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WONDER WOMAN 1984 review by Victoria Alexander

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

What happen to Wonder Woman? She is a supporting character not given much to do.

What happened to Wonder Woman? The film starts off in Themyscira, where the island’s athletic games are being held. What is the prize? Apparently, anyone can compete, yet only pre-teen Diana (Lilly Aspell) is in the competition with adult women. For the briefest of screen time we see Diana’s mother, Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), who is also the Queen of the Amazons, and Diana’s aunt, mentor and secret trainer, Antiope (Robin Wright). All our questions about the island would have made a nice opening instead of watching young Diana’s true nature for winning at any cost exposed.

When the film moves to 1984 we are in an American mall, where Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is using her powers to rescue a kitten, help an old lady with her packages and stumble upon a pair of thieves while winking at a child.

Somehow our adult Diana has accomplished a great deal since defeating the Germans in World War l. Diana is now in Washington, D.C. working in the archeology department of the Smithsonian Museum. How Diana managed such a career or the time shift is unnecessary exposition, since Amazonian goddesses are ageless and immortal. College, anyone? Diana’s expertise is required when an ancient stone artifact is saved from going off to a private collector, is brought to the Smithsonian for analysis. There is something creepy yet enchanting about the stone artifact. In no way it appears like a lamp that grants wishes. I wonder if Warner Brothers sent copies of the artifact to certain beloved film critics?

This artifact has a history and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is after it. Apparently, he knows it’s power to grant wishes. Max is a well-known celebrity due to his ever-running TV commercials. He is hawking his Black Gold Oil Cooperative, which has not been able to find anything but dirt. His chief investor is angry and refuses to continue financing him. Max might be a snake oil salesman but he has a deep love for his son and a personality flaw due to his abusive childhood. His father branded him a “loser”. We start to feel sorry for him.

The charm of Wonder Woman previously formed by director Patty Jenkins is gone. Diana’s era-defying wardrobe is too slick and imposing to display any of her formerly showcased delightful persona. She is distant, remote and unfriendly.

Now here is where Jenkins fails her star. What happened between them? It is clear from Jenkins’ direction that her “fascination” with Gadot is over. (Jenkins’ refusal to direct WW1984 unless she was paid her legitimate value may have caused friction and Warner Brothers preferential treatment of Gadot as a superstar, may have affected the way she was directed - or not directed - by Jenkins.) There are very few beauty shots of Gadot and she is not filmed or directed to give her character any vitality. Diana is rather lackluster. She does a lot of standing around with a blank look on her face while draped in flowing satin shirts and pants. Diana is distant and unapproachable.

Diana’s wish is to bring back her true love, Steve. She has been alone for 70 years! And then, when confused and befuddled Steve (Chris Pine) shows up from the dead, Diana loses her place as first chair violinist.

Regardless of my opinion, Jenkins will direct the just announced third Wonder Woman film starring Gal Gadot. Jenkins will also direct Gadot as Cleopatra and as noted by, “This will be Gal Gadot’s first writing credit for a film as she’s the one who came up with the take of the story for this film version’s interpretation of Cleopatra’s narrative.” Famous French mathematician Blaise Pascal famously remarked, “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”

The museum is where Diana meets newly arrived analyst Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a clumsy geologist. Barbara is a sloppy mess without any sense of style and with frumpy, decades old clothes and hairstyle. She is also lacking confidence in her chosen field. Wigg goes way over the top while Gadot looks bemused by Wiig’s wild performance. Usually, someone like Barbara would have a clear sense of her significant academic accomplishments to be called in by the F.B.I. and defiant in her appearance. Yet, looking at the perfectly groomed Diana waltzing confidently around in spike heels, Barbara yearns for everything Diana has. That’s Barbara’s wish.

And rightfully, anyone who looks like Diana will have an easy stroll through Washington D.C.’s social corridor. Diana cannot go anywhere without men stopping dead in their tracks to gaze at her. Diana, in goddess mode - her father is Zeus, after all - is only annoyed by the attention. Max dangles a large donation to the museum and quickly sizes up the vulnerable Barbara. Looking around for the stone artifact, he asks Barbara if he could “borrow it” for awhile and she agrees.

While I complain about Jenkins direction of Gadot, I really liked the story. Alladdin’s lamp, The Three Wishes fairy tale and Pinocchio have a universal human frailty at its core: if only wishes came true! Make a wish and blow out the candles! Wish upon a star. It’s called “magical thinking” and we are all guilty of believing wishes can come true.

However, WW1984 adds the twist only Max knows about - you have to give up something in return. Here the writers introduce the ugly baby: you can take back your wish. Can you buy back your soul from Satan?

Max has an inspired plan that verves into the White House, the Star Wars program, the Red Button and Elon Musk’s wish to buy Facebook cheap.

Barbara’s wish to be just like Diana turns her into a formidable adversary, a.k.a., Cheetah, and admittedly, it’s really too cool to even consider renouncing.

Bringing Steve back in another man’s body means Diana’s powers will start diminishing. Using another’s man body without his approval sounds like a date-rape crime. Diana’s battle with Cheetah is the big finish but her plea for urging Barbara to take back her wish is silly. All Diana can say is that Barbara is losing her kindness and other traits of goodness. If that is what Barbara has given up for world power next to Max, it’s not worth considering. We didn’t see Barbara feed the homeless or be a Big Sister to under-privileged girls. She didn’t even bother to say hello to her fellow staff at the Smithsonian.

Who can watch, as I have, all that Pedro Pascal has done since GAME OF THRONES, Season 4, without seeing him as the sexy Oberyn Martell? Jenkins lavishes Pascal with a big opportunity to express his character’s inner strife and progressive mania. He does not have a true villain’s quest for power, but a personal need to overcome his inadequate self-worth. But once his brilliant wish takes over, he is at it’s mercy.

How come the world constantly needs saving by superheroes? Why not have one superhero conquer world hunger or clean Hong Kong of smug? Why is the world always nearing total collapse?

Gal Gadot, as Wonder Woman, is not given much screen time and is not the focus of WW1984. Kristen Wiig uses her time as Cheetah to evoke a strong villainess woman. Having Barbara as an accomplished scientist means her intelligence regards the transformation into Cheetah outranks Wonder Woman. And Cheetah can even climb buildings in stilettos.

Regarded as a Class A director now, Jenkins true fame still rests with her 2003 stunning film MONSTER. Jenkins is an anointed Hollywood director and her Cleopatra, Wonder Woman 3 and Star Wars movies will all follow the set-in-stone formula. That could be Jenkins’ wish but in my opinion, she gave all her creativity to Charlize Theron.

For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to: Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:

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