It has been a hard year.
For many of us, 2020 has been a year of challenge.
A pandemic. Isolation. Financial hardship. Uncertainty. A lack of connection. Political instability. An election that seemingly never ends.
My hard year started just a little bit before 2020, an unexpected hospitalization leading to limb loss and a holiday season spent largely alone even before the world joined me in a state of forced solitude. My hard year continued with months of rehab as I re-learned even the most basic tasks. I returned to work for a single week, feeling triumphant yet unsure only to be sent home after that week after the severity of the pandemic tightened its grip.
Then, in May my one and only sibling passed away after a year-long journey with pancreatic cancer.
Finally, here I am. It's a year later and I sit here in my home on Christmas Eve having spent a good majority of the past year alone still adjusting to my new physical changes, an extended isolation, and a lack of support impacting my daily experiences. My Christmas tree, a gift from anonymous friends who had it delivered, is lit up with white lights and a few ornaments even though it's nearing mid-morning and the only one who can see it and feel it and smell it is me.
I want to believe in goodness. I need to believe in goodness. I have so many dark, traumatic memories of Christmases past and they take hold this time of year. I'm not sure how you further paralyze a paraplegic, but these memories turn me into emotional mush torn between a need to connect and a desire to wilt away.
It is into this hard year that Diana Prince arrives once again. Wonder Woman 1984, twice delayed yet highly anticipated, dares to enter this pandemic-influenced world with her heroism and wisdom and strength and courage fully intact. She is, almost undeniably, not as dazzling and awe-inspiring as she was the first time we truly encountered her in Wonder Woman yet I'd dare say within that richness of humanity meets superheroic otherwordliness she is exactly what we need right now.
Christopher Nolan himself was humbled by this very world, the complexity and special effects of Tenet no box-office match for a world where even sitting next to another human being could very lead to a life-changing or life-ending infection. Yet, here we are months later. A good majority of movie theaters are still closed, or severely limited, and Wonder Woman 1984 arrives for both a theatrical release and a streaming life on HBO Max. Wonder Woman 1984 is most certainly not meant to be seen on HBO Max, yet Wonder Woman 1984 is most definitely meant to be seen.
The film is set right around 70 years after Wonder Woman and let me assure you that Diana Prince hasn't aged a bit. She's working as a cultural anthropologist at the Smithsonian, grief for Steve (Chris Pine) still intense and her main do-gooding done quietly and in a way that sets the film's decidedly retro-tone and aura. An early jewelry store heist gives us just about everything we love about Diana, aka Wonder Woman, as her golden lasso captures the hearts and minds of young girls and older women alike.
Diana works alongside Barbara (Kristen Wiig), whose nerdish ways and seemingly genetic tics are simply no doubt a bridge to somewhere else to be revealed and there's never any doubt that Wiig's presence here is meant to fuel the film's lighter tone and occasional, and I'd say hit-and-miss, bits of humor. It's impossible to not like Wiig, though she's not given nearly enough to do here and not nearly the range of which she's capable. Still, she takes a one-note role and gives it one or two more.
The real gem here, other than Gadot herself, is Pedro Pascal as Max, the obligatory megalomaniac in search of more money and more power and who discovers a way to achieve it all. It's far-fetched yet glorious and Pascal makes the most of it all with a gleam in his eye and a spark in his physicality. Pascal without question understands the tone that returning director Patty Jenkins is going for here and he full-on brings it to life.
It's no secret that Chris Pine makes an appearance here, though how it all comes to life will certainly not be revealed by this critic. It's best experienced, though credit to Jenkins along with co-writers Geoff Johns and David Callaham for somehow making it all make sense as much as a story based upon a comic book can actually make sense.
I mean. C'mon. Do you really go to these films because they make sense?
The 80's time period is used to the film's advantage, while the lighter tone works nicely primarily because of Wiig's natural humor and Gadot's natural likability. Wonder Woman 1984 never dives full-on into humor. It's certainly not Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, or even Thor: Ragnarok. It's simply an action film with heart and humor and a strange amount of cinematic humility.
At 2 1/2 hours, Wonder Woman 1984 overstays its welcome but it does so with an abundance of good cheer and such an enthusiastic heart and belief in humanity that it's simply impossible to resent it. After the last year, I'm more than willing to immerse myself in goodness and positivity for an extra 30-40 minutes or so even if it does dilute the story a bit and prove to be more than a little unnecessary.
Bring it on.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a good film that never flirts with greatness. It's a film that expresses belief in humanity even when humanity doesn't really deserve it. It's a film that often chooses forgiveness over revenge and even typing these words brings a smile to my face. It's a film with a good heart, studio-compromised action sequences that occasionally contradict that good heart, but such a winning ensemble cast that in the end what you really, really remember is the true wonder in Wonder Woman 1984.
While Wonder Woman 1984 may not be everything we want it to be, it may, most importantly, be everything we need it to be.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic