When Wonder Woman came out, it was a shot of adrenaline to the heart of DC. Not only was it an unqualified success story for them, it was a welcome example of diversity and inclusion in the superhero world. As such, expectations were always going to be sky high for Wonder Woman 1984, the follow-up to one of the more beloved comic book films of the last decade. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work in the flick’s favor, as the sequel is an unqualified letdown. Unable to capture the magic of the first one, the movie instead is too ridiculous for its own good. When you feel closer to Green Lantern (which isn’t bad, just wildly mediocre) than your own first installment, that’s a problem.
Wonder Woman 1984 probably would not seem as disappointing if it weren’t for how strong Wonder Woman was. That solo adventure/origin story for the iconic hero hit at the perfect moment. The sequel, on the other hand, just feels like another tentpole project for a studio. The heart is harder to find, and as such, but core of what makes this character so appealing is somewhat lost. Plus, the plot is fairly silly, barely making any sense. The relative realism of the first one, set in World War I, is decidedly lost.
Diana (Gal Gadot) is now living in the 1980s when we meet her, working at the Smithsonian and doing under the radar good deeds as Wonder Woman. At work, she makes friends with the meek Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who wants nothing more than to be as cool and confident and Diana. When the museum comes into possession of an ancient stone, they don’t realize what they have. At least, Diana doesn’t until she wishes for her lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) to return to her, and lo and behold, there he is. It turns out, the stone grants wishes. TV businessman and phony oil tycoon Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) already knows what the stone does, and seeks desperately to possess it. His company is floundering and he’s desperate to be a success, so he manipulates Barbara to acquire the stone. Once he does, things begin to turn around for him, albeit with a price for the world to pay.
At first, Diana is thrilled to have Steve back. Unfortunately, as Lord continues to amass power, Diana and Steve sense a problem and begin to investigate him. Standing in their way is not just Lord’s growing influence, which eventually puts him in control of nearly everything in America, but also the evolution of Barbara. Consumed with being like Diana, she turns to what’s essentially the dark side, becoming The Cheetah in the process. Of course, this sets up a final battle, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Would you expect any less?
There’s still an undeniable charm in seeing Gal Gadot and Chris Pine interact. Gadot remains perfectly cast, lending Diana the right balance of force and heart. She’s pure good here, and so is the performance. Pine again showcases easily why you’d see Diana fall for Steve Trevor. The rest of the cast is not nearly as successful. Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright again cameo, but don’t factor into things. Then, there’s Kristen Wiig, who’s largely wasted as Barbara/Cheetah. There are tiny bits of her humor, but by and large, the generic part swallows her hole. Wiig winds up turning in a generic performance. On the flip side, Pedro Pascal goes big, but his mix of Donald Trump style huckster and 80’s wannabe tycoon never finds a barometer. He’s clearly having fun, but the fun doesn’t really translate.
Patty Jenkins doesn’t seem quite as engaged this time around. There are no iconic moments or sequences that make you stand up and cheer. Her direction hits the basic tenets of what would make this a good movie, but the spark is gone. A lot of that is due to the screenplay she penned with Dave Callaham and Geoff Johns being generic and frankly unworthy of the character. If this was the plot of a Green Lantern film (not to cite that one again), it would have been on par. However, for a Wonder Women sequel? Not so much. We should expect better than a wish-granting rock and basic 80s commentary.
Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t bad, it just falls well below the heights reached by Wonder Woman. If you just want to see Diana on a new adventure, I suppose this will scratch that hitch. However, if you want anything more than that, you’re likely to be disappointed. Whether it’s a little or a lot (like me), that remains to be seen. A third Wonder Woman film still holds tons of potential, but this is a misfire, there’s no way around it.