Although Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t a bad movie, the DCEU sequel does fail to live up to the standards set by its predecessor, 2017’s Wonder Woman. Once again directed by Patty Jenkins, with a story by Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham, Wonder Woman 1984 takes Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) into the future from the point-of-view of the first movie’s World War I setting, but remains in the past of the DCEU, this time in the year of its title.
The leap forward in time means that WW84 is a very different kind of movie to the first Wonder Woman. While it is very much a sequel in terms of continuing Diana’s journey and building on events from that film, the gap and new setting means that tonally it feels completely separate, while it also has to introduce a raft of new characters alongside some familiar returning faces. That’s no easy feat, especially given the added expectations on the movie after the critical and commercial success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, and WW84 isn’t quite up to the task.Continue scrolling to keep reading
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Gadot’s star shines brightly in the sequel once again, and Wonder Woman 1984 once again banks on her chemistry with Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor, while introducing some exciting new villains. But while it’s not without its qualities, the story of Wonder Woman 1984 and where it takes these characters can’t compete with the first movie.
Wonder Woman 1984’s Story Is Ambitious, But Long & Messy
Somewhat admirably, Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t just try to rely on the same tricks that worked in Wonder Woman 2017. While many superhero sequels are content to simply repackage some similar ideas, just with an upgraded costume and different villain, WW84 does aim to be very different. There’s a level of ambition to this, in that it tries to tell a story that is epic, optimistic, and also pull-off a wish-granting plot device that has stakes both global and personal, but the film cannot quite balance all of those elements. At two-and-a-half hours it’s much longer than it needs to be, and yet simultaneously it tries to juggle many different ideas and characters in a way that never fully feels satisfying.
The main problem with this stems from Wonder Woman 1984‘s wish-granting device, the Dreamstone, which is what powers the narrative forward, but also drills many holes into it at the same time. Outlandish creations are part and parcel of the comic book realm, but there is no working internal logic to the wish-making or anything that stems from it, and that causes the movie to collapse in on itself. The decisions made by the characters rarely feel well-developed, the mechanics ill-explained, and very little of it makes sense. That might be forgivable if the movie was shorter, and thus had more of a fun, enjoyable ride feel to it, but the stretched runtime means that doesn’t quite happen.
Diana & Steve’s Romance Is Worse In WW84 (Because of How Trevor’s Return Happens)
The relationship between Diana Prince and Steve Trevor – and the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine – was at the heart of Wonder Woman, and that’s something WW84 clearly knows. It doesn’t just repeat the same thing, but instead this time flips their relationship on its head, with Steve as the fish-out-of-water, having been transplanted from the 1910s (and, well, being dead( to the 1980s and being “alive”. For the most part, this really works: Gadot and Pine shine together once more, and the movie makes you truly invest in their romance, allowing for a greater level of emotion to come through. There’s a lot of fun to be had with this, including some of the film’s highlights – such as the invisible jet ride – but it’s undercut by the mechanics of how it works.
Related: Fixing Wonder Woman 1984’s Steve Trevor Story
Rather than have Steve Trevor’s return just happen, Wonder Woman 1984 instead forces him into the body of another person, who in turn effectively ceases to exist until Diana renounces her wish. With this man’s life on hold and body simply being used as a vessel – and Diana and Steve even sleeping together – then it raises not only questions of logic (why have him take over someone else’s body at all) but also consent. Wonder Woman never had any such issues, meaning that everything about Steve and Diana’s relationship worked, from their romantic moments to the poignant gut-punch of his ending, but the sequel brings unnecessary complications to it.
WW84 Doesn’t Use Its Period Setting As Well As Wonder Woman
World War I proved to be a fascinating setting for 2017’s Wonder Woman; as Diana made her entrance into the world of men amidst one of its most devastating conflicts. This specific setting was crucial for several reasons: it allowed for moments of levity, with some classic fish-out-of-water comedy, but also stunning action sequences, most notably the No Man’s Land scene. But what’s particularly key is how it uses the war to enhance its own themes of hope and heroism (and of being a female superhero in a “man’s world” especially), of the conflict between ideals and reality, the cost of war, and an exploration of both the ugliness and beauty of humanity. Some of this could have been achieved elsewhere, but framed through the lens of such a harrowing event it’s able to take on even greater power, and WW1 feels intrinsic to its story.
The same cannot be said for the year 1984 – or the 1980s overall – in the case of Wonder Woman 1984. It has a fun mall sequence early on, President Ronald Reagan and the Cold War form a part of the story, while there’s also some entertaining riffs on the fashions of the time, and Max Lord is every bit a slimy 80s business. But none of these ever really feel anything more than superficial; it pays lip service to the era, but it doesn’t fully embody its period setting in the same way the first movie did. For the most part, Wonder Woman 1984 is a movie that just happens to be set in that year, and its story and ideas could mostly be transported to other time periods and work in a similar way.
Wonder Woman 1984 Doesn’t Progress Diana’s Story Enough
The decision to set Wonder Woman 2 in the year 1984 has another negative impact, which is that it doesn’t do much to progress Diana Prince’s story enough after the first movie. While several decades have passed since the events of Wonder Woman, Diana in many ways feels like she’s still in the same place, as she continues to mourn the loss of Steve Trevor and struggles to move on. Of course, it’s difficult to say just how an ancient demigoddess experiences the passage of time, and the loss of Steve was obviously devastating. But one way in this feels like a sequel is that it’s as though Diana’s story is picking up shortly after Wonder Woman in this regard, rather than so long after; there’s not enough exploration of a different Diana or showing how she might have been changed, but nor does her stasis truly inform the plot either, meaning her character exists in something of a state of limbo, and only by the end, with Steve’s second departure, can she begin to move on. Compared to the journey the first movie took her on as she entered the world of men for the first time, and all of the lessons she had to learn, harsh truths to accept, and experiences to discover, Wonder Woman 1984 feels like a let down.
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What Wonder Woman 1984 Does Better Than Wonder Woman 2017
It would be unfair to Wonder Woman 1984 to say it’s worse in every way than the original Wonder Woman, or even that it’s a move without its merits. The movie may be far too long and its plot full of holes and several questionable decisions, but it is at least superficially enjoyable and entertaining, with the charm of Gadot and Pine and the performance of Pedro Pascal as Max Lord helping to keep things interesting. It isn’t a total disaster, even if several elements don’t work, and it’s in its villains and ending that Wonder Woman 1984 succeeds the most. Both of those were aspects were 2017’s Wonder Woman started to break down a little bit. With the unveiling of Ares as the true big bad, Wonder Woman strips away just a little of its narrative power. That problem is compounded by the net result of introducing the God of War: a dull, messy, CGI fest battle that loses what had made the first two thirds of the movie feel so unique and special within the superhero genre.
In contrast, Wonder Woman 1984‘s ending chooses to go down a different route. The final showdown with Cheetah doesn’t offer a great deal in terms of action, but it does feel a little more intimate and personal to Diana, even while the fate of the world is at stake. Similarly, she beats Max Lord not with brawn, but with brains and a whole lot of heart. Both villains have reasonably solid arcs – it may have been better if the movie had given just one of them focus, as things are a little imbalanced – and understandable motivations, and Pascal in particular is compelling to watch. Wonder Woman 1984 can’t live up to its predecessor in a lot of ways, but its villains hopeful ending does mean it isn’t a complete bust as a sequel.
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