Only a hero like Wonder Woman could shine as such a bright beacon signaling the end of a year as dark year as 2020. The release of the long-awaited sequel to 2017’s critical acclaimed and hugely successful film, Wonder Woman, has finally arrived as a perfect gift.
Wonder Woman: 1984 was slated for release in Summer of 2020 before being delayed due to theater closings. After months of the film being held off Warner Brothers Studios decided to release it in reopening theaters as well as make it available for 30 days on their streaming service, HBO Max. The film made $16.7 million on opening weekend, an incredibly impressive feat given no other films released in theaters in the pandemic era managed to crack $10 million.
The film has already been greenlit for another sequel in a statement by Warner Bros. chief Toby Emmerich, “As fans around the world continue to embrace Diana Prince, driving the strong opening weekend performance of Wonder Woman 1984, we are excited to be able to continue her story with our real-life Wonder Women — Gal and Patty — who will return to conclude the long-planned theatrical trilogy.”
Caution readers: Spoilers for the film follow from this point in the story.
The film is clocks in at more than two and a half hours, though unlike most superhero blockbusters every scene is dedicated to serving its own story rather than stuff itself with Easter eggs or launch a dozen spinoffs. We might be able to chalk this up to Marvel vs. DC or the director’s choices, but it is notable.
The set piece of 1984 is overall more cosmetic than anything else, but it’s extremely well executed in design. There are no weak performances in any of the film’s four central characters; Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, Kristen Wig’s Barbara-Ann Minerva, and Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord are electric in every second they take the screen. Gadot’s onscreen chemistry with Wig and Pine take up some of the film’s best interactions, both in terms of jokes and darker character moments.
Wig stretches her acting legs outside of her comedy roots and creates one of the most memorable and well-developed female antagonists in the entirety of the superhero film genre. Pascal’s performance is the real grabber in this film though with a performance that is equal parts dreamy, intimidating and tragic. The heavy focus on Maxwell Lord in the screenplay paired with Pascal’s Stoller acting chops does at times unfortunately overshadow the central character of Diana at times, but Gadot still manages to hold her own and capture the heart of the film in the end with her earnest and empowering energy.
The film’s core message is stated in the opening scene of the film by Robin Wright’s character Antiope “No true hero is born from lies”. The story’s central theme is to accept the harsh truth of reality and to rebuke the lie that greed will solve personal problems and leave you fulfilled. The film posits through the exploration of the dreamstone and granting wishes for Diana, Barbara-Ann and Maxwell’s characters the different costs of the pursuits of their own wishes.
Diana’s wish to resurrect Steve and reclaim the love she was denied by the cost of war siphons her power and keeps her from being the full-fledged hero that is needed to protect the world. She is desperate to not surrender the one bit of joy she has managed to regain, denying Steve’s insistence he must let her go till the world is finally falling apart at the seams and there is no alternative left. When Diana renounces her wish and lets Steve go forever her powers return in full and she even transcends whom she was before in finally gaining the ability of flight; a skill she was always afraid to pursue due to the sky being a bittersweet reminder of Steve Trevor. In the end Diana accepts the truth and takes her first step towards opening her heart again “this world was a beautiful place just as it was and you cannot have it all, you can only have the truth. The truth is enough.”
Barbara’s desire to be like Diana results in an arc of deterioration for herself and her relationship with the person she was trying to emulate. The ultimate irony of her wish is that Barbara starts off the film bonding with Diana over their shared qualities of compassion, amicability, love for their work in history and science, and a shared sense of wishing to grow outside their individual forms of isolation. The true tragedy of Barbara’s character is her wish to be like Diana is based only on Diana’s glamorous exterior.
Maxwell Lord’s story highlights how “more” is never the true answer to personal fulfillment. The man starts off as a desperate fraud businessman who eventually grows into a mystical power-hungry tycoon. The character throws a curveball early in the film wishing to be the dreamstone himself, able to fulfill wishes as well as dictate their consequences to his benefit. The man uses and manipulates people’s own desires for better to grow his own power, sowing destruction and leeching what he likes by twisting people’s words and wishes. Maxwell’s redemption is surprising, yet not feeling totally undeserved as he never set out to cause intentional strife.
The film also has the most wonderful cameo in film history in its credits’ scene. The ever-lovely Lynda Carter appears as the missing Amazon hero, Asteria. Seeing Lynda appear only builds the hope we can one day see both women who have played Diana on screen together someday. As Asteria said with a Sunny smile and a star in her wink with the final lines of the film “I’ve been doing this a long time.” And, we can only hope to see more of her in the and Gal Gadot in whatever comes next for Wonder Woman.
Ed note: The writer viewed the film on a home television through HBO Max.