The live-action DC Entertainment Universe has been on a rocky road for a while now, often focusing too much on dark, gritty pseudo-realism than on the superhuman characters many of us love. “Wonder Woman” was a breath of fresh air in 2017, something the DC movie franchise needs even more after the ongoing “Justice League” debacle. “Wonder Woman 1984” continues this trend, playing fun and loose with reality, which is both this entry’s strength and weakness.
It has been 76 years since Diana Prince last saved mankind. She spends her days working for the Smithsonian in D.C. and occasionally swooping in to save citizens from petty crimes. (Apparently, she sat out World War 2?) The museum has just hired a new historian, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a woman so awkward that she can trigger second-hand embarrassment. She’s smart, attractive, and capable, but lacks one of the greatest powers of all, confidence. When Diana and Barbara first meet we immediately recognize the classic plot this movie will follow. Diana wishes for a simpler, less lonely life, and Barbara wishes she was as strong and self-assured as Diana. An ancient relic imbued with the power from a mischievous god grants their wishes and the two begin to immediately experience some changes. For Diana, this includes the return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). Taking a page from “Ghost”, Steve is a spirit that inhabits the body of another man, but due to her intense connection, Diana only sees Steve.
The moral repercussions of this possession are lightly skipped over, which is forgivable as their chemistry works even better than in the previous film. There’s a fun reversal of the fish-out-of-water trope as now Diana introduces Steve to a world he doesn’t recognize. The script focuses on how much Steve loves being a pilot. It’s not just a generic trait but an important part of what defines his character. This leads to a delightful trip to the Air & Space Museum and some interesting discussions between Diana and Steve.
Amping up the conflict is TV personality and wannabe oil mogul, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). His catchphrase “Life is good, but it could be better!” doubles down on the movie’s moral lesson, be careful what you wish for and appreciate what you already have. When Maxwell gets his hands on the power of the stone everything very quickly escalates. Even with the film’s long but brisk 151 minute run time, it feels like a lot happens in a very short time. Characters pop back and forth across the globe for quick action sequences returning just in time for a bit of exposition. This is where the movie begins to waver a bit. Logic and other pesky plot holes rear their heads just to be brushed aside by a steady stream of feel-good scenes. The only other thing that dampers the fun this movie provides are the inconsistent visual effects. Some are the best we’ve seen in recent DC films. Others, often during the same sequence, are painfully bad, jarring you out of the moment. A lot has already been written about the final conflict between Wonder Woman and Cheeta, which is the most egregious of the visual effects. According to Patty Jenkins the studio forced her to include the dark, emotionless, CGI catfight. You’d think if the studio pushed so hard for it they would have at least put the money to make it look good.
Even with its flaws, “Wonder Woman 1984” is a delightfully fun, and surprisingly emotional entry in the DCEU franchise. We all wish 2020 would have been better, but at least we did get a few enjoyable, uplifting movies like this!
Wonder Woman 1984 is in theaters and available on HBO MAX starting December 25th
Wonder Woman 1984