Wonder Woman 1984 is chaotic ‘80s bubblegum fun. In a film that reminds us we can’t have it all, this sequel to the 2017 smash hit Wonder Woman delivers a consistently fun blockbuster event despite its haphazard construction and strange character choices. Making an engaging blockbuster ain’t easy and if any type of movie was missing in 2020, it was this kind.
Here we follow Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman once again as she comes up against Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal, everyone’s favorite lone wolf) and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig, who channels her digital-fur technology). They’ve gotten their hands on some doodad that will grant the user 1 wish. In the process, the user’s greatest desire will manifest while something very important to them will be lost. What matters for you when determining whether to check this film out on HBO Max or not, is that somehow Chris Pine as Steve Trevor is back and the delightful back and forth we witnessed between Diana Prince and Trevor in Wonder Woman can resume.
This time, Trevor is the fish out of water as he’s transported to the wild world of the ’80s, one that’s far different than the world he remembers. The roles are flipped in a fun and exciting way here. This isn’t the only thing Director Patty Jenkins flips on its head in WW84. Instead of crafting a non-stop action film, She delivers a big-budget rom-com with some action scenes interspersed throughout. It’s a 180’ move from the first film and my interest was piqued by the fact that Warner Bros. didn’t mandate more action here to meet the typical blockbuster quota. I’m also not complaining. The reason you come to a Wonder Woman movie is for the two leads and their chemistry, not necessarily the action.
In a film that acts as a takedown of the consumerism of the ‘80s, I was surprised by how ‘much‘ some of the character choices were. Pedro Pascal is having the time of his life here, but Kristen Wiig is in a different movie. Her Strange performance had a similar effect on me that Jamie Foxx as Electro did in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I think they just needed some CGI monster for Wonder Woman to fight, which is the only reason I can conceive of why this character was knit into the fabric of this film.
Going along with the themes of the ‘80s – at 2.5 hours long – this is an overstimulating and excessive film. Very much like the America of the time (under the booming economy of the Reagan administration), success requires extreme discipline to maintain an equitable society, and WW84 loses itself many times because of a lack of narrative discipline. This film is all over the place in theme, but it is still a lot of fun to witness. I’m sure the ‘80s felt pretty similar. The themes that did shine through in WW84 were that truth is beautiful and lying costs us. It is a simple idea but a very Biblical one at that.
From personal experience, I can think of times where I lied to gain something temporally, then realized that my character (the most valuable asset we hold, far more valuable than any physical asset) had taken a massive hit. We see the effects of envy on Barbara Minerva (Monkey’s Paw anyone?) and how that envy drives her to lie, cheat and steal to get to the top. I love that this film highlights the cost that comes from depreciating character. Nothing is free in this life and we shouldn’t expect to be rewarded long-term if we cheat to get there. Maxwell Lord and Barbara Minerva are selling a prosperity gospel of sorts to the world here. While watching WW84, I couldn’t help but think about how the prosperity gospel offers what seems like life only to dishonor God in the delivery. It’s the sacrifice of the beautiful truth for a lie that provides short-term gain and long-term enmity with God.
Never before have we as a culture been more starved for blockbuster filmmaking than we are after 2020. WW84 doesn’t perfectly scratch that itch but it does provide a lot of the fun we have come to expect from the summer blockbuster. You can’t always have it all, but man is it nice to have a little.
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Carter Bennett is a Contributor and Cohost at Cinematic Doctrine. He’s a ravenous cinephile who loves looking at the film industry through the lens of a Christian worldview. He never went to film school, but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming a certified Film Junkie! His ultimate desire is to faithfully give an account of his savior Jesus Christ through the world of filmmaking!