I really liked the first Wonder Woman movie, even if it had its flaws, so I had high hopes for Wonder Woman 1984. Yeah… Well…
After Diana — Wonder Woman — saved the world in World War I, she kept her head down. She kept that up until 1984. In 1984 we find her working at the Smithsonian in Washington. A new colleague, Barbara, starts work just as a new shipment of artifacts is brought in for identification. One artifact in particular catches her and Diana’s eye, a crystal mounted on a rock. It’s an apparent fake, but if the Latin inscription on it is to be believed, it grants wishes.
Of course they try it. Diana wishes for her old boyfriend Steve from the first movie back; he’s dead for over sixty years. Barbara wishes she could be more like Diana. Then something extraordinary happens: their wishes come true.
Meanwhile, a new donor of the Smithsonian shows up, a Maxwell Lord. He appears to be looking for the stone that was brought in. And as it turns out, the stone is not what it seems. Not at all…
Now, you might be wondering why Diana wished for Steve back. He’s been dead for over sixty years. Diana has been a young attractive woman all that time, so surely she’s met — NOPE. That’s right, Apparently, Diana spent six decades pining after her dead boyfriend, Steve.
So, let’s look at the character arcs a little bit closer. The big lesson that is the core of this movie is apparently, be careful what you wish for, because you might accidentally get it and then the price could turn out to be too high. Which is a really weird premise, if you think about it. Neither Diana, nor Barbara have really bad wishes, the wishes just backfire because that’s how they apparently work. But they did not know that. What’s the lesson here? If you get lucky, you should be prepared for being screwed over? It’s a character flaw to want something?
Or should we just see it as the impetus that brings out the character flaw? If so, then Diana’s flaw is her not-moving on, and Barbara should just accept who she is. Okay, fair enough. However, the downsides of these flaws are not made apparent. Because Diana and Steve seem pretty happy being reunited, and Barbara seems a lot happier being popular. The only downsides are the problems created by the wish backfiring. Meaning the character arcs don’t make sense. And it shows.
In short, the theme of this movie sucks.
Diana — Gal Gadot — starts the movie trying to stay unnoticed, but secretly fighting crime. During the course of Wonder Woman 1984, she learns that even though Steve’s dead, she’ll always have their shared time together. You’d think she would have figured that out without magical stones. But no. Couldn’t Diana have been an independent happy woman? She had a whole world to explore after the first movie, but the sequel had to focus on her inability to be alone. Urgh.
Steve — Chris Pine — is both a good and a bad addition to the movie. It’s bad because he’s taken over another man’s body, and he had no business being in this movie. It’s good, because he’s at least marginally funny. Still, the movie would have been better without him… Well, the movie could have been better without him and a better script. That’s not even going into the problem that Steve’s role is apparently to show Diana is one of those strong woman who can’t function without a man.
Barbara is a nerd, and she wants to fit in better and be cool like Diana, because she isn’t happy. I find this a problematic way to portray less social people. You can be an introvert and be happy. More problematic is that the stone hands Barbara Diana’s powers and then she becomes a total psycho. It’s like she has to be punished for wanting to fit in. What kind of message is this movie sending?
Max Lord is a sad man. He’s a con artist with a failed marriage and a son he mistreats, while supposedly the welfare of his son is his main motivator. It could make for an intriguing character, but the writers decided to forego on subtlety and just made him an over-the-top caricature. It’s not even funny, it’s just stupid and annoying. What could have made him far more interesting is his arc had made him become a decent man before the climax, when the real villain showed up. But alas, there is no real villain, just this sad nonsensical man.
In short, all characters in this movie suck.
The characters arcs are bad, but the characters also suffer from lack of agency. All the characters get what they want by making a wish with the magic stone early in the movie, then they spend the rest of Wonder Woman 1984 reacting to the fallout. The characters all have no goals beyond keeping the status quo intact. The story is like a boulder rolling down a hill, and the characters try to prevent it from rolling over them.
That leads to another gripe: there is no real antagonist. Everybody is milling around, trying no to be screwed over by the negative effects of the magic stone. You could say the stone is the antagonist, but really, it just does one thing: grant wishes and cause bad side effects. There’s no escalation, or threat. It’s just wacky shit happening because people make more wishes. It’s like a disaster movie about a sinking ship, where the main character is constantly plugging the same hole, only for random bystanders to open the hole right up again.
And finally, what the heck is with the f*cking invisible fighter jet. Fighter jets do not stand around on runways, flight-ready and waiting. No way you can just walk in and steal them. And no, a pilot from 1918 cannot magically fly a fighter jet. As demonstrated by him flying through fireworks with it. But aside from all that: a fighter jet cannot reach the other side of the world without refueling. And the cherry on this cake: why would you steal a fighter jet to get to the other side of the world without any plan beyond ‘steal jet’, and without at least considering all the problems I just described?
Wonder Woman 1984 is garbage. It’s not good, it’s not funny, it’s nothing but a waste of time. The only thing it has going for it is that you can watch Gal Gadot running around in a tight suit.