Movie Review: Wonder Woman 1984

DISCLAIMER: I didn't see this film in a theater. I watched it with my HBO Max subscription. I highly recommend you don't go see it in a theater even if it is playing near you. That's too risky with all the surges in virus cases across the U.S. and the world. Stay safe!

Wonder Woman 1984 is about Max Lord who is desperate to find a way to pull himself out of a drastic financial hole after making promises he couldn't keep to investors. He buddies up to brilliant, kind, and clumsy scientist Dr. Barbara Minerva who has stumbled across an ancient artifact that has the power to grant the wielder one wish, which poor, shy Barbara uses to be more like her friend Diana Prince. Max steals the object and uses his wish to become the wishing stone and be the wish granter himself, upending the balance of the world, tipping it toward chaos. Oh, and Diana Prince also makes a wish on the stone, but when she realizes the wishes have consequence, just like her greatest teacher and her mother teach her in a flashback, she becomes her alter ego, Wonder Woman to try and stop Max Lord. The film stars Pedro Pascal, Kristen Wiig, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, Kristoffer Polaha, Natasha Rothwell, Ravi Patel, Chris Pine, and Gal Gadot. The film is directed by Patty Jenkins and is written by Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham. The film is streaming exclusively to HBO Max for the next 30 days (as of 12/26).

I admit I got a little cheeky in the synopsis, but sincerely for a movie about Wonder Woman, there is precious little of the costumed hero persona of Diana Prince. This is the problem as with all of these superhero films that are set before a superhero "comes out," or debuts on the world stage as happened in previous, but later in setting films, than this one. Having Wonder Woman in the film Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, was likely cool and exciting, but to then go back and create an origin means ridiculous, self imposed limitations in order to fit in the world that has already been established. It's silly and is a hinderance on plot and some character development. There are fewer stakes this way! We know no matter what happens in this film, Wonder Woman will survive because she exists in the 21st century.

The other gripe I have is with the time period itself. Just like the first film where it was declared that World War I was the war of the greatest evil (Hello, HITLER!?!?!), this end game would have made more sense at a world event where the superpowers were already on the brink of killing each other like, I don't know, the Cuban Missile Crisis? The '80s didn't make sense to me until I realized that the plot wouldn't work without it. The '80s was a decade of excess, greed, and so many people out to make a quick buck no matter who they stepped on to get it.

I like this central plot. I like seeing Pedro Pascal seethe and sneer as desperately greedy Max Lord. The film puts so much effort into this story line, but it really does touch on everyone of our central characters. I even liked the ideas behind Kristen Wiig's character Dr. Minerva. It's not a new theme to explore, the nerd becoming hot, but what Wonder Woman 1984 does better than those plots is it doesn't have Dr. Minerva accepting the fawning of every man as something she should thank them for.

There's a brilliant scene in the film where Dr. Minerva finds something out for Diana and she uses her new found speed to skip a cab and run to her destination. She's beset with catcalls, aggression, and disgusting behavior by the men she passes. We see on her face the toll this is taking on her mentally. She didn't realize when she made it that there is a stress and a downside to being like Diana. Then she hears the call of the man that attempted to rape her before her wish and she gets her revenge and then some. Yet, even when she's caught by her acquaintance, she still feels no remorse, no sorrow. There's something refreshing in that kind of character in a woman villain. Typically women in this type of role are expected to be apologetic and supplicating even in their evil, but not with Dr. Minerva and I wish that they could continue on with the development of the character, but her position at the end of the film is ambiguous.

What's not ambiguous is my joy at seeing Steve and Diana together. This relationship was my favorite part of the first film and was definitely my favorite part of this film. The way Steve is brought into the story is also very subtle and something I was worried about, but made sense once the plot was revealed. There are scenes of pure beauty and what I really and truly love is that Steve is supportive rather than take charge. He's seen what Diana can do and he's more than willing, more than able, to let her take charge. She will always be able to save him far better than he could ever save her. It's a beautiful relationship that results in some of the most amazing scenes of the film.

That relationship would never work without the utter charm of Chris Pine, though. Yes, he'll never truly compare to our other "man out of time" cinematic boyfriend, but his earnestness in the wonder of the new world is a delight. I especially love when he learns new fighting techniques. Though, what I enjoy overall is that Pine is able to embody so wholly the utterly "horny for aviation" side of Steve. I never once said to myself, that's a dumb choice by Chris Pine, I could only see the terrific, well-meaning boyfriend that is Steve Trevor.

Wonder Woman 1984 is pretty campy. It has some strange sequences that actually do make sense, but it takes a very long time to get to its point. I really enjoyed it, but I'm also not a hardcore DCEU fan. So, if you've been clamoring for the Snyder cut before you "knew" there was one, this one may not be the one for you. Though, if you're looking for a good superhero movie with a terrific romance, great villains, and a good plot, this may be one to check out.

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