The Movie Guru: “Wonder Woman 1984” doesn’t have nearly enough Wonder Woman
I love Pedro Pascal as much as the next girl, but this isn’t supposed to be his movie.
“Wonder Woman 1984,” which premiered Christmas Day in both theaters and on HBO Max, has some great scenes with both Gal Godot’s Diana and Kristen Wiig’s Cheetah. Sadly, we don’t get nearly enough of either because the movie seems far more interested in watching Pascal re-enact his twist on “Wall Street.” It’s an interesting, engaging performance, but it has almost nothing to do with anything else happening in the movie. Worse, the movie’s focus on it throws off the balance everywhere else, leaving both Godot and Wiig trying to cram a full movie’s worth of emotional depth in the scenes they’re allowed to have.
The movie jumps Diana’s life from World War 1 to 1984, where she’s working at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., and contemplating her own desperate loneliness. An interaction with a new, socially isolated co-worker (Wiig) and a seemingly innocuous stone leads to the sudden re-appearance of her lost love Steve Trevor, changes in her potential new friend and questions that could lead the entire world into danger.
Early on, the movie sketches out plenty of narrative potential for Diana. She still misses Steve all these decades later, and the sudden joy of having him back followed by the risk of losing him again could have led to a heartbreaking look at love, life and heroic sacrifice. Her potential friendship with Wiig’s character could have done so much comparing their loneliness and contrasting their different perspectives on the world, taking more time to build a real friendship before the stone came in and changed so many things. Carefully balance them both, and you could have had the framework for a beautiful, gut-wrenching movie.
There are moments when you see the movie that could have been. An early lunch between the two characters is sweet and sad at the same time, while a later scene between Diana and Steve really makes me feel both their love and their pain. Wiig has some fantastic scenes all on her own, tracing her character’s burgeoning confidence and erosion of her kindness with a faintly awkward touch reminiscent of the woman she once was.
If he’d been onscreen less, Lord might have fit into this as well. He’s struggling with some of the same things Diana and Cheetah are, and as an accent piece to the two women he could have deepened and enriched the whole experience. Pascal’s scenes with his character’s son are unexpectedly tender, carrying just the right amount of lingering desperation.
But the movie spends a lot of time watching his villainous rise/downfall, as if seeing all of the many, many steps in his master plan will somehow make it better. Pascal throws himself into his character’s downward slide, but the result is so dramatic that it rapidly overshadows the rest of the movie. During the big finale, he’s the one you can’t look away from.
Which is fine, but it’s Diana I came here to watch.
Wonder Woman 1984
- Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence
- Screenplay by: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham, story by Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns, based on characters created by William Moulton Marston
- Directed by: Patty Jenkins
- Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, and more
- Grade: Two and a half stars (out of four)
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.
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