Wonder Woman 1984 Review

I wish Wonder Woman 1984 wasn’t the disjointed viewing experience that it mostly is. I wish it had the humor that landed in the 2017 pic and the sweet love story between its heroine and her man that was well-developed. Here the humor seems forced as does the interplay between Gal Gadot’s title character and WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). This is a sequel that feels like busywork and it’s devoid of, yes, some of the wonder that made the original a bright spot in the DC Extended Universe.

1984 means leg warmers and action sequences set in shopping malls. It also means part 2 picks up nearly seven decades later. Gadot’s Diana fills her days as an anthropologist at the Smithsonian and her nights pining for the long departed Steve. Of course, she also does some Wonder Woman stuff in between. When she thwarts a jewel heist in one of those sprawling shopping structures, it turns out the thieves were really after some black market artifacts that weren’t on display. That includes an ancient “Dreamstone” of Latin origin that grants wishes no matter how dangerous they might be. For Diana, it means bringing her lost love back. This is handled by Pine returning in the form of some random DC dude. While Pine’s courtship with Diana was a high point the first time around, the actor is now relegated to gawking in wide eyed disbelief at rocket ships and escalators. His participation here never smacks of anything more than plot device mechanics and that’s a letdown. He does get a reverse Pretty Woman style sequence in which he tries on pirate looking shirts and fanny packs in front of his nonplussed girlfriend. So there’s that.

Of course, this “Dreamstone” leads to nefarious actions from others. Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) is a failed businessman who’s known for cheesy infomercials. His acquiring of the artifact allows him to amass significant power and oil. He also has a young son that he’s desperately trying to impress and that results in some mawkish moments. And there’s Kristin Wiig as Barbara. She’s Diana’s supremely unconfident geologist coworker. Barbara feels invisible until her interaction with the Stone makes her as tough and beautiful as her fellow employee. Unfortunately her power trip partners her with the megalomaniac Max and his misguided plans. For Wiig, Barbara is one of those characters who immediately becomes attractive once her big glasses and frumpy dress go by the wayside. She’s simply not a memorable villainess. There are shades of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman from Batman Returns, but she’s not written nearly as potently.

Pascal’s Max is another story. I can’t say he’s not memorable because the performer portraying him goes way over the top in doing so. I think Pascal knows how much he’s hamming it up and his go for broke attitude does provide a bit of fun. That’s welcome because it’s in short supply. I might volley back and forth on whether he’s actually great or kinda terrible here, but it’s a performance worth mentioning. That’s more than I can say for everyone else.

For two and a half hours, 1984 often forgets to bring the joy. There’s a make it up as we go along vibe that wasn’t as noticeable when Patty Jenkins helmed the first (she returns here and is one of three cowriters).

Wonder Woman 1984 is all about how you can’t get ahead by cheating and lying (a prologue featuring some familiar faces from part 1 makes that message clear). The following 150 minutes hammers it home with convenient and haphazard storylines that, ironically, sometime feel like cheats. I wish this came close to the quality of Gadot’s first stand-alone venture, but we are left waiting and wanting in 1984. 

** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Wonder Woman 1984

After experiencing COVID-19 related delays, Warner Bros. is finally unveiling their superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984 on Christmas in theaters and HBO Max. Needless to say, this is certainly one of the most anticipated 2020 releases as the 2017 predecessor was a critical hit and massive blockbuster (making over $800 million worldwide). Patty Jenkins returns as director with Gal Gadot back in the title role and Chris Pine reprising his role. Costars include Kristin Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, and Connie Nielsen.

Two and a half weeks ahead of its unveiling, the review embargo has lifted and signs are encouraging. The current Rotten Tomatoes meter stands at an impressive 89% (just slightly lower than the 93% achieved by part 1). There are some gripes about over length, but reviewers are mostly calling it a nostalgic blast. Could the second coming from the warrior goddess also known as Diana garner any awards attention?

It is worth noting that Wonder Woman 2017 received no Oscar nominations. That said, the amount of eye-popping blockbusters in 2020 is smaller than any other year in recent memory. This could mean that 1984 could pop up in technical races including Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound, and Visual Effects. The first two categories could be a bit more doubtful while Sound and Visual Effects seem like solid possibilities. Gadot’s hero will compete with another Warner Bros. superhero property in those races with Birds of Prey (released just before the pandemic outbreak).

I do not expect that this will play in the big awards derbies. There was some chatter three years ago that part 1 could get a Best Picture nod, but it never materialized. Black Panther still stands as the only superhero property to play in that race and Wonder Woman 1984 is highly unlikely to be the second. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

 

Oscar Watch: If Beale Street Could Talk

One of the most eagerly awaited titles screening at the Toronto Film Festival has premiered in the form of If Beale Street Could Talk, the third directorial feature from Barry Jenkins. As you may recall, his second film Moonlight took home the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016 in rather memorable fashion over La La Land.

Beale Street is based on a James Baldwin novel and set in mid 70s Harlem. The pic sports a large ensemble cast led by Stephan James and Kiki Layne alongside Regina Hall, Colman Domingo, Teyonah Parris, Pedro Pascal, Diego Luna, Ed Skrein, and Dave Franco. Early reviews suggest this could be a player in multiple categories, including Best Picture and Director. In down the line races, it could be recognized for its score from Nicholas Britell as well as Cinematography, Editing, and Production Design. Jenkins could also contend for his Adapted Screenplay. While most critical reaction is strong, some have said it doesn’t quite match up to Moonlight. That said, we shall see if that particular buzz changes in the coming weeks and I feel pretty secure marking it for Picture consideration.

As for the cast, that’s a little murkier. James and Layne are receiving positive notices, but both the lead acting races seem awfully crowded. Both Hall and Parris could contend in Supporting Actress, but that too is far from guaranteed.

Bottom line: If Beale Street Could Talk likely did what it needed to do to be in the Picture and Director mix, while acting nods are a bit less clear.

The film opens domestically on November 30. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Equalizer 2 Box Office Prediction

Denzel Washington is back in action mode when The Equalizer 2 is released next weekend. In his decades long career filled with numerous hits, this is actually the first ever sequel for the star. Antoine Fuqua is back directing and it’s the fourth collaboration between two after 2001’s Training Day (for which Washington won an Oscar), 2014’s The Equalizer, and 2016’s The Magnificent Seven. Costars include Melissa Leo, Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, and Bill Pullman.

When it comes to the action genre, few actors are as bankable as Denzel. The first Equalizer, which is based quite loosely a 1980s TV show starring Edward Woodward, made $34.1 million for its start and ended up at $101 million overall domestically. Two years later, The Magnificent Seven took in $34.7 million out of the gate and $93 million total. Nearly all of Washington’s titles in the genre in the past decade or so have achieved mid 20s or more in their premieres.

While The Equalizer 2 may face a challenge scoring a #1 opening over a very different follow-up (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), a high 20s to possibly low 30s roll out seems quite achievable.

The Equalizer 2 opening weekend prediction: $26.8 million

For my Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/10/mamma-mia-here-we-go-again-box-office-prediction/

For my Unfriended: Dark Web prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/unfriended-dark-web-box-office-prediction/

The Great Wall Box Office Prediction

Just a few months after reviving his Jason Bourne character, Matt Damon is back in theaters battling monsters in China in The Great Wall, out next weekend. This is the most expensive film shot entirely in that country and it was released overseas at the end of 2016, grossing over $200 million thus far. The historical action fantasy comes from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou, who’s responsible for foreign hits such as Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers. Costars include Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, and Willem Dafoe.

How will the pic, which seems made primarily to make its bulk of cash in Asia, play stateside? It could face some hurdles. Reviews haven’t been too strong and it stands at 44% currently on Rotten Tomatoes.

As I see it, The Great Wall will be lucky to break $100 million domestically and it probably will fall short. Opening over the long Presidents Day weekend, I think it should manage a mid to high 20s debut with possibly a fairly steep decline the following weekend.

The Great Wall opening weekend prediction: $25.6 million

For my Fist Fight prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/09/fist-fight-box-office-prediction/

For my A Cure for Wellness prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/09/a-cure-for-wellness-box-office-prediction/