Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
It’s fair to say DC the Extended Universe has been divisive with fans and critics alike since its origins with 2013’s Man of Steel. Yet it’s almost unanimously agreed on that 2017’s Wonder Woman and Gal Gadot’s portrayal of the heroine are among its best features.
As usual with any casting in the comic book world, people cried foul when it was revealed the Amazonian warrior and her alter ego Diana Prince were to show up in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice played by a then mostly unknown Gadot, yet the actress immediately shut down those negative comments the moment she was introduced.
This, along with the huge success of her 2017 movie – $822.3 million worldwide gross – put a sequel on the fast track, with Gadot announced to be returning in the titular role along with her co-star Chris Pine and director Patty Jenkins. It was later reported the second film moved away from the World War I era to the 80’s and that the villains were to be played by Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig.
Principal photography took place from June to December 2018, an intense six month shoot, with reshoots happening the following year. Work on the project went so well that Jenkins later confirmed the movie was fully completed five months before the original release date of December 13th, 2019, which compelled Warner Bros. to move its premiere a couple of weeks to November 1st, 2019.
Those plans wouldn’t last for long.
Just as it happened with every other movie from 2020, it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, changing its release date 4 other times before finally settling for Christmas Day 2020. However, this was also to bring more important changes for the whole industry. Scared it would be a box office failure because of the closure of theaters around the world and wanting to attract new subscribers for the new HBO Max platform, Warner Bros. announced the sequel would keep a theatrical release while simultaneously being launched in the streaming service at no extra cost for their subscribers.
But thanks to a clause within their contracts, Gadot and Jenkins were each paid $10 million as the movie was expected to have grossed around the same amount as the first movie.
Despite this, the studio declared shortly after that all of their 2021 films – which include high profile projects such as Godzilla Vs. Kong, The Matrix 4, Mortal Kombat and Space Jam 2 – would follow the same HBO Max strategy. Angry retribution from filmmakers and the rest of the industry was fast and furious, with directors like Christopher Nolan (Tenet) calling it “the worst streaming service” while Denis Villeneuve (Dune) openly criticized Warner Bros. and its parent company AT&T, “There is absolutely no love for cinema, nor for the audience here.”
Regardless of its box office intake or critical reception, it seems Wonder Woman 84‘s (referred here also as WW84) legacy is cemented, either as the beginning of the end for movie theaters or the start of a new path.
Being “retro” these days is nothing new. Since the last decade, movies like It Follows and TV Shows like Stranger Things have tried to bring 80’s horror/sci-fi aesthetics and synth soundtracks back to the mainstream. WW84 does the same for superhero movies and unlike Joker and X-Men: Apocalypse (both set in the 80’s), it attempts to recreate the feelings and look left by the movies of that era. So much so, at times I felt I was watching Superman II (the story almost even feels like a ripoff in parts), and that’s both a good and a bad thing.
WW84 is a love letter to big budget filmmaking of that decade, with a brighter and more colorful visual palette as well as a much more positive outlook at life and the meaning of being a superhero, which lends the movie a certain sweet and uplifting quality that has been missing from some comic book adaptations recently.
And while this is certainly a refreshing change of pace now that most superhero movies focus on “realistic” and “edgy” styles, it’s unfortunate that it’s reverence to the 80’s can’t avoid the bad elements such as a general sense of cheesiness and goofiness or dressing montages.
Pascal To The Max
Another interesting aspect brought on by the more harmless perspective of WW84 is how it only deals with antagonists rather than villains. Businessman Max Lord and geologist Barbara Minerva, don’t have evil intentions after all, only an opposite perspective from Diana. Yet only one of these characters succeeds and its mostly due to the strength of its performer: Pedro Pascal.
Thanks to his roles in Game of Thrones, Narcos and The Mandalorian, Pascal has quickly and unexpectedly grown in popularity and WW84 only reinforces why that is; he’s just a lot of fun to watch on screen. Painting Lord as a loser who became rich and is looking for unlimited power lends the character more humanity but its the actors charm and charisma that really lets you empathize with the character, turning what could have been an over the top and corny bad guy into a man you want to see be redeemed.
On a side note, Kristen Wiig is also quite good as Minerva but her character is unfortunately far too inconsistent and underused to be memorable despite her performance.
Wonder & Spectacle
When watching a movie called Wonder Woman, you expect to see some big action and striking visual effects and for the most part it delivers. From a foiled robbery in a mall to the mandatory epic final battle, WW84 is full eye catching imagery and larger than life moments that if anything will keep you entertained for all of its 151 minutes.
Despite many scenes coming close to being ruined on the account of shots that look like they belong in a Revlon commercial, where you almost feel Gadot is going to smile and wink directly at the camera, Jenkins has an eye for big and spectacular action scenes with good special effects, though I suppose that’s kind of to be expected in any superhero movie nowadays.
Ultimately, like with almost every other aspect the movie finds itself in a strange contradiction; for every thing it gets right there’s something within that element that is either hammy, underdeveloped or illogical. Yet its still colorful and fun enough for you to be distracted.
The legendary Hans Zimmer returns from “superhero soundtrack” retirement for a second time after stating Batman V Superman was to be his last only to then say it would be Dark Phoenix. Yet here we are with Wonder Woman 84 and I couldn’t be happier he’s back – again.
After working on the aforementioned scores along with The Dark Knight Trilogy, Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the composer proves once again his talent here. Right from the start this is a wonderfully bombastic and vibrant soundtrack that fits with the movies colorful 80’s look, yet avoids the common mistake for films that try to evoke this era of using too much synth.
Simply put, the music is one of the highlights as Zimmer delivers an uplifting, heroic and old-school score that I hope comes back for future installments.
However, I do have an issue with the film. During two pivotal moments the filmmakers decided to add (or rather keep) music from other composers/movies which only served to cheapen the experience for me, though I understand it won’t be too much of a problem for others. These tracks are Adagio in D Minor by John Murphy from Sunshine (which has already been overused as you can see from this list in a Wikipedia) and I Won’t Leave You by Clinton Shorter from Pompeii.
You might be thinking, “so what? A lot of other movies do this”, and its true, but its usually reserved for filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, whose soundtracks are made up of only compositions from other sources. Here, its most likely that Jenkins or the editor had chosen the music as a temp score (an existing piece of music or audio which is used during the editing phase of television and film production) and either didn’t want to change it or didn’t have the time. And despite both tracks being excellent, it makes the movie feel incomplete and rushed and worse, its in two scenes that should have used Zimmer.
- Hans Zimmer – 1984
- Hans Zimmer – Truth
- Hans Zimmer – Open Road
Does, does everybody parachute now?
Oh, I don’t have a TV.
Well, I have a great relationship with Sears. I can get you a brand-new TV by the end of the day. Nineteen inches. No strings attached.
I’ll stick to the one I don’t have. But thank you.
- The symbol of Nuclear Man from Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) can be seen on the floor of the mall.
- Patty Jenkins picked the 80s as the film’s setting because she saw it as “the height of Western civilization and society, and so it offers the opportunity to explore how Wonder Woman would deal with the types of villains that come from that era.”
- As previously mentioned, actress Gal Gadot was paid $10 million for this film (which she also produces) – 33 times more than what she made on the first film, Wonder Woman (2017) ($300,000).
- Behind the Frame