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Elevated by a strong emotional core, Wonder Woman 1984 takes the mythology of Diana Prince and flies to new heights.

Waiting for Gadot

Wonder Woman runs from politics
Wonder Woman runs from politics

It’s interesting to see which style elements from 2017’s Wonder Woman were carried over to this ambitious sequel.

Once again, the movie begins with an opening voiceover from Diana (Gal Gadot, Knight and Day) and there’s a flashback to her own strong-willed childhood in Themyscira.

This time, Diana talks about learning from life’s experiences and coming out the other side transformed. It all serves as a sort of grounding to set the stage for a particularly personal and transformative adventure for Diana, set in 1984, more than 60 years after her adventures with Steve Trevor in World War I.

On the flip side, one of the elements not carried forward to this episode is any reference to the rest of the DC universe, including Wayne Enterprises. It’s a good move to further distance this series from the unwieldy and awkward events of Batman v Superman and Justice League. This is Diana’s story; she doesn’t need that background noise — or baggage — anymore. Even the mysterious World War I photo of Diana surfaced by Bruce Wayne goes unseen in Diana’s Watergate apartment; instead, there’s a photo of her helping liberate a World War II concentration camp.

The Truth Is Beautiful

From the fantastic opening in Themyscira — shot in its entirety in the IMAX format — the movie cuts to Washington D.C. in 1984. Tonally, it shifts gears and adopts a bit of a Superman III vibe; it’s a comedy of errors and low-rent crooks as Wonder Woman saves the day at a shopping mall. But, thankfully, it’s a device that merely helps set a light tone before introducing Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig, 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot), a clumsy nobody who’s quickly forgotten by almost all who meet her.

Rather than devolving into a total farce with Wiig assuming the Richard Pryor role of amiable accomplice to non-menacing villainy, the story begins to hit its stride where most good stories come to an end, at the Smithsonian — which is also where Diana’s moved her work after her stint at the Louvre.

Deftly blending fantasy with history and contemporary 1980s events, the focus turns to a magic stone that has appeared through the ages at the collapse of key civilizations — the Romans and Mayans among them. The stone has garnered a lot of attention, including that of Max Lord, a charismatic charlatan who quickly latches on to its power to provide him with the ultimate wish: to be the granter of wishes. As Max, Pedro Pascal makes a complete 180 from his much more measured title character in The Mandalorian and it’s a boffo performance that shifts from a gregarious, commanding presence to sympathetic father to megalomaniacal overlord.

It’s an idea that could so quickly erode into kitsch. Instead, there’s a deeply human and humane outlook to Wonder Woman 1984 that sets it apart from the typical fare of outlandish schemes and comic book boss battles. It’s a unique mix; a cautionary tale with a heart.

It’s only fitting this story surrounding a superhero who wields a lasso that makes honesty compulsory should also feature a theme deeply rooted in truth and a climactic confrontation in which deception is exposed to the world.

Monkey’s Paw

This one works on two tracks.

First and foremost, there’s a surprisingly powerful emotional component surrounding her relationship with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, Star Trek Beyond). Yeah. He died in Wonder Woman. Yeah. It made no sense why he was showing up in the trailers for WW84.

But, given the storyline of promises granted (and ultimately at a steep price), it not only makes sense, it works well. Really well. It packs an unexpected amount of emotional punch, actually.

The other track revisits the old adage, “be careful what you wish for.” Here, there’s a yin and a yang; you can have a wish, but something of equal (maybe even greater) value is ultimately taken in return. For Diana, that poses a dilemma and creates some emotional turmoil.

But, tying back into that opening monologue from Diana, she comes out the other end transformed. Both figuratively and literally, she is finally forced to move on from the past and, in return, learns how to fly. (Oh, and that’s both with and without an invisible airplane.)

So Many Things

Steve and Diana romance D.C.
Steve and Diana romance D.C.

There are so many things to appreciate about WW84. It’s a movie that pretty much has it all. Heart. Humor. Action.

And that includes one of the best truck chases featuring flesh versus metal since Indy Jones pulled his under-the-truck stunt in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hans Zimmer throws in his terrific Wonder Woman “fight song” to sweeten the pot (along with a score that is from start to finish among his best yet).

Sexism and objectification are tackled with humor and a certain amount of cathartic movie-style revenge (that’s also fairly family friendly).

But, above it all, is the humanity that Gadot brings to this superhero character. There’s Diana, dining alone at a fancy Georgetown spot, but burdened with none of Bruce Wayne’s broodiness. As she points out to Barbara, we all have our struggles. Diana carries hers with an enviable amount of grace.

WW84 also has the kind of truly old-school romantic DNA that’s rarely seen — and even more rarely done successfully. Think of Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder in Superman: The Movie. There’s that kind of sweetness at play here, but with an added layer of gravitas that makes it all the more impressive and potent.

And then there’s the cameo. Wait for it. Shortly after the end credits role. One of the best cameos. Ever.


A New Release Strategy

Warner Bros. made headlines with Wonder Woman 1984 when it was announced the movie would finally open in theatres on December 25, 2020 after several date changes, not all of them pandemic related. The big surprise was the movie would also be available for streaming on HBO Max the same day and available to subscribers at no extra cost.

With theatres still closed in Denver, I managed to see WW84 in a Digital XD auditorium at the Universal CityWalk Cinemark in Orlando. It was a decent crowd for an opening Sunday evening show, but — as expected — nowhere near a sell-out, even at reduced capacity. As for the theatre’s hyped XD presentation, it was disappointing. The picture quality wasn’t all that sharp, and the color wasn’t nearly as vibrant as advertised.

Thankfully, AMC reopened in Denver on January 8, 2021 and I went right back to the Arapahoe Crossing IMAX the following Tuesday, January 12. There was only one showtime, 18:00, and there were only four people (myself included) at the show. There’s no doubt the pandemic has ravaged attendance nationwide, but, in this case, the simultaneous HBO Max offering seems to be at least a contributing factor that Warner Bros. has every intention of repeating with major releases throughout 2021.

On the bright side, with WW84, HBO Max has finally started offering content in 4K. As a bonus, they treated WW84 right — with the aspect ratio shifts to the IMAX format preserved. But act fast; it’s streaming only for a 30-day window, through January 24.