Written by: Stephanie Cobb
Copyedited by: Sofia Anrecio
In 2017, the Patty Jenkins-directed superhero film “Wonder Woman” introduced audiences to a new version of its famous titular character. The movie, which stars Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, was a critical and commercial success. It also marked an important milestone in cinematic history, as it was the first major superhero movie to be directed by a woman. For years, Wonder Woman fans patiently awaited the sequel to this blockbuster, and on Christmas Day 2020, Patty Jenkins delivered with “Wonder Woman 1984.”
The sequel catches up with its immortal protagonist (again portrayed by Gal Gadot) decades after the events of the first film. Still grappling with the loss of her lover, Wonder Woman (who goes by Diana Prince) is working as a historian at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. We meet her coworker, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), as well as the TV personality and businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). The plot is driven by a mysterious relic called the Dreamstone, which promises to grant its user’s wishes, but at a price. Naturally, chaos breaks loose as Diana, Barbara and Maxwell all fall victim to the Dreamstone’s tricks, and it is up to Diana to save the day.
The cast brings a great deal of depth and charm to its respective characters; Gadot once again shines as Diana, and Pascal seems to be having a blast as the dramatic, desperate Maxwell. Unfortunately, the cast’s winning performances cannot compensate for the drab visuals of the film. Although the movie is set in, of course, 1984, viewers would not be able to tell if not for Barbara’s baggy pink sweatshirt and one early scene that takes place in a shopping mall à la “Stranger Things.” Even the inclusion of one 80s song would have contributed tremendously to the sense of time and place in the film. Although the film tries to provide meaningful commentary on the consumerism of the 80s, the message is somewhat lost when the audience sometimes forgets what era is depicted.
These issues pale in comparison, however, to the convoluted, overlong plot. Part of what made the first film so successful was its simple yet well-executed story. The second installment, on the other hand, often feels like several different storylines slapped together. The mechanics of the Dreamstone are messy, and the motives of the main villain basically boil down to pure greed; in a world where we have morally complex supervillains like Marvel’s Thanos, it is disappointing to see yet another one-dimensional villain. Overall, the film is too long but underdeveloped. It tries to achieve more than it has time to do, but also spends much of its runtime on scenes that feel irrelevant to the conflict surrounding the Dreamstone.
The most disappointing aspect of the film is the way it fails its main character. Despite almost 70 years passing between “Wonder Woman” and “1984,” Diana is still stuck on Steve Trevor, her love interest in the first film. Although the circumstances of Steve’s death were horrifying, it is incredibly unrealistic to think that Diana would still be pining over him decades later. She does not seem to have grown or changed at all since we last saw her, and it is a shame that an actress as charismatic as Gadot was not allowed to explore the nuances of Diana’s character more deeply. This theme of wasted potential can describe the film as whole. While it may be worth a watch if you already have HBO Max, it is probably better to stick to the first installment, at least until the inevitable “Wonder Woman 3” comes out.