Wonder Woman 1984 is the sequel to the 2017 Wonder Woman film, both directed by Patty Jenkins. It was one of many films set for a big theatrical release in 2020, but due to Covid it was the first film to meet the fate of having a simultaneous US release on HBO Max and whatever few theatres were open. It ended up doing OK worldwide, given the number of closed cinemas around the world over the past year. There is allegedly a third film on the way, although the reception of Wonder Woman 1984 has been mixed, to say the least. Even those who are in the “it’s just about OK” category have said it is a real step down from the first film.
The film is allegedly set in 1984, but despite the promise of the trailer, which was soundtracked to New Order’s “Blue Monday,” there are actually very few signifiers of the era. That song is not in it, and there is very little other ‘80s music in the film—just a Gary Numan song at one point, and one from Frankie Goes to Hollywood (allegedly Duran Duran’s ”Rio” is in there, but it’s barely findable). It could just as easily have been set now, there’s no real need for it to be set in the ‘80s. The production design has some nice pastel colors reflective of the era especially in the first half but looks like a knock-off of Stranger Things.
The story itself is completely silly. She’s still hung up about Steve Trevor, her love interest who died in the last one but returns here in the most convoluted way possible, involving a magic stone. The stone grants people wishes, so of course she wishes for him to come back… That whole thing is bizarre, because she has to get some random guy to be the body of her long-lost love (a bit creepy and rapey, actually). Kristin Wigg plays a colleague who ends up becoming Cheetah, one of the film’s antagonists. The main antagonist is a businessman, Maxwell Lord, played by Pedro Pascal as a power-hungry capitalist.
The first film is a pretty solid superhero movie, but the plot for this one is a real mess. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and although the end result is fine, it’s a missed opportunity. You’re at least expecting a fun action sequence set to an ‘80s pop song, but it just really isn’t that. Instead, it’s quite baggy at two and a half hours, and it really drags as it goes along. Some of the action sequences are not as good as the first film, either—the big battle with Cheetah is kind of anti-climactic, although it’s supposed to set up this conflict between the two that would carry on into the next film. More screen attention is played to Maxwell Lord, which is OK—Pascal is having fun in the villain role, almost twirling his moustache in a Gordon Gecko-style part. It’s complete overload, they needed to know what to do with the villains and get some ’80s bangers on the soundtrack. Also, one of the plot points is that the Egyptians are trying to build walls around their communities and this is a problem, which is a bit ironic given that Gal Gadot has served in the Israeli military and is pretty defensive of her government doing the same thing.
Of course Gadot is fine as Wonder Woman, as is Chris Pine as Trevor. But while you might have hoped for a great poppy superhero adventure, it’s a bit bloated for its own good. It’s not quite the disaster people made it out but nor is it underrated. However, there is a very fun cameo at the end in a bizarre Christmas scene which feels very much like a reshoot shot when it was known the film was coming out on Christmas instead of it’s initial summer release. I just hope Paul Schrader enjoyed Gadot in her cute outfit. There are 90 minutes of extras, including a making-of, scene studies, a gag reel and other features.