Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984 was hammered from multiple fronts, causing it to flounder at the box office, like so many of its brethren in 2020 and 2021. Announced to be premiering day and date on HBOMAX, it caused a firestorm in Hollywood as experts and insiders tried to comprehend the new landscape of movie releases. Nobody can dismiss the fact that the major studios were watching Disney to see how they handled the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on their release schedules.

Everybody was looking for a way to make a profit, at the very least, and release their films (some of which were contractually obligated to be released at a certain time or in a specific format). The questions that usually pelted a movie were magnified, and it only got worse for 1984 when it was released. Even though it was a fun, interesting story, nobody could deny that it was a different beast from Wonder Woman. That didn’t make the movie bad. Only different.

Perhaps the sky-high expectations from Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and Black Panther had set 1984 up to fail. We’ll never know because it never really had the chance that other films would get in the following years. Certainly, Black Adam, Shazam! Fury of the Gods and Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania failed to excite audiences if their box office receipts are anything to go off of. But, as we enter a new era of filmmaking and releasing, it begs the question. What really marks a film’s success? I won’t go so far as to call 1984 a cult classic. There are very specific parameters to that qualification. But were people unduly harsh to 1984? That’s a determination that only you can make for yourself.

While primarily taking place in the 80s, we are first reintroduced to a young Diana (Lilly Aspell) during her time on Themiscyra, which allowed for the return of Robin Wright’s Antiope. The Amazons are competing against one another, and during her trek, Diana looks back to marvel at how much further ahead she is, only to be knocked down from her path. This prompts her to take a shortcut in order to continue on, but before she can win the competition, Antiope stalks across the field to stop her short, intoning, “No true hero is born from lies.” This is the major theme of 1984. No matter how hard or inconvenient, honesty is the best path forward. This is a lesson that Diana (Gal Gadot) continues to learn throughout her life and impacts many of the decisions she makes as a result. She strives to be a woman of honesty and truth, even when it hurts. That is what makes Steve Trevor’s (Chris Pine) return so difficult for her. When one has what they truly want, it is almost impossible to give it up, even if it hurts or kills you.

Patty Jenkins decided to ignore certain aspects of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – chiefly, the detail that Wonder Woman had all but abandoned humanity in the wake of Steve’s death during World War I. Instead, she cleverly uses her story to lay a different foundation. Rather than abandoning mankind, Diana simply ensures that there is little to no evidence of her interference in the world of man. When she stops a robbery in a packed super mall, she makes certain to use her tiara, a la Sailor Moon, to take out all of the security cameras. Rumor and innuendo follow the hero, who, despite people getting a good look at her, is incapable of truly recognizing her because she moves quickly and acts decisively during times of extreme stress and trauma.

As a result, Diana is often alone – with no friends to speak of until she meets Barbara Minerva for the first time. Her shy, anxious new friend is intelligent and funny and draws Diana in almost immediately. Their friendship, even if the film only covers a handful of days, feels like one of the most crucial elements of 1984. By the time Barbara embraces her inner Cheetah, the betrayal cuts deeper because Diana viewed her as her first real, true friend since Steve Trevor’s death.

Steve Trevor is played by two people this time, though only one person is the actual character. The person Steve seems to take over is listed only as “Handsome Man” and is played by Kristoffer Polaha and has little to do once the Dreamstone yanks Steve’s soul and visage onto him – though only Diana sees him as Steve. Certain questions are probably better left unasked and unanswered regarding this process. Steve and Diana pick up right where they left off before his untimely death, and the chemistry between them is still off the charts.

This time, Steve is the fish out of water, and it is truly hilarious watching a man from the early 1900s walking around in the 80s – though it would have probably been even more hilarious if the film had taken place in the 2020s, precisely one century after his death. Technology has changed drastically this time, leading to a funny scene where Diana explains that everything around him is art, except for the trashcan. The pair play off of one another and make a powerful offensive duo as they crisscross the world in an effort to stop Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) from using the Dreamstone to its full effects.

The Dreamstone acts as a supercharged McGuffin, which most of the characters would love to get their hands on despite the consequences that become evident from using it. Being housed in the back of a mall’s jewelry store (part of an off-the-books operation), the FBI collects the stone after Wonder Woman thwarts the robbery. It is sent to the museum where she and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) work together. Unaware of what it does, both women unwittingly make wishes on it, which slowly begin to unfold and come true, with the consequences equally slow to make themselves known. Finally, when Maxwell Lord stumbles upon it and realizes what it is, his true plan begins to unfold – and his desire for “more” begins to grow out of control.

The conflict in 1984, truth versus lie, right versus wrong, and shortcuts versus the long, hard path are carefully woven into the story. Those who seek them out, such as Barbara and Maxwell, are crushed under the weight of their choices. Diana, at great personal cost to herself, decides to sacrifice what she truly wants to be who she truly needs to be.

What makes Wonder Woman 1984 an interesting film is that, typically, the titular character dispatches her villains with a finality that would make Jack the Ripper blush.

However, due to her history with Maxwell Lord and her often ruthless tactics to protect those she cares about, there was about a 50/50 chance that she might actually deal with him as her comic book counterpart did. It seems that act was transposed to Superman and his final battle with General Zod in Man of Steel.

Then, there’s the rivalry between Wonder Woman and Cheetah, by far her most famous rogue.

For most of the film, Kristen Wiig is simply embracing the supernaturally divine beauty and strength that she has unwittingly been granted from her wish. While becoming increasingly amoral, she is still clearly on Diana’s side for most of the film.

It’s only upon her realizing that the Dreamstone’s power is real, which granted her the beauty and power she is now coming into, that she turns on her friend and joins Maxwell Lord. In the aftermath of his excess in granting of wishes, she becomes the apex predator that she feels she wants to be, and the Cheetah is finally born just in time for a final act battle between two mirrored characters. The fights are quick and brutal, but in the end, that’s not what brings Maxwell Lord down. The theme of truth over lies and not taking shortcuts is what Diana uses to bring him down and remind him of why he started all of this in the first place. Diana didn’t have to kill Maxwell herself. She just needed to convince him to kill his own ambition.

Connie Nielsen, like Robin Wright, returns as Queen Hippolyta, though she is equally only featured at the beginning of the film during the Amazon’s competition. This is because Diana still cannot return to Themiscyra after departing because she will – apparently – never be able to find it again. Considering how other mediums have handled this, I find this to be an annoying if not lazy, excuse to not focus on the foremost aspect of Wonder Woman’s character. Obviously, the story requires Wonder Woman to be out in the world where she might be able to interact with other DCEU characters, but it shouldn’t have to be at the expense of Themiscyra and the Amazons. Of course, that explanation makes more sense for Superman – what with Krypton being so much particle dust.

At the end of the day, it’s up to personal taste where Wonder Woman 1984 falls for fans of the DCEU. One way or the other, it can be argued that it is a fun, interesting direction for the character, but as the DCEU falls apart around itself for the fourth or fifth time, audiences can be left wanting. Wonder Woman 3 was unambiguously one of the few projects announced as a definitive entry going forward quickly after 1984’s release.

However, less than three years later, those plans have ultimately been scrapped, and there is little to no word on whether or not Gal Gadot will return again – save for her brief appearance in Fury of the Gods. James Gunn and Peter Safran are busy reworking the entire franchise, and those projects that are still left to come out are bittersweet.

Will audiences actually show up for The Flash, Blue Beetle, and Aquaman The Lost Kingdom if they know that these characters are not part of the plan moving forward?

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