. But even then the fact there are some who downright despised this movie is puzzling. The sheer effort that went into making it so different than other films in the genre - with Diana winning with words, not with fists and so much depth given to villains must be applauded.Let's take a moment to appreciate the women and the setting of Themyscira. Usually in these kinds of movies the 'before the hero grew up" section is so boring and you cannot wait to get to the actual story. But not with Wonder Woman films - Themyscira is such a gorgeous, vibrant place and just look at these women! So much grace, so much strength, so much inspiration. Zimmer gave them gorgeous musical themes in this movie and Jenkins set the fantastic opening there, filled with more joy than several other comic book movies combined wouldn't offer. Connie Nielsen as dignified Hippolyta, Robin Wright as badass Antiope and adorable Lily Aspell as young Diana all return. If WB were smart they'd do everything in their power to keep the team behind these films happy and finally deliver that Amazons spin-off we were promised.

The thing I didn't like about the first film was that the interactions between Diana and women outside of Themyscira were all too few. But Wonder Woman 1984 is a major improvement - Diana makes a female friend and we actually get to watch them hang out. And that friend is no other than Barbara Minerva, who later becomes Cheetah. Kristen Wiig is excellent and the film doesn't treat Barbara as the antagonist, but as a friend turned foe, which is far more interesting. There's clearly a lot of influence from Selina Kyle's iconic transformation in Batman Returns and Wonder Woman 1984 makes an even stronger statement that the antiheroine crossed to the dark side because of toxic masculinity. The CGI look of Cheetah is wisely featured in the night sequence as I really don't think it's something you can make look good and here they did as well as they possibly could have. The end result was much better than I expected but I appreciated that we mostly spent time with Barbara, not with Cheetah.But it's Pedro Pascal who steals the spotlight from everyone else. Pascal is a hugely entertaining actor who always seems to be having so much fun. He was great in awful movies (Kingsman: The Golden Circle), mediocre movies (Triple Frontier) and even when everyone else was given strong material too, he still stole the show (Game of Thrones, before it derailed, becoming one of the biggest embarrassments in history). His character is surprisingly complex which I really appreciated - both him and Barbara aren't there for the audience to hate but for us to understand while also rooting against them. Pascal has so much charisma and he makes every performance of his look so effortless while they are anything but. His performance is easily the most entertaining thing in the movie.

By now it's clear that Gadot is perfectly cast in the role and it's impossible to imagine anyone else playing the part. Yet again she delivers such a complex and wonderful Diana - torn between what she wants and what she knows she must do. Diana always following what she knows is right is one of her best qualities but Gadot beautifully portrays what tough and heartbreaking decisions her character must make and how much it pains her. She also has so much grace and humanity in her portrayal - while Diana is basically a goddess she also feels like a regular person we can see ourselves in.But it's Chris Pine who was the first film's secret weapon. His heartfelt, beautiful performance was one of my favorites in 2017 and remains one of my favorites in the entire CBM subgenre, second only to Hugh Jackman in Logan. His chemistry with Gadot is spectacular - there are so many couples in action adventure movies but not one of them comes close to Gadot and Pine together. You believe these are two people who not only love but also respect each other and who are willing to sacrifice themselves for one another. In addition to that Steve is such a fantastic character - he is just a regular guy but he has extraordinary courage and such a strong moral compass. Patty Jenkins bringing Pine and his Steve Trevor back is definitely taking an easy route but can you really blame her? Gadot and Pine together are a lighting in the bottle. And Pine is incredibly talented - he shows insane conviction delivering his lines and his comedic timing makes the lines that would fall flat if handled by another actor so funny. His delivery of "well shit, Diana!" is by far the funniest moment in the movie. He is an absolute delight to watch in this and I sincerely hope Jenkins resorts to magic again in the third movie because there is no way they can find someone as good as he is and someone who would have this much chemistry with Gadot.

Rupert Gregson-Williams' work in the first film was outstanding - his No Man's LandWe Are All the Blame and Hell Hath no Fury tracks are some of the greatest of the last decade. Zimmer's score doesn't work as a standalone as well as Williams' but it's a fantastic accompaniment to the movie. It's grand, it's joyful and it's so distinctive - there are several key themes and ironically it's the iconic Wonder Woman theme that's not incorporated enough - but thanks to that when it is finally used it hits really hard.  There are outstanding individual tracks here - Themyscira and Games, both at the beginning of the film, are truly fantastic and Without ArmorAlready Gone and The Beauty in What Is are gorgeous. But I have to criticize Zimmer for reusing his track A Beautiful Lie which was used in the opening credits of BvSZimmer used it as a temporary track and said he thought it worked so well and it's his track so why not use it. This is exactly the kind of thing that makes people say Zimmer is lazy and reuses his work a lot and honestly now, after what he did there, it's impossible to disagree with this assessment. And it doesn't end there - he even used John Murphy's highly recognizable Adagio in D Minor from Sunshine. As this was the temp track to go with No Man's Land this is even more lazy. Re-using old compositions and using the work of other people isn't really fulfilling one's job as a composer. It's not detrimental to the movie because it's one hell of a track but it's a very, very disappointing conduct from Zimmer. He had an opportunity to create something new and iconic here, especially since it is used in the background of such a gorgeous moment, and he decided not to do it.

The movie hits similar beats to the first one in terms of humor - in the first film it was Diana who was being introduced to the unfamiliar setting and this time it's Steve, which results in a lot of amusing moments. They also have so much fun with Diana's powers here, particularly with the lasso of truth which is almost a character of its own. And I appreciated the quick nod to the characters of the first movie - showing us that Diana stayed in touch with them over the years. And the mid-credits scene is pure magic.
But the big question is - did they deliver a scene as powerful as No Man's Land? 

No, but they made an admirable effort. The power of No Man's Land scene was rooted in two things - the fact that women finally got representation in such a huge movie set in comic book sub-genre after years of being ignored, and in the depiction of absolute, defiant good defeating evil with so much grace and courage. Rather than redoing all of that, we get something different here - a character who is so relatable to all of us in spite of being a goddess being forced to make a horrible decision and sacrifice something that is dearest to her heart for greater good, at the same time recognizing that you can't cheat, you can't take shortcuts, you have to face the truth and deal with it. What has happened, happened and you have to find the strength to move on and do what is objectively right. You can't count on magic and twist of fate, you have to go on. You cannot let the others suffer for your own gain, because happiness achieved in a way like that, if you are a good person, is tainted and is not happiness at all.
The message this time doesn't revolve around courage - it revolves around strength which is something that is so needed now in these times we are living in. We get to see Diana, more powerful than any of us, more deserving of joy than any of us, give up her own happiness for the benefit of others because it is the right thing to do. In today's world, where some cannot even bothered to do tiny things for the well-being of other people, where some cannot endure a mere inconvenience for the benefit of others, I cannot think of a scene more inspiring and necessary than that one. It's also about facing reality without lying to yourself. The visual of Diana running and taking flight, towards her future, with so much pain in her heart but also so much courage is astounding and evokes an enormous feeling of hope and joy. The truth has liberating and painful beauty to it and Patty Jenkins found a way to portray that in such a hopeful and rousing way. There's no one scene here that hits like No Man's Land did but there are several which are very emotional, scattered all around the movie. Combine them together and I'd say I cried as much during this one as I did during the first.

By so many twists of fate this movie will be seen by many - and had WB's distribution not been so inept it would have been seen by the whole world - during Christmas time. As cosmic irony would have it, the last scenes are set on Christmas. We get to watch Diana stronger than ever, smiling, awaiting what's in store for her. And thus we get to remember that in one way or another, we all have the power to give ourselves wings and fly. All we have to do is try. 64/100 (2020, USA, 151 mins)
Plot: Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman's next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer: Patty Jenkins & Geoff Johns
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig

24 comments:

  1. I have not read a whole lot of your in-depth reviews, but I might actually think that this time around you outdid yourself with this one.

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  2. I absolutely loved the opening scene from Diana's childhood. Possibly the best character intro that I have seen. Great review!

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    1. it was so wonderful and colorful, I loved that opening so much

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  3. Amazing review as always! I genuinely enjoyed this movie (it's actually my second favorite movie of the year) and I loved how emotional and powerful this film was. I also don't understand the hate for this film. I thought this film was fantastic!

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  4. Thoughtful review nice !

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  5. Second about that Amazons spin-off with Robin Wright and Nielsen. I wanted more of them! Plus you have thousands of years to play with and it seemed from the games crowd there's a lot of people on that island :)

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    1. WB has so much gold and potential and they aren't doing anything with it :/

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  6. This is a great review. Honestly, I disagree with a good deal (my review drops tomorrow), but love how well you explained your feelings. I don't think it's a bad movie, it just makes a lot of missteps. The first movie remains my favorite of the DCEU.

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    1. Yeah the first one is easily the best there

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  7. Great review! I really liked this as well. Even though it didn't have a No Man's Land-like sequence (Can that really be topped though?) I thought in terms of consistency, this film was superior. It didn't dive into Snyderverse dark garbage during the 3rd act, which I appreciated.

    I thought Steve and Diana's chemistry here was even better too, I almost cried when they had to part.

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    1. I cried like 5 times during the movie lol

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  8. I liked parts of it. I Loved Chris!!!! I loved Pedro! I LOVED GAL! But the movie was a mess. Still had fun though.

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    1. Yeah it's such a fun movie, I cannot wait to see it again :P

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  9. Excellent review Sati! I agree with all of your points. I absolutely loved this movie. It was so much fun to watch. Some of the arguments being made against it are so insane. Woke twitter gone wild. I really enjoyed how the movie ended and the Cheetah and Diana dynamic.

    I thought Pedro really channeled Gene Hackman's original Lex Luthor. He's such an excellent actor. Pedro just brought it. Idk how anyone could not love his performance? Of course the chemistry btw Gal and Chris was incredible. Their last scene together was completely heartbreaking. I almost felt like this film gave Diana the closure she needed so she could finally move on from Steve. I'm surprised the naysayers didn't consider that.

    Kudos to Patty for making the movie she wanted. But you're correct, Patty set herself up for some of these criticisms.

    btw this is Mariah over at A Space Blogyssey. For some reason I'm logged into my other account.

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    1. Thank you! I actually worry she will bring him back in the next one which will really make the mess of things lol I hope she doesn't and it's Themyscira focused

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  10. Fantastic review, M. I'm stoked you liked it so much. Gal is tremendous (as always), but overall it didn't work for me as much as I wanted it to. I had fun, a lot, but sometimes it was because how ridiculous things got.

    Wiig was amazing, Pascal owned, but dear God I was all about Steve here. Their goodbye was so moving, I got all kinds of choked up. Your point about her giving up so much when many seemed determined to give so little was brilliant.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. It was very much like Aquaman-style mixed with Wonder Woman characters, I am stunned so many people straight up hated this movie

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  11. I so miss your full reviews, although your Letterboxd ones make me laugh so much!
    I wasn't a huge fan of the first Wonder Woman but I adored 1984, so I'm gutted to see all the backlash. It feels like Birds of Prey all over again. That goodbye scene between Steve and Diana had me ugly crying!

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    1. Thank you so much! I'm way to busy to run this blog anymore :/ So only occasional review will happen here, my LB is pretty much the only place where I'm still active

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  12. I'm so happy to see a POSITIVE review of this movie. I've been dreading watching it because it seems like so many people hated it. But I loved the first one and I adore Pedro. Your review (even with spoilers which I jumped into with no regrets) makes me think I'm going to love it.

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