By Savannah Brooks
Wonder Woman 1984, which was released on HBO’s streaming service in December, had high expectations. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman was one of the best movies D.C. has produced – less dark and more friendly to casual audiences than its predecessors, the movie drew people in with its famed heroine (Chris Pine didn’t hurt either). In this reviewer’s opinion, Wonder Woman 1984 fell far short of the standard that Wonder Woman set.
When the movie begins, we see a confident, independent Diana (Gal Gadot) who is now working in historic preservation. It’s clear that she misses Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who died in the last movie sacrificing himself for the greater good, but she’s moved on, and she’s living for herself now. She meets Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) early in the movie. Minerva is set up as a sort of character foil of Diana – she’s awkward, shy, everything that the isn’t. Minerva, an iconic D.C. comic character also known as Cheetah, is clearly set up as the villain, and set up well – her motivation is developed beautifully, and she is distinctly defined as an antagonist made for Diana. When Minerva uses the Dreamstone, she wishes to be like Diana, and gains powers similar to hers – yet, she loses her most valuable asset, which we see early in the movie as she gives food to a homeless person and is overly kind to those who make fun of her – her compassion.
Diana uses the Dreamstone as well – and, in this reviewer’s opinion, this is where the movie begins to go south. Diana’s wish is that Steve Trevor was still alive, which brings Trevor’s soul back in the body of another man. The movie spends about five minutes in Diana’s home while she attempts to dress Trevor in 80s clothing – part of the reason why the movie had an unnecessary 2 hour 35 minute runtime. Aside from this segment, we do not see any other indication that this movie is set in 1984, unless you count the title.
Rather than Minerva, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is the movie’s main villain. Lord, who becomes the Dreamstone after wishing to have its power, is the focus of about half the movie. Don’t get me wrong – this reviewer would never slander the incredible actor that is Pascal (side note: go watch Kingsman and the Mandalorian if you haven’t already) – but Lord is not the villain we should’ve seen the most of. Lord’s only motivation, it seems, is to be a better father for his son, yet he insults his son several times and hardly spends any time with him. Lord is compelling, but he has little to no connection with Diana until she is forced to stop him toward the end of the movie. This creates an emotional disconnect – the climax’s large fight scene (Which isn’t even really a fight scene. It’s more of Diana yelling at Lord until she hits a sore spot and he concedes) leaves the audience in an odd place, as they know Diana is going to win and they are rooting for her, but they don’t really care what happens to Lord.
1984’s greatest pitfall was its handle of characters. Lord and Trevor combined likely had more screen time than Diana, and Minerva was tossed aside multiple times, including in the final fight between her and Diana which lasted about five minutes. In this fight, Diana wears armor that had once been worn by a distant ancestor of hers. The legend of this armor is explained to Trevor (and the audience) as an extremely powerful armor that once withstood the fury of a thousand men as Diana’s ancestor held them off so the rest of the Amazons could escape to Themyscira. However, in the final fight between Minerva and Diana, after Minerva has gotten more powerful and become the “Cheetah” as she is known in the comics, the armor is almost immediately destroyed. This plot point doesn’t make much sense – it survived thousands of years after a barrage by a thousand men, but it can’t handle five minutes of a cheetah-woman clawing at it. If the movie had properly set up Minerva as that powerful it may have been believable, but once Diana got her powers back it seemed as though she didn’t find defeating Minerva very difficult.
Just before the final fight, Diana is forced to give up her wish to get her powers back. This means giving up Steve Trevor. I won’t lie – this reviewer appreciates parallels very much, especially in a sequel, but this was not a parallel to Wonder Woman. This was just laziness. In Wonder Woman, at the end, just before the climaxing fight, Steve Trevor sacrifices himself to save Diana and, ultimately, the rest of the world. In 1984, at the end, just before the climaxing fight, Steve Trevor sacrifices himself to save Diana and, ultimately, the rest of the world. 1984 ultimately had the same plot as Wonder Woman. Steve Trevor did not need to be brought back for this movie – he was an unnecessary edition (unless you count for sales, as Pine tends to draw in more viewers).
TL;DR – Wonder Woman 1984 was a copy of Wonder Woman with messier CGI and less Diana. Rather than using the iconic, better marketed and more personal villain, 1984 uses a power-hungry angry man, something the world has seen countless times. With Diana’s emotional reliance on Trevor and Minerva being pushed aside in favor of Lord, Wonder Woman 1984 is a Wonder Woman movie about men. This reviewer gives it 2 stars.