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Review: 'Wonder Woman 1984' improves upon the original's formula

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GAL GADOT as Diana Prince in the action adventure “WONDER WOMAN 1984,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Wonder Woman 1984
4 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Patty Jenkins
Writers: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham, William Moulton Marston
Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of action and violence

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Wonder Woman must stop Maxwell Lord, an ambitious businessman, from destroying the world with his newly acquired fame, fortune and superpowers.

Review: While the bulk of 2017’s “Wonder Woman” took place in 1918, its sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984,” jumps ahead nearly sixty years. Outside of the time shift, the films have a lot in common in tone and structure. Both begin with scenes of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as a young girl on Themyscira before she left the island to become Wonder Woman, feature Capt. Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) as Diana’s love interest and end with a showdown between our beloved superhero and this film’s baddie Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). Trevor’s return is somewhat problematic considering the events of the first film and the fact that he was an adult in 1918. Fortunately, the film offers a perfectly reasonable comic book explanation. And yes, Trevor’s presence is more than an excuse to have the character play dress up in a variety of ridiculous outfits and gawk at punk rockers.

Trevor aside, the bulk of the film is about greed and ambition (which makes the ‘80s setting almost mandatory). We watch the shy and bookish Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and the outlandish snake oil salesman Maxwell Lord as both are given the power and control that they’ve spent their lives scrapping for. Megalomania follows close behind.

I loved the majority of 2017’s “Wonder Woman.” The ending, not so much. It relied too heavily on CGI. I didn’t get the same chills and thrills from the action sequences in “Wonder Woman 1984" that I did in the first film. That is at least partially because I was seeing it on a television rather than an IMAX screen. However, I’m convinced that “Wonder Woman 1984” is the better of the two films. The climatic finale is a bit goofy good in an '80s way (I kept expecting it to go the way of David Cronenberg’s “Scanners”) as Pascal chews up the scenery with a performance that would make a televangelist blush with envy. The melodrama is thick and delicious.

The acting is strong, the script is fun and the art and costume design is fantastic and the cinematography is frequently gorgeous. Patty Jenkins has done a marvelous job bringing everything together. "Wonder Woman 1984" is a tremendous success.

If there is one thing holding “Wonder Woman 1984” back it is its length. A tighter edit could have trimmed 15 or so minutes from the 150-minute film.

See it in a theater, if you can do so safely. Watch it on HBO Max, if that's a better option.