It pains to say, but the follow up to 2017’s spectacular ‘Wonder Woman’ is an abject colossal failure. It’s truly hard to understand what went wrong, but very little works in the sequel, subtitled ‘1984’. At first the promise of a basically immortal protagonist having clandestine adventures in various eras seemed promising. Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot crafted an inspiring tale based on the iconography and charisma of the title character. Here was a hero with both an old fashioned and progressive sensibility – a powerful woman in an age of men at war, set in a period rarely seen in pop art – World War One. Diana’s triumphant emergence from the trenches on the mustard gas hued battlefield was an instantly iconic visual. Unfortunately the film’s sequel finds these frames in short supply as it surprisingly changes focus from the franchise’s centerpiece to make the same mistake of so many comic book movies, and turns its attention to its half-baked, flamboyant villains.
The film starts in a familiar and welcome place, showcasing a decathlon-style competition in which a juvenile Diana competes against adult Amazon warriors in Themyscira. The sequence is thrilling, bombastic and played grand on a home theater setup (AT&T/WB made the unprecedented and controversial decision to release the film simultaneously theatrically and on HBO Max Christmas Day). The action then moves forward many decades with a typical montage found in movies from the 80s and an extended thwarted robbery attempt in a mall, all in service to the year in which this sequel is set. At first it seems that Jenkins and fellow writers Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham are going to create a fun romp in a candy-colored setting, complete with over-the-top villainy in the forms of the bookish Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and business con man Max Lord (Pedro Pascal). Unfortunately what starts out as silly fun devolves into bloated, over-stuffed nonsense, untethered by any coherency at all. Worst of all, the film actively sidelines its star, with minimal action sequences featuring Wonder Woman herself . . .
Directed By: Patty Jenkins
Written By: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, & Dave Callaham
Running Time: 151 min.
* 1/2 (out of four stars) -OR- C-