‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Is A Story Brimming With Heart, But Not Without Its Flaws – Review
“Nothing good is born from lies.” – Diana Prince, Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman 1984 finds Diana Prince in “man’s world” yet again in, well, 1984 of course. Quite displaced from her first appearance in the world of men, roughly 70 years prior, Diana (Gal Gadot) has now become accustomed to us humans and our ways, working in cultural anthropology and archaeology at the Smithsonian. Alongside her job at the museum, Diana is still doing what she does best–saving the day and ultimately, the world.
However, things begin to change for Diana after she meets a new colleague, Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). Smart, warm, funny and a little bit awkward, Dr. Minerva is a geologist, gemologist and part-time cryptozoologist at the Smithsonian. In charge of handling and identifying a shipment of stolen black market items from the FBI, Dr. Minerva is befriended by Diana and eventually, the pair meet one Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) after he aims to make a generous donation to their department at the Smithsonian. While Dr. Minerva is enticed by Lord’s charm, Diana does not trust him. She might not be able to put her finger on it, but she decides to keep a close eye on him, just in case.
But the Amazonian demigoddess and warrior finds herself a bit distracted by the reappearance of her long-lost love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Of course, I am sure that you want to know how this is possible after all these years–but you will simply have to watch the movie to find that out. So, when Max Lord begins to set about his dastardly plans, it could cost the world everything. Therefore, it is up to Diana to put things right. As Steve said in the first film, “You can save the world.” And, that is what Diana sets out to do.
Back in the director’s chair for the sequel is the impressive, Patty Jenkins. Jenkins gives us a film that is reminiscent of Richard Donner’s work with Superman, while still maintaining something that is wholly Wonder Woman. It is filled with 1980’s campiness you’d expect so see considering the setting of the film, and while some of it will likely make you chuckle or feel nostalgic, it never feels too much (and considering some of the fashion of the era, the film could have certainly fallen victim to that). However, Jenkins did a stellar job at showing the audience the grandiosity and indulgence they may recall from the ’80s without making things seem ridiculous.
The story (from Jenkins and Geoff Johns), is one that has a myriad of messages woven throughout and hones in on the humanity we know Diana for. But now in 1984, we do see a change in her–something that is ultimately one of the most human things about this warrior and demigoddess–she is lonely. Yes, she works and gives all that she possibly can to others, but with her friends now gone and the companionship she had with Steve all but a memory, the audience sees Diana’s state of vulnerability in a way they’ve never seen it before. It’s easy to get caught up in the Princess of Themyscira’s light–so much so that it can be hard to believe that someone so wonderful (no pun intended) could find herself feeling so alone. This is part of what we get with Wonder Woman 1984 and it is one of the most compelling emotional beats in the two-and-a-half hour-long tale.
Back in 2017, I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing the first film and it was yet again my pleasure to do the same with this one. While it is a sequel and there are call-backs to the previous film, it is also very much a standalone. It is clear that Jenkins took several risks with Wonder Woman 1984, most of which went off without a hitch. Yes, most of which, meaning that the film isn’t perfect. There were certain choices made throughout that didn’t exactly make for a perfect story and there are parts that certainly warrant criticism. If you’re like me, the lack of diversity in the first film was bothersome to you. This time around, it’s likely that you will feel much of the same. Sad to say, but this is why I go into most films not expecting too much. It only serves to leave you disappointed.
In addition, there is one scene in particular that I know will not sit right with many and was definitely a choice that shouldn’t have been made (no spoilers, but the scene takes place in Egypt). I believe another setting and narrative would have made the particular scene better, instead of it being a disservice–especially considering the action in said scene was good; with Wonder Woman doing what she does best: saving people, particularly children. That being said, I took the film for what it was (even with its missteps) – mostly because the parts of the film which were great, took me away from the parts that were not. Most of this is in part to the wonderful performances from the film’s cast.
Newcomers to the Wonder Woman film franchise are Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig. Both were extremely believable in their roles as Max Lord and Barbara Minerva/Cheetah, respectively. With Pascal, we have a different take on the Maxwell Lord that many have seen in the comic books. It was an interesting spin on the character and in every scene, Pascal steals the show. His charm is certainly off the charts and with Pascal in Lord’s driver seat, it’s even harder to dislike him. Pascal wholeheartedly commits and steps into the villain role with such pomp and circumstance that’s a joy to watch.
In terms of Wiig’s Barbara Minerva, she too is slightly different from her comic book counterpart. It seems she was a combination of both the original Cheetah, Priscilla Rich, and Barbara Minerva, who is the current Cheetah in the Wonder Woman comic books. I did like this amalgamation of the two characters as it played into the larger part of the story, specifically in terms of Barbara’s adoration of Diana. Wiig showing Barbara’s steady transition from a scientist to bombshell to her more feral nature as Cheetah was a sight to behold. Wiig perfectly captures the differentiation of the character as she transitions from a kind-hearted dork to a cold-hearted villain. My only wish was that we got to see more of Wiig’s Barbara and Gadot’s Diana spend more time with one another before the inevitable transformation. I believe it likely would have hit Diana even harder to witness her new friend change so drastically had we been able to see more of the bond the two shared with one another.
As we know, Steve Trevor is Diana’s first foray into humanity. So, whether his reappearance is liked or not, it serves a purpose in the film. Steve set the standard and was Diana’s partner and a beacon of hope and love, who truly tried to explain humanity to her in a way she hadn’t experienced before. Here, Steve serves as a reminder of what he is to Diana, why his sacrifice in Wonder Woman mattered, and ultimately, the toll it takes to be a champion for humanity. These are lessons that not only help the audience understand Wonder Woman, but are ones she too must learn.
As it pertains to Gadot and Pine, similar to the first film, the pair have great chemistry with one another as Diana and Steve Trevor. Perhaps it’s the “WonderTrev” fan in me, but I truly enjoyed their reunion which made up some of the film’s most emotionally impactful moments. It was nice to see the role reversal between the pair as Steve is now the fish out of water and Diana is the one showing him the ropes. The romantic elements were both explosive and subtle – handholding, a dance, an embrace, a kiss, a profession of love – all of which were beautifully played by Gadot and Pine. That said, the way in which Steve returns was certainly a head-scratcher and wholly unnecessary.
In Wonder Woman 1984, we see a Diana that is very different from the first film. In some ways, she is more human than we’ve ever seen her. Yes, we know from the comics that she is a beacon of hope and peace to many, and she is still that here. However, we see her wanting something for herself. She gives what she can every day and never asks for anything in return. In this film, the writers and Gadot herself did a great job of emphasizing the fact that even this powerful character who exudes confidence and strength, still has vulnerabilities. This time around, Gadot plays into this vulnerability in a way that we had yet to see her do on-screen and it is this genuine performance that helped bolster the film to another level.
At its core, Wonder Woman 1984 is a story that is brimming with heart and romance, and while there are moments that are likely to leave you teary-eyed (they definitely did for me), there is a resounding hopefulness that is felt by the film’s end that is hard to shake off. While I did enjoy the first Wonder Woman more than this 1984 outing, I cannot wait to see what the adventure in the next film might be.
Wonder Woman 1984 is in theatres, available to rent on premium video on demand (in Canada), and streaming simultaneously on HBO Max (US) all on December 25!