Review by Kate L. Ryan
In Wonder Woman 1984 (Patty Jenkins, 2020), the titular Amazonian superhero is back, no longer on the grim battlefields of WWI but now in the glittery world of the 1980s. While the message at the heart of the film may be too on-the-nose for some, viewers who can suspend their cynicism for long enough will enjoy an energetic, classic superhero adventure.
Now a cultural anthropologist at the Smithsonian, Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) spends her working day examining artefacts and her spare time fighting crime as Wonder Woman. The sudden appearance of her dearly missed boyfriend, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who bravely sacrificed himself in the first film, has chaotic consequences when the forces that brought him back are not as benevolent as they seem. Steve’s return provides comic relief as he gets to grips with life in the 1980s compared to the 1910s; a clever reversal of roles from the first film where it was Diana who was the fish out of water. Importantly, his arrival also adds an emotional dilemma to Wonder Woman’s journey. Being a very high-powered superhero, Wonder Woman can easily fall into the trap of not having credible obstacles to overcome. But director/co-screenwriter Jenkins chooses to focus on emotional obstacles and therefore prevents that from being a glaring issue; even if it does, at times, feel like Diana’s intense superpowers can undermine tension.
The previous film, while considered groundbreaking in its depiction of a female superhero, was criticised most notably for the absence of a compelling villain. Taking this into account, Wonder Woman 1984 gives us not one but two compelling and intensely watchable villains. Kristen Wiig commands the screen as Diana’s belittled geologist co-worker who becomes the fierce and dangerous Cheetah, and Pedro Pascal gives a swaggering performance as the greed-driven businessman Maxwell Lord.
Wonder Woman 1984 updates a classic plotline to comment on societal greed but also offers a hopeful vision of humanity. At times, the audience may find themselves choking on the sickly-sweet spoon feeding of this message, but it can be a refreshing change from the overly gritty worldview that has characterised other DC films. Overall, the film is engaging and the cast is charming enough to make up for the slightly predictable plot. Those who enjoyed the original will likely be pleased with the sequel.