She shines, this one: in a film blaringly surfeited with CGI, actress Gal Gadot reaches near-perfection | “WONDER WOMAN 1984”

But the film was in too much of a hurry to kowtow to the impatience of today’s movie-going audiences and jumps right into the overdone CGI madness. The first “Wonder Woman” was a good and well-done film that too quicky traded in its soul for eye candy.

The opening moments of “Wonder Woman 1984” teases us by returning to Themyscira for an even shorter time. The scene shows the child Diana Prince learning a tough life lesson of taking the harder path to get to what is right and true.

It is a good sequence where young Diana finds the moral center that would guide her throughout her life as a superhero.

And, just like in the first film, we are once again robbed of our time on the island and thrust into the main story which is much ado about absolutely nothing.

By now, all the big comic book films (be they good or bad) blend together, each one following the same formula and cookie-cutter structure of whichever superhero’s film last stormed the box office.

There seem to be two camps. Marvel has its fan base, and their films are bigger and somewhat lighter and better cast than the current slate of DC films. The stronger reviews and bigger box office found their way to the Marvel films while the DC output has never seemed to capture the same fire.

For some reason, DC’s comic book movies are overly dark and take themselves much too seriously. While Christopher Nolan made this style work for his “Dark Knight” trilogy, not every comic film needs to be so serious.

Patty Jenkins’s “Wonder Woman,” while still not fully formed, was refreshingly lighter and more fun for a while and Gail Gadot fits the role perfectly, making her the best-cast superhero in a DC film since Christopher Reeve became Superman.

It was also great to see a female-driven comic book film hit the big screen and be received so well by audiences.

I had high hopes for “Wonder Woman 1984.” Setting it in that wild decade of excess that were the greed-is-good eighties held a promise of colorful pop-culture extravaganza. Indeed, there is a lot of nostalgia thrown in to set the mood of the era but it becomes all for naught much too quickly.

Chris Pine and Gal Gadot in “Wonder Woman 1984”

Diana in Washington D.C. studying ancient artifacts from the Smithsonian. On her off (or would it be on?) time, she battles bad guys, keeping the country safe.

Barbara Minerva (a very good Kristen Wiig), a co-worker, meek and with absolutely zero self-confidence, is in awe of Diana, wishing she could be like her more statuesque and buoyant colleague.

Enter an ancient stone capable of granting the wishes of those who cross its path.

As Diana longs for her lost love Steve (an always entertaining Chris Pine) and Barbara wishes to be alluring, the stone grants them both. Steve shows up and Barbara becomes a sexpot full of gusto.

As all this transpired, a much-too-hammy Pedro Pascal shows up as oilman Maxwell Lord, a villain who wants to get his hands on the stone.

Chris Pine’s Steve is unfortunately saddled with dumb humor and a goofy side plot while Pascal’s bad guy is nothing we haven’t seen a hundred times before.

It is Kristen Wiig who gets to have the real fun here. The actress continues to challenge herself in this film and channels her inner sexiness while tapping into a villainess abandon. It is Wiig that gives “Wonder Woman 1984” its spark.

The battles (both internally and externally) between Diana and Barbara are where the film should have focused its dramatic core. When the two characters are on screen, the film pretty much works.

Dave Callahan, Geoff Johns, and Patty Jenkins wrote the screenplay and seemed intent on having fun but throw too much into it until the story becomes overstuffed.

There is no need for Pedro Pascal’s character, save for one more villain, to fight. Nothing interesting is done to Maxwell Lord and Pascal’s performance suffers. The actor does so well with emoting under his mask in the hit Disney+ show “The Madolorian,” yet the screenplay for this film gives him nothing to work with and the actor’s skills are left in want.

Of course, audiences are there for the action, and that there is a lot of. The final half hour is devoted to full-on CGI action and that becomes messy and ultimately boring.

A final battle, complete with dramatic musical score, between Wonder Woman and Cheetah (the monstrous creature that Wiig’s Barbara becomes) is filmed in such a darkness and sloppily-shot manner that we do not know what the hell is happening for most of the fight. Two great characters, robbed of a properly-filmed destiny. Matthew Jensen’s camerawork is what we have come to expect from modern comic book film adaptations: shaky, dark, and careless.

Musician Hans Zimmer can create some great film scores and has been doing it a long time. These days he occasionally dips his toes into the comic book movie pool. His work with fellow composer James Newton Howard on Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy was powerful and inventive but his scores for other superhero films have not been memorable. Once again, Zimmer’s score for this film feels as if the composer is going through the motions.

Gail Gadot and Kristen Wiig are two charming and talented actresses whose skills are on clear display in this film. It cannot be said that these two talents didn’t give it their all. They did and both actresses come out unscathed.

The real problem is that the essence of Wonder Woman and the power of Gadot’s portrayal (and you can copy and paste this next sentence for future reviews of modern comic book films) become buried in a sea of excess. It is just all too much.

I want to see Wonder Woman fight bad guys in cool battles of good versus bad! It is part of the fun of any superhero film, but please don’t skimp on character. Richard Donner’s “Superman the Movie” (the masterful blueprint for how to design a superhero movie!) taught us that we can have just as much fun with character development as we do with action. This film ignores that simple fact.

For all the money spent and all the visuals coming at us constantly during the film’s unnecessarily long running time (155 minutes), “Wonder Woman 1984” loses itself completely in a blur of surfeit.

I hope this one will make enough money to warrant another sequel. Perhaps next time they can concentrate on a screenplay rather than coming up with cool ways to drown their film in a wave of CGI effects?

Third time’s a charm. Fingers crossed.

Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal

news via inbox

Nulla turp dis cursus. Integer liberos  euismod pretium faucibua