After watching Wonder Woman 1984, it would be difficult not to note just how far removed it is from George Orwell’s original text. Another thing worth mentioning is that with the first Wonder Woman film being released back in 2017, you have to ask yourself just how they found time to make the other 1,982 sequels in such a short period, let alone to put them all out.
Awful jokes aside, Wonder Woman 1984 has faced rather a rough ride when it comes to actually reaching an audience – it was pushed back from November 2019 to June 2020, only to have the global Coronavirus pandemic impact on studios’ plans, eventually hitting cinemas in December last year, as well as being made available via ‘on demand’ services in the UK in January this year. Now, Princess Diana of Themyscira has reached physical media, with a slew of bonus content, as the movie comes to Blu-ray and DVD.
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Given how well received the original was, there was always going to be a risk that this would prove to be director Patty Jenkins’ ‘difficult second album’, and reports of there being reshoots carried out rang alarm bells in some quarters; she was also involved in devising the sequel’s storyline, and co-writing the screenplay. Like Wonder Woman, this movie is a period piece; rather than depicting the horrors and atrocities of World War I, however, this time around the focus is firmly upon depicting the horrors and atrocities committed in the name of style and fashion during the mid-1980s.
The Wonder Woman movies form part of the ‘Snyderverse’, which is known for director Zack Snyder’s desaturated and muted colour palette, as seen most recently in Zack Snyder’s Justice League; by choosing to set Wonder Woman 1984 in such a famously luminous, neon decade, there could not be a more marked contrast with Snyder’s visual tone, so it is even more surprising to see Snyder’s name turning up as being an executive producer. However, other directors’ ‘Snyderverse’ films – such as Shazam! and Aquaman – have already made a move into much brighter, more colourful territory.
Whereas Wonder Woman sought to painstakingly recreate the Great War era in a fastidious manner, Wonder Woman 1984 veers more into parody in its realisation of its setting, with so much excess deployed at points, it feels more like an extreme vintage cosplay than faithful rendition. Nowhere is this more apparent than in an early set piece taking place in a typical ‘80s shopping mall, where the whole realisation feels overblown and unreal; for a better, and much more accurate, mall setting for an action sequence, Jenkins et al. could have done themselves a favour by watching Commando.
In fact, the film’s 1980s setting is also rather problematic in terms of what it does to ‘Snyderverse’ continuity. In Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Diana (Gal Gadot) tells Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) she withdrew from the world a century earlier; Bruce also had to piece clues together in order to try and locate her. Here, however, Diana is performing amazing feats in her Wonder Woman persona fully in the gaze of the media and general public, which rather contradicts her later claim. She also has new powers here, which are neither used or mentioned again in any films set after this one.
The story is basically The Monkey’s Paw, using a MacGuffin as a rather contrived way to bring back Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), after the character sacrificed himself in the first film. It all seems a monumentally pointless exercise, as not only does it weaken Diana as a character by reducing her to a load of doe-eyed mooning over Steve, but you also know that – from the other movies which come later – they will have to find a way to just get rid of him again, as he is absent from Diana’s contemporary life, so the whole conceit seems like a massive waste of time and effort.
In terms of Diana’s adversaries, the movie feels overloaded, heading into the sort of unnecessary team-up which marred Spider-Man 3, or Batman & Robin. Maxwell Lord is used as a thinly-veiled Donald Trump substitute, presented here as a sleazy snake oil salesman, embodying the very worst of the decade’s ‘greed is good’ ethos; however, despite of all Lord’s wrongdoing, he is also painted as a sympathetic character at times, acting to earn his son’s love and respect, and to offer the sort of childhood he was denied. Pedro Pascal delivers a wonderfully scenery-chewing turn as Lord, in contrast to his tightly-controlled performance in The Mandalorian.
Lord’s cohort in the movie is Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who becomes the Cheetah, a character who is one of Wonder Woman’s best known villains in the comic books. Wiig has to show the development of Barbara, from a nerdy, bookish and plain geologist and cryptozoologist (giving us a turn not too dissimilar from her role in 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot), to a killer, feral creature; however, all her efforts are rather sadly undone by the character’s final transformation into Cheetah being depicted with perhaps some of the worst CGI used in a superhero blockbuster for some time, and the whole thing is frankly an embarrassment.
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The finished cut of the movie is overlong, and would benefit from a bit of judicious trimming to give it a bit more pace and urgency. However, it should be said Wonder Woman 1984 is not entirely bereft of its charms, and at one level can just be lapped up as a bit of innocuous nostalgia porn for people of a certain age; it also packs in plenty of fights and stuntwork to break things up when it feels that the story is sagging a little at points. At best, Wonder Woman 1984 is like the sugary, E number-laden junk food of the period: it fills a craving at the time, makes you feel good temporarily, but is ultimately just a lot of empty calories.
At least the Blu-ray has a decent selection of extras, which goes some way towards making up for the disappointment of the main feature. A great deal of the behind-the-scenes material – including the obligatory ‘making of’, along with the gag reel – shows the cast and crew having a great time during filming, and this sense of fun spills over into perhaps the best feature on the set: a short video, in the style of the opening credits of The New Adventures Of Wonder Woman from the 1970s; it just seems an awful shame that the main feature feels a bit flat in comparison.