In 2017, Wonder Woman felt like a revelation. It was a big-budget superhero movie with a female lead that focused more on its protagonist’s growth and motivation for becoming a hero than on spectacle (though it certainly had that as well). While not a great movie, it was a really good one; without a doubt the best thing DC has put out since the birth of the DC Cinematic Universe in 2013. I was excited for a sequel (a rarity for me) because I was genuinely interested in seeing how the character could continue to evolve. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman 1984 (currently streaming on HBO Max) isn’t interested in that.
It is so busy developing two new characters (one poorly, the other with varying degrees of success) and making wink-wink references to its time period that Diana feels like a supporting character through much of its 150-minute runtime (as long as it is, it feels at least twice as long). It falls into the common trap of sequels: everything has to be bigger! The result is depressingly short on Wonder; it is just a Woman in 1984.
Diana is now working as an archeologist at the Smithsonian by day and fighting crime during her free time. When a collection of artifacts is brought in to be examined, a stone with the power to grant wishes catches the eye of Diana’s new friend, timid gemologist Barbara, and wannabe oil tycoon Maxwell Lord. Only Diana can prevent the stone from destroying the world.
Gal Gadot is still perfectly cast as Diana. There is a stoicism and honesty about her that seems absolutely right. She is exactly who she seems to be. It’s fun to see her confidently battle bad guys. When Wonder Woman 1984 lets her do her superhero thing, it’s reasonably entertaining. When it does anything else, it is very dull. Maybe Diana evolved as much as she can in her first solo outing and they couldn’t think of where to take her? It would’ve been nice to see them at least try.
Instead, a lot of the attention is shifted to two other characters. The more intriguing of the pair is Barbara Minerva, the gemologist who feels ignored by life. She is immediately fascinated by Diana, who is everything she wants to be. Well, a wish can make that happen, but then what becomes of the sweet woman she was before? Kristen Wiig is quite good in the role, funny in the early scenes, then kind of sad as she turns desperate in the movie’s last half. She holds her own solidly enough, despite the character getting a bit overwhelmed during the action-packed final act. If I had the stone, I would wish they had done more with Barbara’s relationship with Diana. Sadly, they don’t share much screen time when the plot gets going.
The second significant newcomer is The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal as the greedy Maxwell Lord. I would add another description, but that is basically all there is to him. I think he’s supposed to embody 80s excess and greed though, as far as commentary on the 80s goes, that’s a fairly lazy one. All Pascal has been given to do is smirk and deliver his lines with a slimy arrogance. He is a cartoonishly annoying villain that I definitely wanted to see less of. I don’t blame Pascal; he was failed by the screenplay, which created such a one-dimensional role.
Regardless of my general dislike of Wonder Woman 1984, it still made me want to see more of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince. Just hopefully in a story that is actually about her. It seems even Wonder Woman can be defeated when she is shoved aside in favor of derivative plotting and underwritten villains.
2¼ out of 5
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince
Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva
Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Screenplay by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham