Wonder Woman 1984 spends more time on its theatrics than its themes.
Published on June 11, 2021
Rating 2 /5
Despite still being an integral aspect of the DCEU, Wonder Woman initially felt like the first major divergence from the dour and connected universe of DC Comics characters. It’s not just that Wonder Woman received the largest amount of critical praise compared to the messes that were Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. Wonder Woman felt somewhat classic for posing a compelling and classic depiction of heroism with a simple yet effective allegory of fighting for humanity. It felt like a throwback to the Richard Donner days of Superman. But just like with Superman, this sequel stumbles in trying to maintain that image of a stoic hero.
While the first film found Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) making her debut during World War I, the sequel now finds her in 1984 America, looking just as youthful and ready to fight as she did those decades ago. She now integrates further into society as Diana, the star archeologist of a museum in Washington D.C. She still works like Wonder Woman on the side, likely taking lunch breaks at the mall to bust up some robbers at the mall. Unlike the other DC heroes that would follow decades later, Diana manages to save the day without causing a single death, even getting in a wink at the little girls who look up to her.
But Diana really has her work cut out for her in this adventure with just too much going on involving magic. For starters, she has to deal with a magical stone that grants wishes with a dark twist. Diana mistakenly wishes for the love of her life, the late Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), to come back from the dead. This is a miraculous event that Diana takes advantage of for all the growing chemistry of the previous film but she also realizes Steve is occupying another man’s body for this to happen. One would think this would make Diana think twice about this romance doomed to fail but she instead takes advantage of the situation, not thinking that the man she is making love to is not really Steve and doesn’t have a choice. It’s an awkward and uncomfortable romance, to say the least.
Other characters make wishes. Diana’s nerdy coworker Barbara (Kristen Wiig) wishes that she could be just as cool and confident as Diana, not knowing that Diana is really Wonder Woman. This not only makes her powerful enough to become just as tough as WW but even stronger. And since that’s apparently not enough to transform her into the villain Cheetah that comic book lore dictates she will become, she later makes another wish to become a Cheetah on the basis that she really likes animal print.
And then there’s the core villain of Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), the failing industrialist who needs a big win. Having set his sights higher, though, Max’s wish is not just to become successful but to become the stone itself. With this ultimate wish power, he feeds off the desires of others and takes a certain amount of control in their twists of fate. The rules of this aspect are rather weird, where Max can get his wish if he can grant someone else’s selfish desires, costing him only a nosebleed. Quite the odd exchange rate.
Eventually, the story becomes about Max wanting to grant the wishes of all the world, highlighting the greed of the era. This is where the morality of the film becomes deeply questionable. Max makes a big offer to grant the wishes of all the world in exchange for absolute power. However, Max’s many wishes for all just happen to be ones made out of spite and anger, leaving it up to Wonder Woman to convince everybody that wishing for more is bad. But nobody else in the world seems to give up as much as she does, merely wishing for more violence and war. What about someone who wishes for a cure for AIDS or to be loved? Must they also make a bitter choice? The film simplifies so much of this dilemma to a degree that it’s more eerie than heroic with the easy resolve.
Wonder Woman 1984 spends more time on its theatrics than its themes. The end result is a film that looks good and has some decent action sequences but ridiculously bloated with storylines that are only half-thought-out in its 2.5-hour running time. It’s sad to see what was once the beacon of the DCEU fall into the same muck of morally messy entries, due in part to both an overstuffed script and cramming too many characters and arcs into the film. What was once a standout superhero has merely become just like the rest in this lackluster continuation.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.