Warner Bros. gave everyone a Christmas present this year by dropping Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max during the holiday. Not many movies got the chance to release this year, so it was a relief to experience a big-budget superhero flick before the year’s end. After the success of the first Wonder Woman, this sequel had some big boots to fill. Is the highly-anticipated Wonder Woman 1984 as strong as an Amazon, or does it fail to take off? Let’s venture forth to find out.
Gal Gadot is back as Diana/Wonder Woman, and portrays the role just as great as ever. She continues to add emotion and heart to the role, as well as being a total badass like she has in previous films. The rest of the cast proves their talent and are all great as their characters, but the one who stands out the most outside of Gadot is absolutely Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord. He may be the villain, but he uses strong emotion and charisma to pull you in and even root for him at times. During the scene between him and his son toward the end of the film, he gives such a powerhouse performance that it’s enough to win anyone over. Most comic book movie villains are bland or one-note, but Pascal absolutely brings Maxwell Lord to life with his outstanding performance and steals the show.
This may not be the most action-heavy superhero film, but when the action does happen, it’s certainly a thing to behold. Wonder Woman’s lasso is used in creative ways, like blocking bullets and riding a missile. The hand-to-hand combat is intense and you feel every blow. The action scenes are exciting and fun, but they’re also somewhat reminiscent of the action seen in classic superhero films, like the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, in the best ways possible. There are fun, cheesy moments, but they also have a memorable “wow” factor to them that emits a sense of wonder and amazement.
Adding to the exciting action is that it’s not all about simply defeating the bad guy. Diana makes a point to actually defend civilians. Superheroes are meant to exist to save people first, no matter what, yet most of these modern blockbusters focus only on fighting these larger-than-life threats. Yes, they do so to save the world, but it’s nice to finally see a hero go out of their way to push a child to safety or make sure a security guard has a safe landing after being launched through the air by a villain. It’s also something that is seen several times throughout the film, rather than being one-and-done. This furthers the “classic superhero” feel to the movie.
An element that helps Wonder Woman 1984 stand out from other superhero flicks is how the villain is ultimately defeated. Rather than being killed off or locked up, Maxwell Lord loses by actually learning his lesson. His character’s arc comes full circle and even receives a bit of a redemption after reaching his peak-evilness. It’s an interesting concept that would be interesting to see in other superhero films.
Patty Jenkins shows off her directing prowess with unique shots throughout much of the film. She strings together beautiful angles and clever cuts to provide a visual wonder to behold.
Hans Zimmer returns to compose the film’s score, and proves why he’s one of the most innovative composers in modern film. The music carries the tone in several of the scenes. A version of Wonder Woman’s theme heard in previous DCEU films is used in this film that stands out as being more lighthearted and hopeful sounding. It’s safe to say Wonder Woman 1984’s score can join that of The Dark Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Interstellar as some of the great film scores Zimmer has worked on during his career.
The film is wrapped up in a couple of nice messages for its audience. One is to see the beauty in what we currently have, whether it’s a family member who loves us and is proud of us no matter what, the everyday wonders like fireworks or art, or the feeling of once loving someone even if they are no longer with us. The other is to choose others instead of ourselves; to be less selfish if it means helping others in one way or another, and how that can benefit the world around us. These are both beautiful messages to convey to audiences, especially after such a dark and less-than-desired year like 2020.
What is probably the largest issue with the film is the subplot surrounding Kristen Wiig’s character of Barbara Miverva/Cheetah. Much of her arc, where she is Diana’s friend who becomes an unstoppable hunter, matches the source material well. Plus, Wiig’s performance is more than fine for the character. However, she and her story are rather misused in the film. For starters, Cheetah is often seen as Wonder Woman’s arch nemesis, but she plays second fiddle to Maxwell Lord this time around.
She’s also not Diana’s friend for long before becoming more villainous. Because her entire arc is shown throughout, it distracts from the main plot of Diana finding and stopping Maxwell Lord, causing the film to feel unfocused at times. She’s also not even shown as Cheetah until the very end of the film, and it’s for an extremely small period of time. In the comics, her Cheetah appearance is explained well-enough. Here, she happens to utter the words “apex predator” to Maxwell Lord, so she arbitrarily grows a tail, fur, and claws. She’s not even the one who wished for it. An easy way to have avoided these issues and ultimately improve the movie would be to have introduced Barabar and had her just be Diana’s helpful friend throughout the story, then in the next film, have her become the Cheetah so time could be dedicated to her story and she can feel more fleshed-out, and there would be more emotional weight to her fighting against Diana. By removing a lot of the Cheetah story from Wonder Woman 1984 and saving it for its own movie, then it would help the story feel much tighter.
Along with her lasso, Diana fought with a sword and shield in the first film, and we’ve seen that in the future (Batman v Superman, Justice League) that she still uses those weapons. However, the sword and shield are noticeably absent from Wonder Woman 1984 with no explanation. On one hand, it allows for more fantastic moments with her iconic Lasso of Truth. On the other hand, though, it feels like there’s something missing from the sequel that people enjoyed from the first film. If they wanted to use the sword and shield less, or not at all, it wouldn’t have been a huge problem if there was any sort of explanation as to why she’s not using them this time around. Because there isn’t one, it feels like she just forgot them at home. Attention is further drawn to this issue when she actually needs a shield in one of the fights and is forced to use a serving tray instead.
That leads to some other confusion this film presents, and that’s how it fits within the continuity of the rest of the DCEU. Not only does Diana randomly stop using her sword and shield, and then starts using them again, but there are other details that don’t quite fit. She fought in World War I and she fights alongside Batman and the others in the present, but it was previously shown that she was in hiding, or at least keeping her heroics more on the down-low, during those decades. However, as this new movie points out, she leapt into the spotlight to travel the world and take down Maxwell Lord. We see her take down security cameras once in the film (after they already recorded footage of her), but people seem to recognize her. She even neglects to take down the cameras when fighting in the White House. She doesn’t exactly do a great job with keeping herself a secret. Yet, in Batman v Superman, it seems that Bruce Wayne has no idea who she is and can’t find anything about her. Really there’s no evidence of this demigoddess fighting armed men in the White House? It’s also bothersome that she apparently is more willing to jump back into the public eye to stop criminals in a mall than she was to do anything to stop World War II.
Wonder Woman’s superpowers are pretty clear in the comic books. She typically has super strength, high durability to damage, superhuman speed and agility, and can often fly, on top of using her various pieces of equipment like her lasso, tiara, sword, and Bracelets of Submission. In these DCEU movies, her powers aren’t quite as clear or consistent. Sometimes she can fly, while other times she just jumps far and high, she can apparently make things invisible and only does it once, and she can apparently bang her bracelets together to make tangible light hit people (or whatever happens when her wrists come together). It’s often a little confusing when figuring out what she’s able to do with her powers in these films.
Jenkins and Gadot clearly want to show that there can be a badass female superhero who is strong enough to lead her own film, and they’re ultimately successful at that. However, why is she still in heels? Women are allowed to wear other footwear other than heels. In fact, she usually just wears boots in the comics, so why is she in heels here? It feels like a sexist detail in a movie that’s meant to be, and otherwise is, anti-sexist.
In the film, there’s this set of armor that was used by a previous Amazon hero, and Diana must use it herself in battle now. The armor looks cool, and is based on the armor she wears in the “Kingdom Come” story arc in the comics. However, it’s not even introduced until the second half of the film, and she wears it for about five minutes. When it’s introduced, the original wearer uses it to defend herself against all of man, but when Diana wears it, one individual (Cheetah) is able to break it. The armor should have either been introduced earlier and actually proved more useful against Cheetah if they wanted it to build it up and make it feel more significant, or just not have used it all. It ultimately felt like an afterthought in the film.
Much of the film’s story revolves around the Dream Stone, and having wishes come true. The rules of making a wish are overall explained well-enough (everyone gets one wish and there’s always a drawback as seen in the classic Monkey’s Paw short story), but there are still some things that are unclear. The drawbacks don’t exactly seem comparable to each other. For instance, Diana’s wish to bring Steve back has Steve take over another person’s life (that person seemingly ceases to exist for the time being), plus she gradually loses her superpowers, all while Barbara becomes super powerful just by losing the ability to be nice. Also, Maxwell Lord was able to transfer people’s wish consequences to make Barbara the Cheetah, but that doesn’t seem to make any sense (further adding to the Cheetah issues listed above).
In the Know
During Wonder Woman 1984, we see Diana turn a plane invisible so she and Steve can steal it to fly to Cairo. This is the first live action big-screen appearance of Wonder Woman’s iconic invisible jet! Fans of the classic comics and cartoons can finally experience one of the most beloved modes of transportation in superhero history in a blockbuster film.
There is a mid-credits scene at the end that doesn’t appear to set up other films like we’re used to with MCU movies, but it’s still a fantastic one. This scene shows us that Amazon warrior who originally donned the golden winged armor, and she’s played by none other than Linda Carter. Carter is known for being the first to portray Wonder Woman in live action on the 1970s TV series. It’s still too early to know if we’ll see more of her character in an important role in the future, or if she’ll just remain a cameo this one time.
For much of the first half of the film, Maxwell Lord answers to his superior, Simon Stagg. Simon Stagg is an important villain in DC Comics, as he is the arch nemesis of Metamorpho. Perhaps this will lead to Metamorpho appearing in the DCEU.
Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t as great as its predecessor, but it’s certainly an enjoyable viewing experience. It has some glaring flaws that could have easily been avoided or resolved. When the film is good, it is extremely so, but some of the problems it has are too great to ignore or forgive. The plot is muddled by a subplot that could have been saved to be focused on more in a future movie, and there are elements that aren’t as clear as they should be. That being said, the movie offers a heartfelt message, a unique arc for a villain, tremendous performances, and epic moments like using the Lasso of Truth to ride lightning. It’s far from perfect, but it’s not terrible. Compared to other modern superhero comic book movies, this one is about as “the middle” as one can get. It could easily be better, but it’s worth a watch.
Rating: 7 / 10