A wonderful christmas gift from the 80s

A “Wonder Woman 1984” movie review


Brent Gelick/Talon

Wonder Woman, played in the film by Gal Gadot, pictured wearing a face mask.

Wonder Woman is back and flying higher than ever. Patty Jenkins has returned with the sequel to her hit movie “Wonder Woman” for HBO Max’s first straight-to-streaming feature debut that now sets the standard for big blockbusters on the little screen.

This time, writer Allan Heinburg has not returned for the sequel and has left Patty Jenkins as both writer and director of “Wonder Woman 1984,” giving Jenkins full creative freedom. The story follows Diana Prince played by Gal Gadot nearly 70 years after her exploits in Britain during the film’s predecessor. When a magical stone that grants wishes falls into Diana’s hands and brings back her lost love Steve Trevor (played by Chris Pine) Wonder Woman is forced to come out of hiding to save the world from new threats among the likes of Cheetah and Maxwell Lord, played by Kristin Wiig and Pedro Pascal respectively. 

The film opened up to a very mixed reaction from both fans and critics alike with a 5.4/10 score on IMDb, making it the lowest rated film in Warner Bros’ DC cinematic universe. It also earned a decent 60% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Patty Jenkins’ sequel strays from Zack Snyder’s original vision for the DC cinematic universe, leaving the dark and gritty war setting behind in favor of a very colorful and flashy 80s nostalgia trip. The film falls very much in line with the lighthearted style of Richard Donner’s “Superman,” not taking itself too seriously and allowing for moments of campy fun. Coming off a successful first outing, changing the series is a major risk.

The risk, in my opinion, pays off to make for a fresh and original sequel that feels like a natural continuation of the predecessor while also opening itself up to a slew of new ideas and areas to explore in Wonder Woman’s story. It is no carbon copy of the original. 

The film decides to double down on its villains who are easily given more focus than in the first. Though Cheetah’s transformation and character arc are reminiscent of, and will be compared to, Michelle Pfieffer’s Catwoman and Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Wiig’s development is much more fleshed out and nuanced. Her motivations are understandable and clear, making her easy to sympathize with. The real issue is how they shift her personality throughout the story, which feels rather cheap and unearned. 

The real star of the show, however, is Maxwell Lord. Pedro Pascal is an absolute delight, hamming it up with a performance that is charming and large. He’s not menacing, but he’s not supposed to be either. His story is rather heartbreaking and surprisingly ends up being the heart and soul of the film.

Chris Pine’s return as Steve Trevor is also handled well, though one key aspect of his re-emergence has sparked debate. Steve Trevor does not return to his own body, but rather in the body of a random gentleman from 1984. The focus is on the “why” he is back, which I think is very satisfying from a storytelling perspective, but some may get lost in “how,” which has brought up controversy and narrative plot holes. 

The story is also very different from the first, focusing on a stone that has the ability to grant wishes. It’s a ridiculous story device that could be viewed as “lazy” because the stone paves the way for the narrative; anything that can happen will happen because the plot demands it. While some may agree, the absurdity to which they take this concept comes off as incredibly tongue and cheek, knowing full well how ludicrous the idea is and going for it. The issue is not how the rock is utilized, but the lengths that the film goes to justify and explain it. The script attempts to ground what the audience has probably already grasped.

Though “Wonder Woman 1984” is not a masterpiece and not the cleanest nor perfectly executed superhero film, it’s one that definitely deserves to be recognized. It focuses on the emotions and the heroism over the story. That may work for some and may not work for others. 

It’s a bold piece that embraces the campiness of its source material and shows a true love for the character of Wonder Woman and all that she embodies. It’s nowhere near a perfect film, but it’s emotionally effective and sincere enough for a recommendation. Check it out on HBO Max or stream it when available.