The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - WONDER WOMAN 1984 | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review [Cinema] - WONDER WOMAN 1984

wonder woman 1984 review
Wonder Woman is reunited with Steve Trevor, but at what cost?

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

wonder woman 1984 UK poster

The theatrical cut of Richard Donner's 1978 classic Superman: The Movie runs for two hours and 23 minutes, and it packs a hell of a lot into that runtime. We see the destruction of the planet Krypton; a young Kal-El discovered by the Kents and raised in the MidWest hamlet of Smallville; an adult Clark Kent travelling to the Arctic where he learns of his past before moving to the bustling city of Metropolis and taking a reporting job at The Daily Planet; Kent falling for fellow reporter Lois Lane, who only has eyes for his Superman alter ego; criminal Lex Luthor developing a nefarious scheme to destroy the land west of the San Andreas fault; Superman foiling said plot; and of course lots of time is devoted to the bread and butter of life as Superman, as we watch him thwart various criminals while even finding the time to rescue a cat from a tree.

Wonder Woman 1984 is eight minutes longer than Donner's film, yet I'm struggling to recall just how it managed to stretch its threadbare plot out to such a length. In Hollywood at least, effective, economical storytelling appears to be a lost art. The numerous events depicted in Superman: The Movie would likely require an entire trilogy if it were made now, as today's blockbuster screenwriters seem to need three scenes to convey an idea that should only require one.

wonder woman 1984 review

This latest instalment of the DCEU franchise finds Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) living in 1984 Washington DC, where she works at a museum while fighting crime on the side. The movie's highlight comes early as Wondie foils some thieves stealing artefacts hidden in a mall's jewellery store. With our hero winking at wide-eyed children, it's a sequence designed to evoke the Superman movies of the era it's set in, and while it's certainly nothing new, it's a refreshingly fun aside in a sub-genre that usually takes itself far too seriously.


WW84 breaks out that most '80s trope of the fish out of water, with Chris Pine's Steve Trevor brought back to life through the magic powers of a macguffin rock that allows its owner one wish. Steve is beguiled by the advances in technology and enamoured by the polyester fashion. If you've seen movies like Time After Time and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, this will all be very familiar, but Pine and Gadot share such a goofy chemistry that you'll overlook the lack of originality.

wonder woman 1984 review

As is often the case with these movies, WW84 suffers from a lack of interesting villains. Pedro Pascal's Max Lord is a JR Ewing wannabe who gets his hands on the macguffin rock and uses it to become the most powerful man in the world. His arc is awkwardly written, his rise to power taking up what feels like an age as he relies on coercing other powerful figures into making wishes that benefit him. With so many people having their wishes granted, the world soon turns to bedlam, and the film itself similarly becomes anarchic as it loses sight of what should be a simple premise.


One villain never seems to be enough in these things, and so here we get Kristen Wiig as Richard Pryor from Superman III. Sorry, I mean as Barbara Minerva, a put upon archaeologist whose wish is granted and so becomes the super-villain Cheetah, who is essentially a cheap knockoff of Catwoman, but with the PVC catsuit replaced by CG fur that makes her look like a refugee from Cats. Wiig is a fun presence initially, but once she transforms (largely through the old cliché of a woman being revealed as attractive simply by removing her glasses) the film can't find anything interesting for her to do apart from throw stuff around.

wonder woman 1984 review

What's most interesting, and perhaps commendable about WW84 is how surprisingly anti-nostalgic it is. Aside from a blast of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, the soundtrack is curiously bereft of '80s bangers. Instead the movie focusses on the negative legacy of the decade, the rise of rampant consumerism and the obsession with greed. It's a remarkably misanthropic film, with the world plunged into chaos by the narcissistic wishes of its population. At the same time, there's something elitist about all this, a sort of old money versus new money dynamic between the nobility born with power and the plebs who suddenly have it foisted upon them.

That bit of subversion aside, WW84 is as generic as any other superhero movie. In the US it's controversially being released to stream on HBO Max, making it arguably the biggest ever straight to video release. For those across the pond who choose to watch it in their living rooms - or heaven forbid, on their phones - they won't be losing out on much, as it's a film devoid of big screen spectacle, one that resembles an expensive TV show rather than a tentpole blockbuster. Combine its lack of visual storytelling with its needlessly complicated plotting and you have a Wonder Woman movie that offers much to wonder about but little to wonder at.

Wonder Woman 1984
 is in UK/ROI cinemas from December 16th.

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