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'Wonder Woman' Sequel Left Movie Critic With Mixed Feelings

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

I don't know about you, but I've really missed going to the movies this year, especially blockbusters - you know, action, adventure, lots of special effects.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

CONNIE NIELSEN: (As Hippolyta) This world is not yet ready for all that you will do. Your time will come, Diana.

GREENE: "Wonder Woman 1984" might begin to make up for the thrills that we have missed out on. It's being released on Christmas Day on HBO Max. You can watch it at home if you subscribe as well as in some theaters. Claudia Puig is president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. She had high expectations for the "Wonder Woman" sequel but had mixed feelings after seeing it.

CLAUDIA PUIG: The first film concentrated on her adjustment to this, you know, cruel world run by men after her upbringing on an island filled with strong and supportive women, and this one's about a magic stone that grants wishes. And that just feels diminished somehow.

GREENE: Does it at least meet the expectation of, it's been a really hard year; we're looking for something fun and that just transports us and takes us away from everything for a couple hours? Does it at least get there?

PUIG: Yes, it does get there. And I will say that, you know, it strikes a chord in a year when we've all been confined more than we've ever been. And seeing someone soaring through the sky is like a tonic.

GREENE: Well, this movie also features Kristen Wiig playing a villain.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "WONDER WOMAN 1984")

KRISTEN WIIG: (As Barbara Minerva) I don't want to be like anyone. I want to be an apex predator.

GREENE: Like, I think all of us are so used to her comedy. I mean, she's done some more dramatic roles, but being the villain feels really different for her.

PUIG: Yes. She undergoes this metamorphosis from this kind of socially awkward person to this big-haired co-villain. And she gets to do what I think is one of the most exciting action scenes. She uses the powers that she gains to kind of fight back against this leering man that has been menacing her. So there's kind of a #MeToo element that resonates there. Yeah, she's a good villain. She's - there's two villains, and I think maybe that's one villain too many.

GREENE: We think about how much has changed in the world since the first movie was produced. I mean, the #MeToo movement came, and I wonder if you see evidence of that really impacting how this was made and some of the plotlines you're talking about.

PUIG: You see Diana's character sort of, you know, doing her work. She's very much closed off and walled off. She's still - she's heartbroken about having lost Steve, played by Chris Pine. And so she's tamped down in that respect. And there's, you know, men sort of, as I said, kind of, you know, leering about, and, you know, she just kind of dismisses them very handily. But I think it's Kristen Wiig's moment when she just lets it all out after having been menaced by this particular person before in the park on a dark night and not having had power that we - you know, we see that empowerment. And it does feel like it's been influenced by the #MeToo conversations.

GREENE: OK, so bottom line, it sounds like - keep expectations in check, but if you want something fun and a great blockbuster superhero movie, worth watching.

PUIG: Yeah. It's not wondrous, but it's not awful, either. It's - there's some lively, exciting and funny scenes, a lot of send-ups of the bigness of the '80s - the big hair, the big malls, big ambitions. And that is fun. And, yeah, don't, you know, be too worried if the plot feels tangled. Just go with it.

GREENE: Just go with it - I love it.

PUIG: (Laughter).

GREENE: Well, Claudia, thank you for talking to us about this film, and have a wonderful holiday season and new year's. And hopefully someday soon we're going to be packing movie theaters together again.

PUIG: Oh, thank you. You too, David. I sure hope so.

(SOUNDBITE OF HANS ZIMMER'S "1984")

GREENE: Claudia Puig is president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.