After many release date delays and uncertainty about if it would even get a theatrical release, Wonder Woman 1984 arrived this past Christmas Day in any theaters that were open along with the first of many day and date premieres on HBO Max. After all that, was it worth the wait? Well…it’s complicated.
As you can probably guess from the title, the movie takes place in 1984 where Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is working for the Smithsonian as an anthropologist while also secretly protecting the people of Washington DC as Wonder Woman. After foiling a heist at a mall jewelry shop that was a front for black market items, a mysterious crystal called the Dreamstone is brought to the Smithsonian by the FBI. Diana and her fellow historian Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) initially believe it to be worthless but it draws the attention of sleazy TV oil company executive Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and everyone soon learns that the stone has magical powers that gives anyone who touches it any wish they want. Barbara wishes to be like Diana while Diana wishes for Steve Trevor to return and both wishes are granted. Maxwell Lord wishes to become the Dreamstone itself and begins to wreak havoc around the globe as he gains power and grants wishes that threaten to destabilize the already unstable Cold War machinations. Wonder Woman 1984 is one of those strange movies where, despite the fact that its runtime is 2 and a half hours long, it still feels like a lot of parts are undercooked or underexplained. Kristen Wiig’s Barbara Minerva probably suffers most from this issue as it seems like the movie is doing a good job of integrating her into the plot and into Diana’s life but she starts to disappear for large chunks and her ultimate heel turn seems like it comes out of nowhere. The movie also totally drops the ball with the Cheetah part of her character. She’s not even a zoologist or some similar field at the Smithsonian, so it makes no sense for this version of the character to make the transformation she does in the third act. Maxwell Lord’s plan also feels vague and underexplained and also doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense if he’s looking to have a world left where he’s the most powerful in it as he’s granting wishes that are destroying the Middle East and increasing the number of nuclear weapons deployed. The movie is also just straight-up weird in some places, like the manner in which Steve Trevor returns and the absurd anarchy that grows toward the climax as more and more nonsense wishes are granted. The one bright spot is that the cast is fantastic even if things may be lacking around them. Gal Gadot and Chris Pine instantly have their absurd chemistry from the first movie and their flipped roles of who is the fish out of water is fun and lets the movie play with its 80s setting the most. Pedro Pascal, everyone’s favorite space dad, is great as always and does a great job leaning into the 80s huckster energy of his version of Maxwell Lord and grows increasingly manic as things progress. Kristen Wiig does a great job as well but, as mentioned before, her character suffers the most from the plot machinations and strange changes from the comic character origins.
The movie also really suffers from a lack of action and what little action there is well done but nothing spectacular. After the opening mall heist that is more comedic than exciting, it’s probably at least an hour or more until there’s an action setpiece worthy of a big superhero blockbuster but there’s nothing that matches the No Man’s Land sequence of the first movie and is even lacking compared to the other 2020 DC release, Birds of Prey, which may have had different issues of its own but had some spectacularly choreographed action. The climax works better than the CG mess of the first Wonder Woman but it also feels a bit too pat and easy of a resolution, especially for the villains. There are some fun additions for long-time Wonder Woman fans, including an appearance from a certain 70s icon in the post-credit scene and things like an updated take on the invisible jet and Diana’s ability to fly and there are lots of great uses of the Lasso of Truth that feels like how the Russo Brothers kept coming up with great uses of Cap’s shield in the Captain America movies. One bit of Wonder Woman’s arsenal that feels like a bit of a letdown is the much-hyped golden armor she gets but it ultimately doesn’t really do much of anything special and Diana probably could have just gone into the final battle with just her usual costume and gotten similar results.
Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t bad by any stretch but it is definitely nowhere near as good as the first movie and toward the middle tier of the recent run of DC films. Gal Gadot is still fantastic and the rest of the cast is great as well but the movie feels both bloated and undercooked in equal measures and it lacks the spectacle you would expect from the sequel to one of the biggest superhero movies in recent memory. Since it’s easily available on HBO Max, it’s worth a watch if you’re a DC fan but probably temper your expectations before you start.
I’m like the J. Jonah Jameson of Everything Action, writing and editing and constantly demanding pictures of Spider-Man.