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Wonder Woman 1984 – Review

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Wonder Woman 1984 image
Warner Bros.

Wonder Woman 1984 has finally graced theatres (and your living room) after several delays, and the reviews are… incongruent. Some people, (and most critics), have just ripped into the film. Most of their critics circle around poor special effects, a ‘weak’ heroine, and a waste of a good villain. But others thought the movie was great. They herald Pedro Pascal’s show-stealing performance, the comedic humour that Chris Pine brings to the stage, and the earnestness of Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince. I personally loved the movie, and while it does have its flaws, I think it is still worthy of a second, third, or fourth watch.

Movies vs. Living Room

I saw this movie twice in theatres (safely of course). Now I typically don’t cry in movies nor do I like rewatching movies, but this one brought me to dripping tears not once, but twice. It was truthfully better on the second watch. Needless to say, the emotional payout is fantastic. But perhaps that could be lost in a home theatre? I’ve also seen many people complain about the poor special effects, which was something I did not notice both times I viewed it. I did have the benefit of seeing it on the big screen, and I would venture to say that half-baked CGI is easier to spot in your living room. While I wasn’t particularly impressed with the effects, I didn’t think much of it. I think it’s safe to say that this movie greatly benefits from being viewed in a movie theatre.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the movie, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

The plot

But let’s dive into the plot of Wonder Woman 1984, and I’ll let you know when I was brought to tears. A couple of things to remember from the first movie. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) aided in ending World War I. Her lover, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) also sacrificed himself to buy her time.

Now it’s 66 years later, and Diana Prince is working in the Smithsonian by day, and saving people from mall heists by night. When a strange stone is brought to the Smithsonian, Diana and her coworker Barbara Minerva (Kristin Wiig) investigate. The inscription says to make a wish, and Diana wishes for Steve back (unaware that it would actually work). Barbara, lonely and awkward, is taken by Diana’s charms and wishes to be like Diana. Little did she know that came with some surprises in the form of Amazonian superpowers.

There’s someone else out for the stone too, fake and floundering oil tycoon Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal.) After obtaining the stone, he wishes to be the stone. Granting wishes for other people, he takes whatever he wants in return. Meanwhile, Diana is shocked to find Steve Trevor at a party. The two of them promenade around D.C., showing the long dead Steve everything that’s new in 1984. The new sexy and confident Barbara is also stunned to learn that she now has super powers. She tests out her new abilities on a man who tried to assault her earlier in the film.

Diana eventually decides that she should probably figure out how a stone brought her dead boyfriend back. While investigating, she finds that the stone grants you your greatest desire, but takes what you value the most in return. Diana has lost her superpowers, Barbara has lost her kind nature, and Maxwell is losing his health with every wish he grants.

Consequences

As Maxwell continues to grant wishes, the world begins to fall apart, spiralling Russia and the United States into nuclear war. At the same time his relationship with his young son Alistair (Lucian Perez), who just wishes for his father’s success, is falling apart.

Diana learns that to save the world, the stone either needs to be destroyed or everyone needs to renounce their wish. Both Barbara and Diana refuse to do so, with Barbara taking up a bodyguard like role for Maxwell. When it becomes clear that the world is in great peril, and Diana cannot save it without her powers, Steve pleads with her to renounce her wish. She declares heartbreakingly that she will “never love again,” and Steve assures that he is “already gone.” Cue the waterworks. Diana renounces her wish, saying goodbye to Steve forever and learns to fly, paired with a stunning score by Hans Zimmer.

Showdown

She has a showdown with Barbara, who has wished to become an “apex predator,” stepping into the role of Cheetah. After knocking her out with some cool gold armour, she goes after Maxwell, who is broadcasting to the entire world. Everyone in front of a screen is making a wish, Maxwell is becoming increasingly more powerful, and the world is about to face nuclear war.

Diana starts a beautiful monologue, agreeing that she’s no better than anyone else. She wants her wish so terribly, but she has to accept the truth that Steve is dead. She declares that while the truth is hard to face, this world is too beautiful to fill with deceitful desires at the cost of what is true. We see Maxwell’s troubled childhood, his dream for a better life and to provide for his son, and then we finally see Alistair himself. He’s alone on a freeway, calling for his father as a nuclear missile hurdles his way. (I cried here too.)

Maxwell finally sees the cost of his wishes and renounces his wish, along with everyone else who was moved by Diana’s speech. Maxwell reunites with his son, who is glad that his wish for his father to come home worked. Tearful, Maxwell says that “you don’t need to make a wish for me to love you.” Alistair responds with “you don’t need to do anything for me to be proud of you, I’m proud of you because you are my dad.” (The third time the waterworks started). Diana has saved the world once more.

Diana and Steve

Now some people complain that having Diana pine after the same man for over sixty years undermines the feminist nature of Wonder Woman. That she should not be defined by her relationship to a man. I disagree. Diana can love Steve, and still be independent. She has proved throughout the film that she is more than capable of being independent.

Diana never tried to date again because she had already found someone whom she loved dearly, no one else met those standards. She never settled. Diana never needed Steve, he was someone that she wanted. And that’s the point. Diana has always put others above herself, and now she wanted desperately to be selfish for once; she said as much in the film. I think getting to speak to Steve again after his sudden death, and then say a proper goodbye, provided her much needed closure to move on. At its core, this movie isn’t about cool fight scenes or new armour. It’s about Diana working through her grief, and I found that beautiful.

Cheetah

Another complaint is that they drastically misused Cheetah. She is a famous and long-lasting Wonder Woman villain. In this film though she was Cheetah for all of five minutes, and was thrown in there so that Diana could have a “boss battle.” Maxwell Lord isn’t really a villain to throw punches with. And I agree with this.

Cheetah probably should have had her own movie and is too good of a villain to waste as the special henchman. That being said, I think Wiig’s performance of Barbara was fantastic. She was terrifyingly relatable. I’m not sure that I would have acted differently given the circumstances (although I would not have wished to become a cat.) I also think that there is room for Cheetah to return. Barbara becomes just plain old Barbara again at the end of the film, but she’s not dead. I could see a future where she tries desperately to get that power back.

Maxwell Lord

I haven’t seen anyone disagree with this. Pedro Pascal was incredible in this film. His character is just a man who gets overzealous with power, always wanting more. But at the end, seeing where he came from, and his heartbreaking reunion with his son makes the character incredibly relatable.

Here’s my hot take. Marvel does heroes well and struggles with villains. DC does heroes… ok, but has the best villains. Maxwell was truly an amazing villain in Wonder Woman 1984, and Pascal was the stand out actor in this film. He and Diana show the big picture of this film, lies vs. truth. He had been lying to everyone, including himself, from day one. Not only did that almost destroy him, but the world. It gets to the heart of the film, that facing the truth and moving forward honestly is always more powerful than deceit and greed. It’s a message that is topical and applicable to both the state of the world and the human heart.

Moving forward

The film briefly mentioned Asteria, an ancient Amazonian warrior. Diana uses her armour at the end of the film. The post-credit scene introduced us to her, played by Wonder Woman alum herself, Lynda Carter. How it fits into the DCEU is pretty cut and dry, as it takes place before any current DCEU movies, but this end cameo expands the Wonder Woman universe. I think it would be really fun to see Lynda Carter take on a bigger role alongside Gal Gadot in later films.

Cheesy, but Amazing

So here’s my conclusion on Wonder Woman 1984, I loved it. Yes, the movie is a little cheesy, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. I think it benefits comic book movies to lean into that cheese a little bit. While the film does have flaws, I think it expanded and challenged Diana and had a heartfelt, unique message. I highly encourage anyone to go see it. Just bring a tissue box.


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10


Thanks for reading our Wonder Woman 1984 review. Did you like the film? Did you see it at home or in the cinema? Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Read more of our DCEU articles HERE.

Read IMDB information about Wonder Woman 1984 HERE.

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No Time To Die – Review

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James Bond No Time To Die image
Metro Goldwyn Mayer

No Time To Die is the 25th instalment in the official James Bond series. It’s the VERY long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s Spectre. The 6-year gap between the two films is only matched by the same gap between Timothy Dalton’s last outing in 1989’s Licence To Kill and Pierce Brosnan’s debut in 1995’s Goldeneye. Here’s our review of No Time To Die.

SPOILERS: If you’re reading this then you’ve probably seen the film, but if not there are spoilers ahead.

Of course, there are mitigating factors in that enormous gap. Namely COVID. Which made No Time To Die the first major film to delay its release due to the pandemic. Although, this film has had a difficult gestation irrespective of the global situation in the last 18 months. As soon as Spectre was released the speculation over Daniel Craig’s future in the role began. With him initially suggesting he would rather slash his own wrists than play the iconic spy again. He did a mea culpa on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show in August 2017, where he confirmed he would appear as Bond for a fifth and final time. The original director and writer, Danny Boyle and John Hodge, left the project a year later over creative differences. Cory Joji Fukunaga took over as director. While Bond script veterans Robert Wade and Neil Purvis took charge of the screenplay – with a sprinkling of magic from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Delays

Originally slated for release in April 2020, at long last, we finally get to see Daniel Craig’s denouement as 007. His portrayal of Bond has been very much in keeping with the character of Ian Fleming’s original novels. His performances have certainly followed the dramatic lineage of Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton. Rather than the lighter portrayals by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan. Yet his Bond has displayed a vulnerability only really demonstrated with any plausibility by George Lazenby in his solitary outing as 007 in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

The deference to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is presented in stark relief throughout this 2h43min epic. Making this the longest Bond film in the series. As this was the first film I’ve seen at the cinema since before the pandemic, I was already excited before I even sat down. As a massive James Bond fan as well, I was close to apoplexy! I felt a tangible shiver go down my spine as the iconic gun barrel sequence appeared before we see James cruising around Italy in the classic DB5 with Madeleine Swann at his side. This anticipation was clearly felt by other cinema-goers. They have made No Time To Die break the UK box office record for the biggest opening weekend. It took almost £26m, breaking the record previously held by Skyfall.

I’m not going to spoil the plot for those who’ve not seen it. I had made a conscious decision to avoid spoilers before I went.

A step up?

This film is another shot in the arm for those who see Craig as the definitive Bond. This was aided by a refocusing of the Bond canon after the main tropes of the series were stretched to breaking point by the invisible cars and melting ice palaces of Die Another Day. And then stretched still further by Madonna’s cameo as a fencing instructor. Daniel Craig was given leeway to truly regenerate James Bond for the 21st Century. The stripped-back nature of Casino Royale, without most of the supporting characters that have been a staple of the series like Q and Moneypenny. Gave him licence (pardon the pun) to explore the deepest and darkest recesses of the Bond psyche. Some well-drawn female leads and villains really allowed Craig’s Bond to spar with them with depth and genuine emotion.

That exploration continues and grows in No Time To Die. We get to see an ageing, truly world-weary Bond, whose past he appears unable to escape. This leaves him in a state of almost constant angst. Paradoxically though, we also see him truly relaxed at times. In a way I can’t recall ever seeing James Bond in any of his previous cinematic outings.

Screen time

The issue with that exploration is that a number of characters then have their screen time cut. Moneypenny is reduced to little more than a cameo. And Remi Malek’s Safin is almost secondary as he features in the opening moments as his story is told, but then disappears for what seemed like an eternity. He of course reappears but he almost seems a mild irritation within the plot and merely a conduit to allow us to see the climax of Daniel Craig’s Bond era. It’s a disappointing underuse of a terrific actor. One with a captivating screen presence, who could have been one of the most menacing Bond villains of all time. That said, the influence of his dastardly but highly sophisticated plan is felt by all of the main protagonists. Christoph Waltz’s Blofeld continues to wreak his havoc with malevolent glee from his cell. He again revels in the chaos of his twisted sibling rivalry with Bond.

Lea Seydoux is wonderful again as Dr Madeleine Swann, picking up where she left off in Spectre and giving Bond as good as he gets in every way imaginable.

There are new characters who definitely cut through. Ana De Armas is utterly charming in her relatively brief time on-screen as Paloma, while Lashana Lynch takes no nonsense from Bond as Nomi. She also gives us a potential indicator as to the future direction of the franchise. Which has been the subject of much discussion in all quarters. That debate has even made its way into the political sphere with even Boris Johnson weighing in on what gender the next actor to play 007 should be.

Score

Hans Zimmer’s score is classic Hans Zimmer, adding power and bombast to the usual mix of stunning scenery and brilliantly choreographed stunts. He brilliantly weaves nods to previous entries in the Bond musical tapestry throughout his score. While his cues are always thunderous, they never overpower the action on screen, but do add a sonic rumble that I don’t think has been heard in a Bond score for quite some time. I found Fukunaga’s direction a bit mixed, with some of the cinematography unnecessarily showy. Some of the tracking shots almost gave me motion sickness while some (admittedly beautifully composed) shots of the scenery seemed to have made the edit purely so as whoever the drone operator was could demonstrate their skills.

Duration

The film is much too long, although at no point did I check my watch. It’s not that any of the plot points are superfluous, more that the pacing is a little slow in places. Some of the dialogue feels cliched and clunky, making what is a great story feel a tad generic. Which doesn’t do anyone justice. However, there were some excellent jokes, and I laughed out loud several times. You don’t have to be a 007 super fan to get some of the self-referential humour that they seem to enjoy sprinkling throughout the film.

Billie Eilish’s theme song is a worthy addition to the collection and certainly sits comfortably within the top half of the ‘Bond Theme Chart’. It’s definitely more memorable and evocative than Sam Smith’s ‘Writing On The Wall’ for Spectre. Her voice trembles at times as you can almost feel she recognises the significance of singing the theme for Daniel Craig’s final appearance in the franchise.

It was also very pleasing to see that this film has moved with the times and reflects the world of 2021 with its portrayal of women. Every single female character had a genuine purpose and important role within the plot. While of course, the female actors playing those roles are all irrefutably glamorous and attractive. There was genuine respect and no objectification of women.

Wrapping up

I came out of the screening with mixed emotions. Glad to be back in the cinema on one hand, sad that Daniel Craig’s stint ordering Martini’s was over on the other. I was pleased that such a good climax had been created to bring this era of Bond to a close, and all its story arcs had been brought to conclusions. I’m also excited and apprehensive in equal measure for the future of such an iconic film series. But I was disappointed with some of the characters not getting the necessary screen-time to truly develop their characters. Surprisingly, I was almost tearful at the final few moments, especially as the credits rolled.

Overall, this is a loving homage to the James Bond series, past and present. It’s a solid if unspectacular film in its own right, but the performances of Daniel Craig and Lea Seydoux, as well as the Bond history it wraps itself in, elevate it beyond that.

It’s not Craig’s best Bond film, as Skyfall is almost untouchable in my opinion, but it does bring closure to his tenure in the tuxedo in a manner that should please Bond fans across the board. It also tantalises us as to what the 6th age of Bond will look like. Let the intense speculation begin!


CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 7/10


Thank you for reading our review of James Bond No Time To Die. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.


Check out who we think could be the next James Bond and why HERE.

Read IMDB information about No Time To Die HERE.

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