“Batman v. Superman” was the make or break movie of the DC Extended Universe. But unfortunately, it fell short; I remember skipping out of class to see it and still regret that decision. It wasn’t until “Wonder Woman” that I was hopeful for the DCEU. But after hearing about talks about Flashpoint and the response to “Justice League,” I was underwhelmed by the whole thing. So when I saw the trailer for the sequel to “Wonder Woman,” it ended up becoming my favorite part of watching “The Rise of Skywalker.”
Gal Gadot returns to her now iconic role of Diana Prince (aka Wonder Woman). It’s 1984 and she’s working at the Smithsonian. One day, she meets her co-worker Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), an insecure gemologist and she befriends her. After a thwarted robbery reveals smuggled artifacts, Diana and Barbara find the Dreamstone, an ancient relic that can grant people their wish. After it’s taken by businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), Diana tracks him down but is reunited with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who comes back to life after a wish Diana made with the Dreamstone is granted. Max consumes the artifact’s energy and uses it to his advantage as he builds power and wealth, as the world crumbles apart.
There are many superhero performances that are simply iconic; Christopher Reeve as Superman, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, and Gal Gadot has done the same with Wonder Woman. Her performance showcases both the strength and heart of the Amazonian warrior. Chris Pine is also amazing here, playing Steve in a role reversal to the previous installment. Here, he’s the one out of time and reacting to the world, and Diana is his guide. Kristen Wiig gives a performance that is both quirky and intimidating as the movie progresses. Seeing her grow stronger makes you sympathize with her as she becomes the villain Cheetah; the characterization feels like DC’s answer to the MCU’s Killmonger. Pedro Pascal steals the show in this movie-playing Maxwell Lord with a strong Trumpian presence. Every scene of him is chewing the scenery as Gordon Gekko but without the smooth personality; it’s loud, bombastic, and epitomizes 80s excess in every way.
Patty Jenkins and Geoff Johns bring a a lot to the story. By mixing the 80’s setting with a “Monkey’s Paw” style story with the Dreamstone, the story works to strengthen the characters as they struggle with the features promised. I’d be lying if I said the whole story was perfect. The last act had some shortcomings was slightly underwhelming. But I will put that aside with the rest of the story with the strengths make up the shortcomings.
In the previous film, the action scenes would give the movie a jumpstart of adrenaline between dialogue scenes. But here, the action is more nonstop and keeps audience’s attention on the movie. Much like the No Man’s Land sequence in the original, the action compliments the story and the themes. And with the addition of the golden armor, it shows a strong evolution Patty Jenkins has made between films.
After the hellish year that was 2020, this was a movie that we needed. With the high stakes presented, it really made me feel hopeful. And cards on the table, I’m not a crier when it comes to movies; but this got me close. As both the last movie to cover for the year and the only superhero movie to come out of 2020, it really is the rose of a thorny year.