By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
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Wonder Woman is a heroine for all ages, and Gal Gadot is embracing the character lock, stock and barrel. In the comics, she represents the independent woman. The first film gave us hints of where she came from, and this sequel continues down a similar path.
The prologue is set back in the island paradise of Themyscira and teaches the very young Diana Prince (Lilly Aspell) an important virtue–you can’t take shortcuts to get ahead. Perhaps including being careful in what you wish for should be added too. The rest of the film attempts to explore the latter in Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), a business executive with less than stellar credentials. He wants a high life. The fact someone loved him enough, and they had a son suggests he was truly happy once. But he’s a single parent, and I’m curious why he isn’t with his kid more. The picture isn’t complete. Just why he is interested in ancient artifacts is not made clear either.
Even Minerva (Kristen Wiig) struggles to be accepted. Her peers hardly recognize her, and she wants to stand out. She befriends Diana, who is her boss at the Smithsonian department of antiquities, and they get along fine. When Lord gets a tour of the facilities and recognizes the value of the crystal artifact the two ladies are working on, he plots to steal it!
Without this Maguffin, this Dreamstone is a mystery nobody knows the story of. I hoped for an early explanation, but the writing on it hardly says it at all. Eventually, the major players discover the stone can grant wishes, and I suspect the person the spirit of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) possessed was not entirely random. Some souls reincarnate and can remember their former life. Although Diana wished him back, his return could have been as easy as appearing as a ghost and looking for the right individual to inhabit. A lot of talk about this materialization can be found on various discussion boards (discussing the ethics of what she did), and there’s perhaps a paranormal explanation which didn’t make the final cut.
The same can be said about Max’s desire for the crystal. After he steals it, he realizes the extent of its power and makes the master wish to create others. He absorbs the knowledge much like how Dr. René Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark wanted to absorb the will of the ages–the remains of The Ten Commandments.
The tale by Geoff Johns and David Callaham has a few good moments, but I can’t help but feel it eerily wants to be a completely different story, an archaeological adventure, in the later act. Because of the title, to recreate the 80s, nostalgia and all, wasted part of this film’s running time.
This take on of a decades old heroine is all over the map. The Invisible Jet was a mainstay in one iteration but much later, namely from the late 90s Justice League Animated series, she doesn’t need this mechanical contraption and can fly like Hermès. The way Wonder Woman swings in copies Spider-Man!
When Minerva becomes one of Wonder Woman’s greatest enemies, Cheetah, she’s no different than Kraven the Hunter. One is born in the desire to conquer, and the other, an apex predator. The backdrop concerning the Cold War is downplayed and the secret war–whoever controls the oil from the Middle East—doesn’t get the appropriate love it deserves as it swings back and forth between Max trying to steal the crystal and afterwards, flying to the Arab Nations to play evil djinni.
The narrative flow is very hit and miss. It at least had her dealing with gods secretly pushing humans around like pawns as a World War I kept ongoing. This work is only slightly different by giving Max unwieldy powers that he can’t control, and it required Diana to get him to renounce it before another global war started.
Diana’s role as a curator or director of antiquities in all the films she’s been in suggests she’s an Indiana Jones type figure. I’m game with seeing sequels about her adventures to rescue lost artifacts like the Dreamstone and continue to deal with tricksters wanting to keep them in play to ruin humanity. All the writers have to do is play up this angle, and director Patty Jennings to fully realize.
None of it matters, though. Warner Brothers DCEU plan is more on making the next batch of movies standalone and try not to bring everyone together. However, even that can be a fail. Zack Snyder’s Justice League: The Director’s Cut is coming, and the later films will have to take place either before or after. Black Adam, a movie I’m looking forward to, most likely will lead into Shazam 2. When considering this hero’s origins, I see Wonder Woman making a brief appearance but as for how much of Solomon will come into play in this film, it’s simply a matter of waiting to see how various directors work nicely together to realize this universe than one.