At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Wonder Woman 1984

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Action-Fantasy/ Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kirsten Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Natasha Rothwell, Ravi Patel, Gabriella Wilde, Kristoffer Polaha, Amr Waked/ Runtime: 151 minutes

I think it is safe to say that, for the most part, we as movie goers are truly blessed to live in a period of time where sequels to the vast majority (not all because Spider-Man 3 from 2007….need I say more?)  of our favorite superhero films typically manage to be a more intriguing prospect than the first movie and the key reason is because the sky truly is the limit on where they could take us. That is because as riveting as may be to see an iconic comic book figure make their way to the big screen the first time around, those are slices of cinematic pie that are meant to show this character’s backstory as well as introduce us to the world that character is a part of. At the same time, they are also the slices of cinematic pie, the first film also has to be the more faithful adaptation for the comics. Yet come the sequel this can thankfully go right out the window if need be. Yes there are a fair amount of sequels in this realm of movie magic that decide to take cues and tributes from notable runs in the comics, but it is worth noting that even then film helmers are given the opportunity to pick what they want to bring to life from thousands of stories across the years and usually they just serve as a springboard rather than a direct adaptation. A fact that is possible that since the movie lover has managed to acquire a comprehension of just who this hero is then the creatives in charge of the follow up can really immerse themselves, and us in the audience as well, on just why this character means as much as they do whilst saddling them with a story that best explores those heroic qualities. Indeed some of the finer examples of this idea over the past 2 decades include Spider-Man 2 from 2004, The Dark Knight from 2008, and Thor: Ragnarok from 2017 respectively. Suffice it to say that now we can also add Wonder Woman 1984 to that line-up as well. That is because as amazing as it was to see our titular heroine get the opportunity to set herself up as one heck of a hero through the chaos and anarchy of World War 1 in the first film, her sequel has managed to come equipped with a wonderfully novel narrative that manages to show just why Wonder Woman is so important as a character whilst also giving us not only truly magical performances from the returning Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, but also from Kirsten Wiig and Pedro Pascal in a dynamic duo of antagonistical arcs that actually manage to give this film surprisingly deep emotion, brilliant and timely thematic concepts, and some fairly riveting stakes thus making this a film that this year, after all the chaos we have been through, so desperately needed.

The plot is as follows: Leaping ahead a good solid 50-60 years after our previous solo outing with Diana, this film starts its riveting narrative in the year….1984 (when else?) and we are quickly able to see that our titular heroine is living a secluded and isolated life as a curator at the prestigious Smithsonian in Washington DC by day and every so often finding herself involved in such covert heroics as saving people who just accidentally took a tumble off a bridge or thwarting a gang of robbers at the local shopping mall. Otherwise though we see that Diana is just plain lonely and still pained by the loss of the love of her life Steve Trevor even though it has been 50-60 years since his heroic sacrifice at the end of the last film. Soon enough things change and the catalyst for it takes the length, height, and weight of an ominous stone brought to Diana’s place of work by the FBI in the aftermath of the robbery she helped to thwart. It should come as no surprise to learn that the stone manages to intrigue our heroine whilst it is being inspected by a bookish and meek colleague of hers by the name of Barbara Ann Minerva, and who incidentally shrugs it off as nothing more than an inexpensive gift shop knock off that you could find anywhere. Yet it seems that Barbara is quite erroneous in this analysis however. A fact that soon becomes quite apparent due to the machinations of a man by the name of Max Lord who also happens to be the CEO of an oil company by the name of Black Gold Collective.  This is because, despite facing his company’s imminent collapse and at long last being revealed for the fraud that he is, Max is aware that this flimsy looking stone is one that has an extraordinary power to it. A power that, incidentally, is also one that should he continue to pursue it will have some serious fallout attached to it. Not just for Mr. Lord, but also for Diana, and Barbara as well. Suffice it to say then that it isn’t long before Wonder Woman, alongside an unexpected ally, finds herself engaged in her most riveting battle yet…..

Now right off the bat it should be noted that movie helmer Patty Jenkins doesn’t waste a single minute and instead hurls right into the midst of things courtesy of this film starting with a riveting flashback involving Diana as a little girl participating in a quasi-sorta Olympics on her home island of Themyscira. Yet I guess I should note that is not a hint as to the action beats that the film is going to throw your way. Rather this is a moment of character construction which sees our heroine learn a valuable lesson about how taking the easy way out really does negate any sense of accomplishment whilst setting the stage for the message at the heart of this slice of cinematic pie. Indeed it is with this core idea of honesty, symbolized most famously by the lasso she utilizes, this slice of cinematic pie is able to build a story that is both meaningful and yet also riveting to say nothing of one that seems like it speeds by over the film’s 2 hr, 31 minute runtime. Not only that, but the thematic concept at the heart of this film is one that influences virtually every aspect of the narrative from the reasoning behind our dynamic antagonistical duo’s choices, but also for the arc that Diana goes through in the film as well. This is because whilst dealing with the threats that Lord and Cheetah pose, Diana also has to make a choice following the astonishing reappearance of Steve Trevor in her life that I promise is equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking in the best ways possible. Thus although the morality this film is operating with isn’t exactly subtle in the slightest, its utilization is potent enough to actually have quite a bit of meaning attached to it. Also I think, as I said briefly near the start of this film, another thing that should not be underappreciated in the slightest is just how impactful it is for movie lovers to get the opportunity to witness such an huge, and quite action-potent with some very big and riveting sequences slice of cinematic pie be brought to us with particular regard to this year. I say that because let’s face it dear reader: this year has been one of the worst in a long time in regards to audiences having both little to no big blockbuster cinematic entertainment in their lives and the slices of cinematic pie that we have seen have, by and large, been hindered by lack of either budget, size, or both. To that end, Wonder Woman 1984 is not just a cup of water after you have been wandering around the Sahara for the past 3 days, but a full blown oasis paradise in every sense of the word. Indeed even if you refuse to take into consideration the massive theater closures, the constant shifts on the calendar, and just the overall pandemic, this slice of cinematic pie is still delightfully big and filled to the brim with exciting chases, riveting combat, and some delightful surprises that I can promise you won’t see coming from either a single or 100 miles away.

Now the performances in this film are truly something astonishing in their own right and an equally as integral part of just how this slice of cinematic pie manages to work as well as it ultimately does. Yet in the performances there is something truly special to be found. Yes Chris Pine and Gal Gadot once again shine in their respective roles of Steve Trevor (who incidentally I will NOT tell you how he has come back….nice try though) and Diana/Wonder Woman respectively, but where this movie really manages to hold its own especially when compared to its predecessor is in regards to how terrific its antagonistical forces are especially when you look back at the first film and remember how simply decent, but not great that film’s villainy truly was. Indeed whilst not robbing a single thing from Diana and her narrative, I can safely say that the film gifts both Barbara Ann Minerva and Max Lord with quite thought-provoking and meaningful arcs that in turn actually enable them to make as much of an impression as our titular protagonist. For example one of the nicest positives that this film’s long runtime has going for it is that it actually gives the film the chance to take its time and thus earn Barbara’s inevitable metamorphosis into Cheetah, Wonder Woman’s comic book arch nemesis, since not only does it showcase just how far Barbara goes on her own quest of sorts, but it also permits Kirsten Wiig to show off her acting talents in one of her finest performances so far. Indeed when we first meet her, Wiig is so delightful and lively albeit meek and bookish in every way possible and yet Wiig manages to do some truly incredible work at slowly but surely receding Barbara’s decency and humanity as she begins to go down a rabbit hole of sorts that will eventually see her declaring our titular heroine to be a foe rather than a friend. As for the second individual in our dynamic duo of villainy, I think it is safe to say that even though Max Lord doesn’t exactly change on a physical level like Barbara does, the construction of his character is still just as well done. Indeed by being a less than legit businessman who is functioning in the age of over the top that was the 80s, this is a character that could easily have been a one note villain, but thankfully film helmer Patty Jenkins and character portrayer Pedro Pascal have other ideas. Indeed whilst it would be a lie to say that Lord does have ulterior motives, a really bad case of inflatis egotitis (inflated ego) and some huge character flaws, the movie at the same time does provide him with range so that we see that he is still human in many respects, especially when we see him with his son, and as a result the core conflict of the movie is made a lot more riveting as a result.

All in all it isn’t too much to say that when that first Wonder Woman film came our way all the way back in that long gone year that is 2017, it became an instant sensation and landmark film amongst both those of us who review movies and just the casual moviegoer as well not only in that it’s still tragically not that often we see an entry in the superhero genre led by a female, but also because of how just plain brilliant nearly every aspect of the final product truly was to say nothing of the now iconic moment it gave us in the form of Diana’s trek through No Man’s Land and kicking some serious bad guy butt along the way.  Suffice it to say then that with the character of Diana/Wonder Woman being fairly well established in time for this film, this one doesn’t have a lot of moments on an individual level quite like that one did, but it does have a magic that is truly all its own. A magic incidentally that I feel is rooted in, before anything else, both Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s genuine comprehension about what makes this character as special and, pardon the pun, wonderful as she is and always has been and will be. With that in mind, I am pleased to tell you that Wonder Woman 1984 truly is a wonderful follow-up to an amazing predecessor and was worth every minute I, and movie goers the world over, had to wait for it to arrive in our lives and give us in a year void of magic and wonder just a little bit of it back when we needed it the most. On a scale of 1-5 I give Wonder Woman 1984 a solid 3.5 out of 5.