Diana Prince lives quietly among mortals in the vibrant, sleek 1980s — an era of excess driven by the pursuit of having it all. Though she’s come into her full powers, she maintains a low profile by curating ancient artifacts, and only performing heroic acts incognito. But soon, Diana will have to muster all of her strength, wisdom and courage as she finds herself squaring off against Maxwell Lord and the Cheetah, a villainess who possesses superhuman strength and agility. (from Google)
As the banner year for weirdness that 2020 has been draws to a close, we finally get one of the many delayed and postponed blockbuster movies delivered to us in time for Christmas. Wonder Woman 1984 (AKA WW84) is the long awaited sequel to the 2017 smash hit that gave the DC superhero her first solo movie as part of DC’s cinematic universe. The first Wonder Woman movie was set during World War I in 1918, when a U.S. pilot and spy named Steve Trevor crashes in the waters of the mystical island Themyscira, home to the Amazons. Diana, their most promising young warrior, rescues Steve and soon accompanies him on a trek back to the frontlines of the first World War where she joins the fight. She firmly believes that Greek god Ares – the god of war – is behind everything, and she plans to put a stop to his reign over man. Director Patty Jenkins did a fantastic job with the material, delivering an action-packed and emotional superhero movie that brought Wonder Woman to new fans around the world. And with its success came the promise of sequel, which this time is set 66 years later, in 1984.
Since we last saw Diana, she’s taken a job in Washington, DC working for the government in antiquities. As Wonder Woman, she’s frequently found on the streets, rescuing people who come close to harm and often disappearing just as quickly. Wonder Woman 1984 opens up with a flashback to her childhood in Themyscira, where she participated in one of their ceremonial games, and ends up learning a crucual life lesson in the process. The film then zooms forward, taking us to 1984 where we see her foil a robbery in a shopping mall. From the start, Jenkins seems to have lost a bit of her touch on how to make everything flow smoothly and fit together. In the first film, which was only 10 minutes shorter than this one, the pacing was tight and swift, taking just the right amount of time to flesh out characters, while still giving viewers the action they’d expect from a DC comics film. WW84 is a dramatic change of pace. The transition from Themyscira to 1984 is jarring, and Jenkins’ tone for the 80’s couldn’t be more different than the first movie. If anything, the tone for much of WW84 feels like the Christopher Reeve-fronted Superman movies from the 80’s, for better or worse. Those movies have a sort of charm to them for being part of that decade and also the precursor to today’s superhero films, but I’m not quite sure it works in 2020.
Pacing is possibly WW84‘s biggest setback. Once the Themyscira flashback and mall fight is over, most of the film gives way to plot setup and character development, and Wonder Woman herself is hardly present. It helps to have the film’s antagonists get fleshed out more, but the cost toward the film’s end product probably isn’t worth it. Kristen Wiig joins the cast in the sequel as Barbara Minerva, a newcomer to the antiquities department who works with Diana. She’s awkward, frumpy, and clumsy, and she immediately wishes she was like her strong, beautiful and confident new friend, Diana. Her character is very similar to that of Jamie Foxx’s Max from The Amazing Spider-Man 2, even though Barbara works far better here than Max did in that 2014 film. (I do have to say though, while I’ve enjoyed her in the comedies I’ve sene her in, Wiig is a weird choice for a role like this.) The Mandalorian‘s Pedro Pascal is another newcomer as Max Lord, an ambitious businessman with a selfish drive for success. Pascal plays the character with much gusto, which mostly works for Max Lord, but as the movie continues to expand its grandeur over the course of the movie’s 2-and-a-half-hour runtime, he takes the character over the top with the rest of the story. For the most part, though, I think Pascal was great in the role and I enjoyed getting to see him play a character where we don’t only hear his voice and only occasionally see his face.
(Some mild plot spoilers are ahead.) The plot revolves around an ancient artifact being found where the possessor of the stone can have one wish granted to them. Max Lord is determined to find this stone and use it for his own personal gain and power. Diana accidentally brings Steve back to life through the power of the stone, which reunites the two for the first time since he died over 65 years earlier. But in investigating the mysterious artifact, she learns that there’s a catch, and it’s one that ends up having a different effect on everyone who uses the power to make their desire come true.
With the extended running time, Jenkins spends ample amounts of screentime building up Lord’s conquest. A lot of his storyline works, but Jenkins doesn’t seem to know when enough is enough, and by the end, it spirals into an overlong version of the climax from Bruce Almighty when pandemonium breaks out as a result of everyone’s desires being fulfilled. The first Wonder Woman film dealt with the concept of mankind being the problem, which is what Steve tries to attribute Ares’ manipulations to be, and WW84 doubles down on the selfishness and evils of the desires of man. While yes, apart from Christ, mankind is inherently evil and sinful, the way it comes across in WW84 feels overly dark and cynical. For example, there’s a scene where Max Lord asks what the president of the U.S. wants most of all, and he asks for more nukes to be able to protect the U.S. from the Russians. It feels not only out of left field with virtually no setup, but like a really pessimistic view of what our country’s leader would ask for most if given the chance. (Granted, saying “world peace” would have sounded pretty hokey, but then again, the scene isn’t needed at all to begin with.) Also, nearly every time Barbara or Diana was shown looking dressed up and beautiful, the miscellaneous men in the scene would be whistling at or hitting on them. And then you’ve got Max Lord who is a selfish, self-centered, egotistical and manipulative man (and poor father). So, I’m not sure if Jenkins just has a low view of men in general, but she really doesn’t paint them in a very good light – especially in this movie. Steve Trevor was flawed at times in the first film (which felt rounded and realistic), but his entourage were at least heroic in their support of Diana’s pursuits. With it just being “Diana & Steve VS the World” this time around, it feels more obvious (or, at the very least, questionable).
With so much to touch on that doesn’t seem to work so well this time around, it’s easy to layout what doesn’t work, which makes it seem like all is lost in Wonder Woman 1984; that’s certainly not the case, though. First of all, I adore Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. I loved her more innocent, fish-out-of-water personality in the first film, so while we have a more seasoned hero this time around, she hasn’t lost what’s so lovable about her character. The fish-out-of-water role, this time, is swapped with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, who finds himself suddenly in “the future” after having only known life as a soldier in 1918. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is electric once again, and their scenes together are the best thing about this movie. The action scenes – although too few – are great, especially a dramatic truck chase in the desert. We see Wonder Woman rock the bad guys in new ways this time, and it’s pretty great. There’s also a wonderful scene that takes place on the 4th of July, which I won’t spoil, but it’s total fan service that was a lot of fun (even if it is pretty far fetched). And, while Pascal’s character is just too much at times, I thought he did a solid job as the character, and it was fun to see him get to play such an animated character after his more stoic Mandalorian performance. (It’s just a shame that the kid playing his young son in this movie had the personality of a wooden plank, which only made Pascal’s performance seem more exaggerated when they shared the screen together.)
For the most part, the film’s content is surprisingly tamer than the first 2017 outing. However, thematically, it still gets pretty heavy — especially for younger viewers. There isn’t much by way of sexual content, but we see Steve and Diana in bed together in the morning, presumably after sleeping together. They share some passionate kisses throughout the movie, but that’s about it for showing us the physical aspects of their relationship. (It’s just still a shame that such a strong role model for women and young girls is shown hopping in bed with a guy just because she “loves” him. It doesn’t send a very good message.) Language is pretty infrequent, with a single use of the “S” word from Steve (in a comical moment), and some milder cuss words here and there. Aside from the occasional “Oh G-d” or “Oh my G-d,” there really isn’t any gratuitous blasphemy (and some characters go out of their way to say “gosh” instead, even.) There is plenty of violence, but it’s rarely graphic. We do see some bloody scrapes on Wonder Woman’s face, arms and chest, but it’s seldom focused on. Also, Max’s health diminishes through the movie, so we sometimes see him with a bloodshot eye, a bloody nose, or even some blood coming from his ears. (And dark veins showing in his face and hands on a few occasions.) At the film’s climax, we see Cheetah become a more animalistic creature, with a face that has cat-like features and fur on her body. Her fight with Wonder Woman is dramatically and dimly lit, so it will surely frighten the more sensitive viewers. Lastly, as I touched on briefly above, the themes involve people being given their wishes–with a twist, usually a dark consequence–so things get pretty intense by the end. Riots, destruction and violence break out in the streets, and this can be a bit much for some viewers. One scene shows a husband and wife arguing and the man tells her to drop dead, so she falls over. Another sequence shows the ruler of a Middle Eastern land wishing to have his land back and to cast out others people, so a huge wall forms between their lands (a political statement perhaps?). Our son is 10 and struggles with anxiety, and we opted to not share the movie with him (with us not having seen it first), and we’re pretty sure it would have been too much for him to handle.
The first Wonder Woman outing made my wife and I fans. Ever since its announcement, we’ve been itching to see Wonder Woman 1984. Sadly, it definitely doesn’t live up to the hype or expectations, and in a year filled with disappointments, it’s a bummer that Wonder Woman has to be yet another one. Again, it’s hardly a complete loss; if you’re a diehard fan, you’ll likely enjoy at least some of it. Wonder Woman 1984 may not live up to its predecessor or the character’s legacy, but it’s still enjoyable to see Diana wielding the lasso again, and I’d still love to see Gadot eventually suit up for a third solo film. (By the way, be sure to stay through the credits for an extra scene!)
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 12/23/20)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: We see some women in a gym working out, wearing spandex while men stare at their butts as they bend over while working out (played for laughs); We see a commercial with Max Lord who is telling the viewer they can get what they want. In one scene, we see Max on a yacht with girls in bikinis, with some showing a lot of cleavage; Barbara takes her skirt off and we briefly see her leggings from her waist down; Max and Minerva passionately kiss and he runs his hands along her arms and back; Steve and Diana passionately kiss; Diana and Steve wake up in bed together. He’s shirtless, she’s in a slip. They kiss passionately; Minerva is in a workout onesie at the gym that shows cleavage and her bare hips and thighs. The guys stare at her; A scene switches to show Max in the middle of a conversation with a televangelist. We hear him promise that his “sex tape” will be gone.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “S” word, 1 “Oh my G-d,” 2 “Oh G-d,” 1 “G-d,” 1 “h*ll,” 1 “b*tch,” 1 “b*stard,” 1 “G-d darn it”
Alcohol/Drugs: Diana and Minerva have drinks (wine and a beer) at lunch; A drunk man tries to come on to Minerva in the park; Max swigs a drink from his desk; We see the same drunk guy from before drinking from a bottle.
Blood/Gore: Minerva beats up a guy on the street and we see some blood on his head; Wonder Woman gets shot and we see a little blood on her shoulder. We see more blood on her shoulder as the scene progresses; Max’s eye is red and bloodshot. And at one moment his ear starts bleeding and he dabs it; We see Max’s nose bleeding. We also see the veins in his hands and face surging briefly; Wonder Woman is shot in the arm and we see a bloody scrape on it; We see some blood on Diana’s leg, chest and arm; Max has some blue veins popping on his face.
Violence: SPOILERS ahead! We see an olympic games type event in Themyscira with young Diana. One Amazon woman knocks another off a pillar into water. While riding a horse, a tree branch knocks young Diana off her horse and she falls to the ground hard; In 1984, Wonder Woman kicks a car out of the way that almost hits a jogger; A bride falls and is caught by her Wonder Woman’s lasso and is safely placed on the ground; A couple robbers rob a store in the mall. One of the thieves drops a gun which causes panic in the mall; One of the thieves holds a kid over the railing at the mall, but Wonder Woman ropes her with her lasso and saves her. She throws another kid out of harm’s way into a gigantic teddy bear. They shoot at her, but she crushes the guns of the robbers in her hands and then knocks one into the air and catches him before he hits the floor. We then see them crash out a window and fall onto a car outside the mall, all tied up; Minerva is grabbed by a guy in the park who appears drunk and claims he’s trying to help her. Diana shows up and shoves the guy several feet in the air to the ground; Minerva accidentally pulls the door off her fridge; Minerva meets the drunk guy again who’s drinking. She confronts him and throws him into the side of a truck and then kicks him some distance. She then walks up to him and kicks him hard again. We see some blood on his head. She kicks him in the face and a couple more times and he goes flying into the street. (We don’t know if he’s dead or alive); Max’s security team shoots at Diana and Steve in their car. Diana catches a bullet, that would have hit Steve, with her lasso; Diana throws a guy off a truck onto the desert ground on the side of the road; Wonder Woman gets shot and we see a little blood on her shoulder; The security team keep shooting at Diana and Steve, as Steve shoots back. Diana flips a truck in the air, and it crashes down on the road; Steve punches a guy in the face; Steve wedges a truck between two trucks to protect her. Steve shoots a rocket that she lassos onto and swings on to race toward a couple of children ahead in the street. She grabs them out of harm’s way, but slips and loses her grip on the lasso, falls and rolls to protect the children. Steve skids the truck to a stop just before hitting them; We see a brief, slow motion flashback of an Amazon warrior hiding inside her armor while men attack her; We see rioting in the streets; The president tells Max that he wishes for more and more nukes; Diana wraps Max in her lasso. Some men protecting him shoot at her and we see blood on her arm. She and Steve use a tray as a shield. She throws the men around and whips her lasso around. Steve punches guys in the face; Barbara punches Steve and Diana. Then throws Diana again. Steve pushes Max against the wall. Barbara throws guys around and Diana tries catching them to save them. The two then fight each other; Max and Steve fight. Diana whips Barbara and it throws her to the ground. Barbara attacks Steve and Diana and throws them around the room; There’s total pandemonium in the streets. We see the aftermath of cars crashed into each other, riots and fires, with people in distress and pushing and shoving each other; A woman drops dead when a man wishes her to; Large machine guns fire in the cloudy air at an unseen object. Then, Wonder Woman clad in armor lands. She blocks a bullet and sends out a wave with her blocked wrists that destroys the guns; Cheetah and Wonder Woman fight and Cheetah tears at Wonder Woman’s armor; The two continue to fight and an electrical tower collapses. The two end up in a small lake and a live wire falls into the water and electrocutes Cheetah; We see visions of Max’s childhood where he remembers his mom being slapped by his father, him being yelled at by his father for wetting the bed, and him being young and picked on at school; A mob breaks into and rush through Max’s office (to find him, but he’s not there) and Max’s son (who is alone there) flees; We see footage of mayhem around the world (some of it appearing to be real, like people carrying what looked like a dead body); Nuclear missiles are launched from Russia, so the U.S. counter attacks and launches missiles of their own (but the crisis ends up being averted); In the mid-credits scene, we see a log holding up part of a market tent nearly fall on a child, but a woman grabs it, saving the child.