This year for Christmas, you didn’t need to leave the house to enjoy a blockbuster film on its opening day. (Actually, unless you wanted a drive-in experience or to travel across state lines, you couldn’t leave the house this Christmas to enjoy a blockbuster film.) Thankfully, Wonder Woman 1984 was released simultaneously on HBO Max and in theaters
The movie is definitely a spectacle best viewed on a big screen, so reducing it to home-theater size, while not a total detriment, hurts the film. It screams for a big screen or IMAX—even when the CGI takes a tragic downturn into pitiful. Fortunately, the character portrayals and moral struggles work fine on any screen, so WW84 winds up being a superhero-film sequel that falls somewhere in the middle of the pack.
The good: Gal Gadot continues to be fantastic as Wonder Woman, the Amazonian goodness forced to go through life without her true love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who died in the first movie. It’s 1984, and while hair is big, and pants are parachuting, Diana Prince is timeless. The script, co-written by director Patty Jenkins, gives Gadot a chance to go deeper with the character—and she straight-up shines.
As Barbara Minerva and, eventually, Cheetah, Kristen Wiig makes a great villain: She’s sensitive, funny and, when appropriate, totally depraved. Pedro Pascal is equally good as Maxwell Lord, a Donald Trump/Tony Robbins sort who gets hold of a wishing stone. While the stone grants a single wish, it also makes one pay for that wish.
The wishing stone plays into Steve Trevor’s return, Barbara becoming Cheetah, and Max gaining world power. The stone is an OK premise, but there are a lot of moral ambiguities when it comes to Steve. Bah … no matter: It’s good to have Pine back in the saddle.
The film’s 1984 setting works great for the opening shopping-mall sequence, but it doesn’t play much into the movie otherwise. The finale involves some ’80s nuclear-war paranoia, but it also involves a terrible-looking CGI cheetah that nearly derails all the good that happened before.
Still, seeing Gadot and Pine together again makes the movie worthwhile. Wiig is terrific with some of her best screen work to date, which overshadows the CGI screw-up. Enough action scenes pop.
Wonder Woman 84 isn’t as good as the first one, but it is worlds better than the likes of other DC Comics fare like Suicide Squad, Aquaman and Justice League. Despite glaring flaws, it’s worth a watch.
Wonder Woman 84 is now streaming on HBO Max. It’s now playing at the Coachella Valley Drive-In (at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs) and the Mary Pickford Drive-In Experience (68651 Grove St., Cathedral City).