Friday, December 25, 2020

Wonder Woman 1984

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A young Diana joins an athletic competition in Themyscira and almost bests her older and more experienced contenders, had she not decided to take a shortcut that would jeopardize her victory. Aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) reiterates the importance of fairness and truth, while mother Hyppolyta (Connie Nielsen) reassures her that one day she will be worthy to don the golden winged armor of legendary Amazon warrior Asteria. Flash forward to 1984, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) works at the Smithsonian, her Wonder Woman alter ego surfacing incognito once in a while as your friendly neighborhood superhero, preventing road accidents and stopping small-time mall heists. One of her adventures leads to the discovery of a seemingly fake citrine crystal with a Latin inscription that suggests wish-fulfillment capabilities. Unconvinced, Diana does not openly voice out her wish, yet does so anyway, while insecure colleague Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) secretly desires to be like her new co-worker. Soon enough, they find out that TV personality and Ponzi scheme scammer Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is also after the artifact, leading the duo to dig deeper into the relic’s origins as what they wish for start to come true.

There are films you can watch in the small screen without sacrificing entertainment value. And then there are tent-pole movies that are meant to be enjoyed in a cinema. Wonder Woman 1984 is a worthy sequel belonging to the latter category, unless you have a really good home theater system in place. This makes one wonder how it would have been had WB retained the original December 2019 release date. This could have been the last big blockbuster pre-Corona. Perhaps luck was just not on Diana’s side this time around.

The whole Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) subplot keeps the mood light by providing most of the comic relief, mainly of the fish-out-of-water genre. His return in this sequel has been the subject of heavy speculations and fan theories given how the character died at the end of the first film. While some spoilers manage to get it right, the how’s and the why’s of this particular storyline is further elaborated on in this installment. Levity aside, the character succeeds in grounding Diana and giving her a much-needed layer of humanity, making her more accessible and relatable to us mere mortals.

Fight scenes have always been DC’s Waterloo, and WW84 is no different. Maybe that is just the downside of having super-powered characters onscreen. All they have to do is effortlessly stretch a limb to send someone flying halfway across the room. At least we get to see some of Cheetah in her newfound agile glory, but most of her acrobatic scenes are confined in the final act, and even then, that particular subplot is just too short to be fun. We could have had more of her, seriously.

Cheetah’s origin story is tweaked to be heavily dependent on Maxwell Lord. While Wiig totally commits to and lends credence to Barbara’s cathartic transformation, one could not help but get disappointed by the character development. The way the plot unfolds leaves no necessity for another story arc involving this feline, which is a shame because she could have been developed as an ideal recurring foil for Diana had she gone the reluctant anti-hero route. Too bad she is criminally underutilized here as a one-off villain.

The denouement is rather anti-climactic, taking the build-up into consideration. While we can all agree to disagree that a superhero popcorn flick’s climax need not be action-packed, it is quite unconvincing that such global damage can be undone by mere pep talk. Come on, this is the 1980’s. It’s all about greed. For each and every citizen of the world to suddenly have a collective epiphany on selflessness at the very same moment goes against the very nature of mankind. But then again, that’s what WW embodies after all, right? Faith in humanity. Cheesy, but it moves the plot forward.

The internet is dark and full of spoilers. Even then, there are some pleasant surprises that have managed to evade social media’s omniscient glare, such as that delightful cameo in the only post-credits scene as well as an “invisible” Easter egg from your legacy Wonder Woman lore. It is also evident that DC seems hell-bent in undoing their DCEU misfire, given how this film does not allude to any other DC film, past or future, which is actually a good thing. WW can totally stand on her own, and wonderfully so.

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