Wonder Woman 1984 is the second best movie with Wonder Woman in it. Granted, the standards are fairly low outside of her prior solo movie. The sequel is bigger, and as such a tad less focused, but still a satisfying entry that leaves you wanting a third. It’s no Supergirl 1984 but it’s still pretty good.
Back to the future with ‘Wonder Woman 1984’
Wonder Woman 1984 opens with a sequence on Themyscira with young Diana (Lilly Aspell) competing in an event that looks like Amazon Quidditch. Aspell returns a few years older and able to do a bit more physically.
Then we catch up to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) in 1984 with a few random rescues that are the most fun of the whole movie. Seriously, Superman, Spider-Man, Batman and Wonder Woman ought to make entire movies that are just rescuing random people in trouble. That’s the good stuff.
Wonder Woman 1984 sets the scene well with lots of ’80s leotards and neon. Wonder Woman is breaking security cameras to keep her identity hidden. Some of her friends from the first movie have grown old and presumably died since World War I. It’s apparently not our 1984 though, because there is a President in it who is definitely not Ronald Reagan. That’s a valid choice, but it would have been nice if the film explored exactly what take on a real or alternate ’80s it was doing.
In her day job, Diana is working at the Smithsonian. They’ve come into possession of the Dream Stone. A magic rock is a total comic book macguffin that Wonder Woman 1984 treats sincerely. The Dream Stone gives both Smithsonen researcher Barbara Miranda (Kristen Wiig) and hopeful oil baron Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) new powers. Those powers corrupt each of them to various degrees. The stone tempts Diana too.
Spend more time with Wonder Woman, a lot more time
Wonder Woman 1984 is a lot plot heavier in the first act than the prior film. They gave us the pretitle Themyscira Olympics and the opening rescues, but you definitely feel it. There are some nice moments of friendship between Diana and Barbara, and the return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) makes him the fish out of water in a world where Diana has evolved into a modern ‘80s woman.
The film introduces some Wonder Woman accoutrements didn’t fit into the first film, but it is a long time before she’s back in action. There is an awesome convoy sequence that comes at roughly the same point as the No Man’s Land sequence in the prior film. A White House fight is good. It’s essentially a hallway fight but it’s dressed like the White House and she’s using her lasso.
Diana’s second solo movie is like some other superhero sequels
There are a lot of parallels between Wonder Woman 1984 and Superman II and Spider-Man 2. Apparently all superhero franchises tend to go to the same places in each respective part. Neither Batman series did though, although Batman Returns was the movie that introduced the double villains in a superhero sequel.
It’s fun to see the Wonder woman version of this, although some of the more original ideas might have been more intriguing. There could be more on Diana hiding her Wonder Woman identity. It seems like that’s just a corner Batman v Superman painted them into and they’d rather have her be heroic throughout time. Now they have to explain why no one had heard of Wonder Woman in 2016. Still, there’s a potential story there in exactly how Diana chooses to help.
Diana still approaches new challenges and new foes with compassion. Wonder Woman 1984 is still true to her in that regard. It would have been nice to spend more time focusing on the conflict between Diana and Barbara. Barbara’s new power also attracts all the toxic men, and her reaction to them is understandable. Diana never really steps in to offer a more compassionate way to handle conflict. And there’s a scene earlier that totally sets up how Diana deals with the same thing, but the film fails to capitalize on that parallel between the women.
The message that the truth is enough is worthwhile. Let’s hope it resonates with people in this big, sprawling superhero movie. For all the extra time Wonder Woman spends luxuriating between action set pieces, it leaves a lot of potential on the table. Maybe if you’re watching it on HBO Max you won’t feel as restless as you might in a movie theater.