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‘Wonder Woman 1984’ shoots for the moon, hits more than it misses

The Art of Nerding Out

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“Wonder Woman 1984” comes off like the wish list of scenes and visuals that a bunch of studio executives wanted to see. They rattled off the list then left it to the filmmakers to come up with a plot that includes it all while not lapsing too far into incoherence.

The resulting movie is a mess: disjointed, choppily-paced and, at times, straight-up ridiculous. The miracle here is that director Patty Jenkins cobbles together enough watchable material to keep this movie from completely sinking.

“WW84” catches up with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in the colorful mid-1980s. After befriending her awkward colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), Diana finds herself pulled into a race to stop phony-billionaire huckster Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascale) from acquiring a mystical artifact and destroying society. All while reconnecting with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the long-dead love of her life.

That plot summary may make “WW84” sound overstuffed, but it goes way beyond that. We also get a flashback to Diana’s childhood, a bunch of setup and side plots for the new characters, plus all kinds of nods to “Wonder Woman” history.

All that means the pacing in the movie is incredibly lumpy, especially in the first act where we jump from setup scene to setup scene in ways that don’t feel organic or cohesive. The movie settles down as we roll into the second act, but even then, this movie feels like it could use some streamlining.

Like the first “Wondy” movie, the best stuff in “WW84” usually involves Diana and Steve. Where Diana was the fish out of water in the last film, Steve is now the one who’s awed by everything he sees and Diana is the experienced, world-weary one. It’s a nice role reversal and both Gadot and Pine do their best work in those scenes.

The issues begin as the film moves away from the Diana/Steve scenes. I get the reasoning behind casting Wiig as someone who gets bullied and wants to be super powerful but Wiig’s performance recalls Jamie Foxx’s Electro in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” and that’s not a good thing. Likewise, Pascal’s performance as Lord grates on the nerves a bit in the early scenes, though it works better the more unhinged he gets.

Combine that with lazy dialogue, some curious editing choices during the action scenes and an opening that could be completely chopped off without affecting the story and you’ve got a movie that tries to do an awful lot of things, doesn’t always succeed and winds ups being unfocused as a result.

But when this movie does succeed, it really works. The aforementioned Diana/Steve stuff is affecting, even though you can see where this relationship is going to end up pretty early on in the movie. There are several flying sequences that are breathtaking. Hans Zimmer’s score is at times overblown, but also frequently magnificent. Throw in a cool chase scene and a couple of pretty good laughs, and “WW84” winds up being an overall win.

“Wonder Woman 1984” is currently in theaters and available to stream for free for HBO Max subscribers.

3 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA: Rating: PG-13