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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a concrete poem, one that is written in the shape of its topic. These are always tricky for me, but I opted for the shape of a prominent letter befitting this film.)

What is                                                                                       a hero?
  Someone                                         who                                sees
    What needs                             doing and                      does,
        Who knows                    what    they’re             losing
               And loses            that             others,      even
                  Strangers,      may                     win,  maybe
                       Never knowing                        the name
                              Of their                                   hero.

MPA rating:  PG-13

Like many others, I was quite impressed with 2017’s Wonder Woman and thought it signaled an overdue increase in entertainment value for DC’s superhero lineup. Gal Gadot was perfectly cast as the idealistic Diana, her chemistry with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor provided sacrificial pathos by the end, and the World War I setting was a unique contrast to all the modern superhero settings. So there was good reason to think that Wonder Woman 1984 would be a similar success, which only makes its failings more disappointing.

Set in 1984 (obviously), this second adventure sees Wonder Woman contending with less impressive threats than the Olympian god she took down in the first film. Pedro Pascal plays a desperate businessman Max Lord, who uses a wishing stone to gain the power to grant wishes himself, always with an unpleasant twist to them, while Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is the recipient of one of those wishes, a clumsy geologist whose initial hero worship for Wonder Woman turns to resentment as she becomes the confident Cheetah. Of course, Diana gets a wish of her own as well, which enables the return of her long-lost love Steve, albeit in a way that is problematic for long-term happiness.

There was a good movie somewhere in the pitch for Wonder Woman 1984, but it got lost in the overload of themes and complete lack of subtlety. There are some decent action scenes, like during a truck chase in Egypt, while one set in a mall is laughably mediocre in tone and execution. Both Lord’s monkey-paw-style mania and Barbara’s descent into villainy have good moments as well, with Pascal’s smarmy façade especially fitting his character to a T, yet their final confrontations with Wonder Woman are too chaotic with obvious CGI to be taken seriously. The moral of the wish storyline especially falls flat, implying that everyone would only wish for evil things if given the chance (President Reagan is literally shown wishing he had more nukes as opposed to something like, I don’t know, world peace), and it’s bewildering how incoherent the finale is, with Barbara somehow getting a second wish and both Lord and Diana somehow speaking to everyone on Earth via a satellite.

I went into Wonder Woman 1984 wanting to like it and did enjoy seeing Steve reunited with Diana and introduced to the 1980s, but not even the same director and stars from the first film could save a plot this half-baked. It does have some silly-enough-to-be-entertaining appeal, though. Gadot is still an ideal Wonder Woman, so I hope she can still get a worthy sequel at some point. I’d wish for it, but now I know that can be risky.

Best line: (Max Lord, repeatedly) “Life is good! But it can be better.”

Rank: Honorable Mention (since I’d still probably watch it again.)

© 2022 S.G. Liput
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