Can we all agree that developing a successful franchise is difficult? Then add the slew of complications the DCU has faced over the years with casting, negative reviews, and the constant Marvel comparisons and the likelihood of success plummets even further. Even so, the DCU has had its fair share of wins including the billion-dollar grossing Aquaman, the worldwide success of Joker, and yes, Wonder Woman. Back in 2017 when the last Wonder Woman movie was released, Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman took the world by storm. Her No Man’s Land sequence had audiences jumping to their feet in awe and wonder as a fully realized female superhero proudly made her debut on the big screen. Armed with her lasso of truth and Amazonian armor, Gal Gadot brings a grace and zeal to the role that makes her the perfect fit for Wonder Woman. And despite some of the controversies she’s incurred this year, Gal Gadot returns to her role as Wonder Woman stronger than ever in Wonder Woman 1984. However, while Gadot unmistakably shines in her role as the Amazonian warrior, the movie is hindered by a meandering plot, cartoonish villains, and a message never quite fully realized.
In Wonder Woman 1984, we find Diana Prince leading a peaceful life amongst humans in the 1980’s. After stopping a heist at the mall, the Amazonian Warrior comes in contact with the Dreamstone through a colleague and new friend, Barbara Minerva (Kristin Wiig). When Diana discovers that the ancient artifact has the power to grant wishes, the heroine must grapple with the consequences of the stone’s misuse as well as the consequences of her own wish. In this new adventure, we see Diana advance from battling the God of War to the God of Lies, pitting her against a crazed businessman, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and Barbara Minera’s villain alter ego, Cheetah. From the start, the movie opts to take a unique approach to filming a superhero movie, diverging from the formulaic set-up commonly used by the MCU. Rather than framing the story around an impending apocalypse or about which villain needs to be stopped now, Wonder Woman 1984 is a story about, well, Wonder Woman. More than that, it’s really a love story about the love lost between Diana Prince and her deceased lover, Steve Trevor.
Throughout the film, we see Diana at her weakest moments both physically and emotionally as she struggles between what’s heroic and what her heart wants. In the end, her choice to save the world is also one of immense sacrifice and pain, yet it pushes her to do better, to be the hero the world needs in that moment. So rarely in superhero movies do we get to see this kind of vulnerability from our heroes, there’s always a safety net or mentor, or team for our superheroes to fall back on. However, while this emotional arc provides Diana with the emotional growth she needed to fully come into her powers, the presentation of this arc is hindered by the film’s inability to decide where to focus its attention. Throughout the film, both Barbara Minerva and Maxwell Lord occupy a decent amount of screen time yet both their motivations and actions fail to directly tie into Diana’s journey. Instead, both villains feel weak, and half-realized by their murky motivations and unexplained grudges against Diana. At the beginning of the movie, both Minerva and Lord are given flimsy characteristics meant to tie into their villain arc. Minerva cries over wanting to be noticed and popular, while Lord simply wants ‘more’, but these motivations are never fleshed out enough for the subsequent actions of the characters to make sense. The result is a movie that feels like several movies compiled into 2 hours and 30 minutes. The clashing and unrealized storylines only serves to confuse audience members and draw away from Diana’s growth, making for a weak film.
While the general consensus around Wonder Woman 1984 has been a mixed bag, Warner Bros has stood firmly by the film, announcing that star Gal Gadot and director, Patty Jenkins will be back for Wonder Woman 3. Meanwhile, at a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, Wonder Woman 1984 has not managed to gain the same critical acclaim as the first movie but is in no way a bad movie. Despite its glaring missteps, the movie is still filled with sweeping shots of the Themyscira that will steal your breath away, coupled with epic fight and flight sequences, and you’ve got yourself a decently fun movie. So no, Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t going to be the film that saves 2020, like many of us hoped but it’s still a fun movie to enjoy with the family during the holidays. If you want to check out the movie for yourself, Wonder Woman 1984 is available for streaming on HBO Max and in theaters across the U.S.