Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
Director Patty Jenkins suggested that the major theme of this film is the idea of there being no other villain than humans themselves.
Lying is never without consequence.
What is TRUTH? Answer
Courage to face the truth about one’s self
About the fall of mankind to worldwide depravity
What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Is it just “bad people” that are sinners, or are YOU a sinner? Answer
Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer
How good is good enough? Answer
Human wishes, desires and instant gratification can lead to terrible ramifications
Materialism and self-gratification— In the film, Max Lord says, “Welcome to the future. Life is good! But it can be better. And why shouldn't it be? All you need is to want it. Think about finally having everything you always wanted.”
The ways that power often corrupts people
Love and compassion
Sinful men who prey on women
Women’s rage against toxic masculinity
Gal Gadot … Diana Prince / Wonder Woman —an immortal demigoddess, Amazon princess and warrior, daughter of Hippolyta (the Amazonian queen of Themyscira) and Zeus (the king of the Olympian Gods)
Chris Pine … Steve Trevor —an American pilot and spy from World War I
Kristen Wiig … Barbara Minerva / Cheetah
Robin Wright … Antiope
Pedro Pascal … Maxwell Lord —a deceitful charismatic businessman and entrepreneur famous for TV infomercials
Connie Nielsen … Hippolyta —the queen of Themyscira and Diana’s mother
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Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company
Prequel: “Wonder Woman” (2017)
The cons of being immortal are pretty interesting. Diana Prince (played by Gal Gadot) has lived 65 years on Earth, but has remained her youthful self through it all. That of course leads to challenging obstacles, including the decision to never love again. But at the same time, Diana also made this decision after her true love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) sacrificed himself at the end of the first movie to help defeat the Greek War God, Ares.
Now, it’s 1984, and Diana (a.k.a. Wonder Woman) has gotten used to living a double life. She works at the Smithsonian and spends her spare time being a hero in the shadows. One day, an intelligent but insecure archaeologist/gemologist named Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) starts working alongside Diana in helping analyze some suspicious gems, including one known as a “Wishing Stone.” Not knowing that it is for real, Diana and Barbara make wishes for their heart’s desires.
Meanwhile, a struggling businessman named Max Lord (Pedro Pascal) desperately wants to make his son proud after divorcing his wife. Upon hearing about the wishing stone, he plots to take it for himself to get everything he wants. And to make things worse, the wishes surprisingly come true. Barbara wishes to be like Diana, and becomes someone different. And Steve Trevor mysteriously comes back and finds Diana, which leads to even more questions.
With its 20-million dollar budget, “Wonder Woman 1984” has a lot working in its favor. One is the performances, which are terrific across the board. Gadot brings more emotional layers to Diana here in comparison to the last go round. Pine gets the chance to be a “fish out of water” as his astonishment at how America has advanced provides plenty of interesting moments. Pine and Gadot carry some strong chemistry as well. Pascal makes for an effective villain, with more complex, sophisticated and emotional layers than one might expect. And Wiig successfully steps up to the plate (especially in the third act) as supervillain Cheetah—though she and Gadot have a couple of strong friendship scenes in the first act also.
Second is the throwback vibe, which sadly does get a little lost in the second act. Director Patty Jenkins and her filmmaking crew create a film that feels like it’s right out of 1984. From practical effects, the costuming and production design, to throwback music, many will find it fun to watch.
Finally, the film succeeds in taking bold risks that (mostly) pay off. The action scenes, while impressive, are a bit more restrained in favor of character development and emotional gravitas. Meanwhile (doing my best to avoid spoilers here), the ending climax does not go the usual superhero movie route. Instead, it ends with an emotional payoff that does hit its intended target. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that the film went the route that it did.
However, this leads to quite a few problems as well. First, the tone and feel are disjointed. The first act works as a fun throwback. But the second act drags its feet, with a little too much time spent on exposition as well as a couple of modern throw-ins that don’t gel (it’s 2 and a half hours long). The third act brings things back into focus, though it does push things over-the-top dramatically. Finally, a mid end-credits scene brings a surprise that I won’t spoil.
Also, while no fault of the actress, I felt that Cheetah was missing one or two scenes to help really solidify her “fall from grace.” She turns quite suddenly on Diana, and her reasoning for becoming villainous could have used a bit more development. 10 or 15 minutes of the second act could have been edited, re-written and replaced with a moment or two of personal reflection on Barbara’s part to help us better understand her thinking. It would have helped tighten the film’s overall investigations as well.
Finally, I thought the opening flashback scene on Themyscira was largely unnecessary. It’s an impressive scene with outstanding stunts and visuals. But, aside from a comment from Antiope (Robin Wright) on a theme that plays a big part of the film, there’s nothing here that connects to the film’s overall purpose. I think a quick flashback to a conversation with Antiope and Diana’s mother (Connie Nielsen) would have worked a lot better mid-way through the film to reinforce the theme.
The strong themes of love and sacrifice continue in “Wonder Woman 1984,” but with more focus on the emotional struggles that come with it. The Wishing Stone comes with a warning that in order to get what you wish, you must give up something. I found this to be an interesting parallel to how life is not fair for any of us, and that sometimes selfless sacrifice is needed for the greater good of everyone. Diana models this by willingly sacrificing and renouncing her desires to save the world (while Barbara models the opposite). And Jesus ultimately modeled this to save sinners like us. This reminded me of Philippians 2, which illustrates how looking out for others over ourselves carries a greater impact.
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” —Phillippians 2:4
There’s also a strong message about the importance of truth. After taking a shortcut in the opening competition, Antiope tells a young Diana, “No true hero is born from lies.” Diana also warns Max later on that, “The truth is important, and it’s beautiful.” Lies are shown to be dangerous and deceiving to at least a couple of characters as well. The journey of Max’s character and Diana’s advice reminds me of how freeing truth is, an echo of John 8.
Diana and Steve willingly risk their lives to save others. Max’s ambitions are shown to not be totally out of villainous intentions, but simply to be the greatest he can be for his son (though he later learns that being honest and full of integrity carries far more worth than power).
Many times in this movie, I thought about the Spider-Man quote (I know, Marvel quotes in a DC movie might sound a little off), “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Wishing Stone gives various characters the power to control their future, which leads to the temptation to want and gain more. In many ways, we are warned about the dangers of greed and how sinful humanity will almost always misuse power given to them. And, at the same time, the film often shows that a simpler, humbler way of living ultimately brings greater reward. Through characters’ decisions and motivations (including Barbara sharing a meal with a homeless friend toward the beginning of the film), I was reminded of the importance of having a humble heart and spirit. Jesus mentioned the importance of “storing our treasures in Heaven,” while the book of Ecclesiastes warns of the dangers of having our hearts in the wrong place.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” —Matthew 6:19-21
“He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver;
Nor he who loves abundance, with increase.
This also is vanity.” —Ecclesiastes 5:10
“Better a handful with quietness. Than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind.” —Ecclesiastes 4:6
Language: We hear one use each of the s-word, “b*tch” and “h*ll,” along with three interjections of God’s name. Elsewhere, we only hear “oh my gosh” and “Shoot.”
Adult Content: There are a handful of moments that will give some families pause. First, Steve and Diana clearly sleep together upon reuniting. We see them wake up the next morning embracing and kissing in bed (he’s shirtless, she’s wearing a low-cut pajama shirt). In another scene, Max and Barbara kiss passionately and fondle each other in her office privately (but it’s clear that Max is really there to steal the Wishing Stone).
A homeless (and drunk) stranger attempts to accost a helpless Barbara early on. We hear about a televangelist who wants a scandalous sex tape to disappear. Barbara and Diana wear low-cut or curve-hugging outfits at times. At a party, they are both ogled by various men. In one other aside, older men are shown staring at women bending over in tight exercise clothes. Women in bikinis are shown in a TV commercial.
Violence: There are some action scenes that are too intense for younger viewers, but don’t necessarily push the envelope for superhero films. Early on, people in a mall are threatened by robbers with guns, and a little girl is held over a balcony threateningly. In another scene, Diana hurls a tank in the air and causes a couple of intense crashes. We see her shot in the shoulder a couple of times, leaving a bloody gash. Other punches and gunfire play a part here. We see a flashback to a warrior holding off several men attacking her.
A battle scene in the White House involves gunfire and hand-to-hand combat, and leaves Wonder Woman and Steve badly injured. We see images of nuclear warheads launched, along with images of worldwide panic as a result of selfish wishes being granted. Wonder Woman and Cheetah engage intense combat, leading to Cheetah being nearly being drowned to death.
A couple of potentially disturbing scenes might prove difficult for some. One involves Barbara getting revenge on her assaulter, which involves her brutally-kicking him repeatedly, leaving his bloodied body in the middle of a street. Another involves a look at Max’s past, which reveals verbal and physical abuse by his father. And speaking of Max, his granted magical abilities take a visible toll on his body, occasionally bleeding from his eye and mouth.
Drugs/Alcohol: Diana and Barbara sip on drinks at a meal together. A character is clearly drunk as he harasses Barbara. Other alcoholic beverages are seen a few times, too.
Other: Spiritually, the Wishing Stone has a Mayan/polytheistic relationship. We don’t see much in terms of magic on display, but it is implied there is an occultic history. Diana discusses how the stone was created by the “god of lies” and was used to destroy various ancient civilizations. The stone’s use always comes with a price. For every wish given the participant must give something significant in return.
Meanwhile, the effects of the Wishing Stone drives characters in selfish and evil directions. Some characters manipulate and lie to get what they want.
The original “Wonder Woman” was quite a (well) wonder when it came out in 2017. It was one of those movies that had a lot to think about. Not only was it a terrific origin story, it had something to say at the end that was meaningful and redemptive. That being said, it was interesting to hear that the ending of the film wasn’t the one director Patty Jenkins had in mind (the studio and producers exercised more control on how the film ended).
Giving Jenkins free reign and more control over this project, in comparison, carried positive and negative consequences. Her vision carried some very interesting risks for a superhero film. Risks that created a divided and occasionally polarizing response on social media and with critics. For me, I think her vision worked pretty well at times. But the final film itself, while ambitious, isn’t quite as enthralling as its predecessor. While the characters and emotional gravitas are strong, the overall plot, pacing, and tone are too all-over-the place to really work as a cohesive whole. And the 2½ hour runtime felt a bit like a drag, especially in the second act.
1984 is about the same as the original in terms of problematic content. There’s a bit of language (notably less than most superhero films go) and a handful of pretty violent situations. The only bit of content that stands to differ from its superhero movie brethren are a couple of suggestive scenes that will probably give parents with tweens some pause.
Ultimately, WW84 is a solid, imperfect, messy film. Where it works, it practically soars. Where it stumbles, it does so noticeably. At the same time; where it inspires with its fairly Biblical messaging, it merits applause. Yet, where it has an out-of-place content issue, it encourages caution as well.
For adults and teens who can navigate the content issues, the film may be of interest. Just don’t expect a classic like the first film. The content is not appropriate for youngsters and will likely lose their attention.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.