Quick Reviews: 'Wonder Woman 1984', 'Monster Hunter' | DCEU, Gal Gadot, Milla Jovovich
WONDER WOMAN 1984
Step aside world wars and battlegrounds, it's time for the 80s and parachute pants now. Following up the success of 2017's smash 'Wonder Woman', director and co-writer Patty Jenkins brings along Wonder Woman 1984 a.k.a. WW84 which—massive spoiler ahead—shows the titular character living her life in '84 as you'd suspect.
Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) faces a double threat this time as her work friend Barbara (Kristen Wiig) discovers an antique stone which falls into the hands of greedy businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) who finds it to grant wishes to anyone who comes into contact with it. Diana's wish happens to be the return of her love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and the sum of everyone's wishes is leading the world to insupportable destruction. For both good and bad depending on how you look at it, enough things about WW84 work for it to avoid total destruction even when every writer's wish seems to end up on the screen, some of them bombing hard.
Let's start the year with the good stuff though. Much of what made the first two thirds of the previous film work, is still implemented here. Now the film stays rather consistent for the whole runtime thankfully, even if the opening sequence is the peak in terms of vision, action and just pure fun - a great mix of practical and digital, outstanding cue from composer Hans Zimmer and a lovely outing from Lilly Aspell as young Diana kick things off. Actors are mostly solid otherwise too; Gadot could actually use vocal lessons since she is stuck with monotonous monologues throughout the film but she remains at the same level. Pascal saves a bunch of the movie as his performance is a perfect mix of over-the-top 80's villain and unleashed physical act and that's just what was needed. Lindy Hemming's costume design is also once again superb, from lavish party dresses and gold warrior suits down to even those parachute pants.
Amalgamation of three writers' (and perhaps a few studio executives) wishes clumsily clashing is the reason why the sequel pales in comparison. There is too much noise considering that there is only one person in the title whose journey we should be most invested in. Everything about the part in Egypt does not work whatsoever from the characters to exposition and Wiig doesn't get anything to do as Barbara/Cheetah other than to look like a slightly better version of 'Cats'.
Biggest problem is the unnecessary inclusion of Steve, whether that's the nonconsensual use of someone credited as ''Handsome Man'' or his clunky introduction just so Diana has one selfish reason to stop Lord. It's a bit sad that it requires so many technical aspects (sound, VFX, sets, cinematography etc.) to be good in order to make the whole thing turn out just good enough because the writing is unfocused. The title spells out the main character as well as the year for you and still all these side quests have been created.
Smileys: Costume design, Pedro Pascal, tone
Frowneys: Pacing, story
Might want to rename that lasso Ted because it makes you believe more than it makes you tell the truth.
Brought to you by filmmakers behind, uh, other film adaptations of video games and a slate of effects-heavy action, Monster Hunter stomps its way to screens that are near your eyeballs and nowhere near your turned-on brains. Just like with the video game franchise, you're promised hunters and monsters, both of which you do get at least, so kudos for that.
Paul W.S. Anderson directed and wrote the movie while his wife Milla Jovovich stars as Artemis alongside Tony Jaa who plays Hunter, which could be the character's name or profession, who knows really. Artemis is an Army Captain who gets sucked into a portal with her team, leading them into a world where colossal monsters lurk while Hunter has been there for a while before they cross paths. For what its worth, the film thankfully doesn't take itself too seriously for a hot minute but even that doesn't cover for the fact that the filmmaking present is dreadful, smothering even some of the talent behind it.
Whenever you work on something that has big CGI monsters and over-the-top stunts as your building blocks, you just need to lean into them as much as you can. Some kicks are to be had since Jovovich and Jaa certainly know what they are making here, they genuinely look like action stars that Monster Hunter desperately needs in order to be successful. Beyond just commitment, some creativity comes from the sound department too as the mix is solid, the roars are powerful and the world around characters is enhanced. You'd only wish that those mixers had a great musical score to work with but that part of the movie is just poor, timing makes it sound like a temp track and even some melodies seem to be an octave or two higher than they should be, considering the action on the screen. Perhaps it all was an afterthought or just rushed. Again, who knows really.
Setting our sights back to the plot and characters however, it must be noted that Anderson's work also lets Jovovich and Jaa down which is a shame. The dialogue is full of nuisances and jokes that just don't land, dramatic shift later on where we meet Ron Perlman's character comes from a different movie altogether and only the last 20 minutes deliver the monster hunting that's more than only solid. Too bad that during those 20 minutes, the film opts to set up sequels so this movie doesn't really have an ending.
Perhaps the most perplexing part of the whole thing is what goes down in the editing room with Anderson and editor Doobie White. Jovovich is a decent action star and Jaa is superbly talented when it comes to martial arts and stunts, despite that the editing makes every action scene truly incomprehensible. We as viewers have no idea where the characters are situated, what they are hitting and what the speed is. It doesn't even matter what you think about the script you're working with, it's no excuse to drag your actors' performances down to that same level.
Smileys: Sound design
Frowneys: Editing, score, story, screenplay
Ron Perlman is in this? More like Ron Purr Lion Man. You'll get it if you see him.