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.
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 Land, We 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 Armor, Already 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 BvS. Zimmer 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.
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.
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.
Writer: Patty Jenkins & Geoff Johns
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig