THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WONDER WOMAN 1984
Wonder Woman 1984 took the internet by storm when the initial review embargo lifted, causing the film to plummet from a certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes to only 65%. I’ll let you be the judge of how accurate Rotten Tomatoes is or isn’t. I very rarely base my excitement for a new film or my proceeding critique on the tomato score anyway— and to be fair, I’ve loved films with low scores before—and while I assumed that some of the reviews came from toxic trolls, I do agree with some of the criticisms leveled at film.
Patty Jenkins’s sequel to her 2017 smash hit Wonder Woman offers a message of hope and unity I think the world could use right now, but the concept of wishes and the decision to structuring an entire movie around the classic warning of “be careful what you wish for” didn’t land for me. The film still entertained me, I adore Gal Gadot in the role of Diana Prince and I’ll always admire the talent of Jenkins, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. I know that the Internet is full of Wonder Woman 1984 hot takes, but I thought I’d add my voice to the mix. Here are my takeaways from Wonder Woman 1984.
Cheetah Defied My Expectations but Ultimately Went Nowhere
I have to admit; I was a little reluctant when I saw Kristin Wiig emerge as Cheetah, one of Wonder Woman’s most iconic enemies and a character I’ve long identified with and loved as queer. I knew the studio and film wouldn’t be brave enough to feature Cheetah in this way, which I think is a disappointment. Regardless, Wiig knocked it out of the park. Cheetah looked sexy, although the CGI in her final battle did look strange, and she proved more than a match for Wonder Woman. She’s a character I think we all can identify with. Someone who feels like they are a nobody and have nothing, regardless if that’s the case, who is so reluctant to let go of their power and their momentary rise to the top of the pecking order that they’ll go to any length to protect it. It’s impossible not to compare yourself to someone else, someone more successful like Diana, who radiates self-confidence, beauty, and charm.
One can’t fault Cheetah—or Barbara—for feeling slighted by their hero when Diana barely gives the attention or friendship she craves. Diana tries to extend her trademark warmth to her coworker, but the Amazonian is dealing with her own struggles and likely feels attachments will only lead to heartbreak, as she’ll outlive anyone she becomes friends with. Diana does come to Barbara’s rescue when a desperate and pathetic drunk assaults her, but she doesn’t walk Barbara home, and she spends the film bossing Barbara around.
When Barbara inadvertently wishes to be like Diana and begins the transition into Cheetah, she kicks absolute ass. She brings an intensity and voraciousness that would make her comic book counterpart proud. She’s a real threat to Diana, especially after her former idol wishes for Steve’s life, and loses her powers as a result. There is so much buildup for Cheetah, and then she’s pretty much swept aside in the film’s third act. I loved her final battle with Wonder Woman, but her story ended ambiguously—which is fine for the most part, but arguably too many questions were left unanswered. How does Barbara feel about Diana being Wonder Woman? Did she rescind her wish? Will she return for Wonder Woman 3? Does she have the ability to shape-shift back into Cheetah? For Wonder Woman’s greatest and most iconic foe, it seemed that her ending was extremely underwhelming.
The Concept of Wishes Didn’t Land
The film featured some admittedly confusing rules about wishes and the clique warning of wishes being more than they initially seem. It’s something that we’ve all seen from the Twilight Zone to Star Trek, and I felt like the idea should be kept to the confines of television instead of a feature film. Wonder Woman 1984 didn’t expand on this idea or add anything new to the plot device of wishes, But I will say that Diana’s inner turmoil, and her desire for her one wish of having Steve back in her life, was compelling and heartfelt.
Diana has devoted her entire life to the betterment of humankind. She’s the epitome of selflessness, so why can’t she have this one thing? I also liked that Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord wishes to become the embodiment of the Dreamstone and gains its power to grant wishes while also taking whatever he desires from the poor soul making the wish. However, I wondered why didn’t he get one of his goons to wish for Wonder Woman to be wiped from existence. It would’ve solved his problem of Wonder Woman pursuing him, and with Cheetah by his side, no one could stand against him. He tricked many people into wishing things that would benefit himself, so why didn’t he ask someone to wish away Wonder Woman?
The Film Offered Fun and Hope, Albeit Unrealistically
Maybe the experience of living through a pandemic while people deny its existence and actively harm others for their gain and selfishness jaded my optimism in people. Humans are terrible beings who will go to any length to secure their happiness over the good of society. We won’t wear masks. We engage in and turn a blind eye to racism, homophobia and transphobia. We elect and support corrupt officials who actively and openly work for their own gain. We perpetuate the myth that America is the land of opportunity and freedom. Sorry’s it’s been a dark year.
Now to fair, we don’t watch these movies for realism. Entertainment is all about the escape, and Wonder Woman 1984 was certainly a welcoming distraction in these times of such misery and tragedy. However, we’re in an age where television and movies mirror current events tiptoe the line between realism and escapism. I think the film carefully walks that line, but it’s wobbly and a little too contrived.
In Wonder Woman 1984‘s conclusion, Diana appeals to everyone’s sense of the greater good and asks them to give back their wishes. It’s a moving and beautiful speech and excellent escapism, but it’s burdened by the reality that we live in an overwhelmingly selfish world. It also raises the question of who didn’t rescind their wishes and what happens to them. Surely somebody—like Cheetah perhaps—decided against doing what’s right and kept their wish. Does this spell doom for society?
The Steve Side-plot was Sad but Uncomfortable
It was great to see Chris Pine back as Steve Trevor; he and Gal Gadot have apparent chemistry and play off each other very well. I wasn’t surprised that the film resurrected him, but how they did was strange. When Diana encounters Steve, he’s not only alive, he’s inhabiting the body of another man, and only Diana sees him as Steve. It’s heartbreaking because Diana knows it’s a fantasy and lie, but she’s so enamored and in love with Steve that she’ll overlook this. Ultimately she makes the right choice for humanity, and it’s a decision we all saw coming. It didn’t make the couple’s goodbye any less sad, but it did feel tacky. Also, my partner pointed out that the poor man whose body Steve inhabited had no say in the matter, which is the fault of the Dreamstone—but still, it was uncomfortable.
What’s even stranger is that the man encounters Diana at the end of the film, with no memory of him playing host to Steve. I was glad that the film didn’t push them together in the end, and it seemed that it might go in that direction.
There’s no denying the performances of Gal Gadot, Pedro Pascal, Chris Pine, and Kristin Wiig, and I loved the opening sequence on the island of Themyscira. I was sad that Etta Candy, Diana’s best friend in the comics, was relegated to the role of photo appearances, but she’d obviously be dead by the 1980s, and this is merely a personal grievance.
Related: CW Reveals Images of Javicia Leslie as Batwoman
I did enjoy Wonder Woman 1984 for the entertaining escapism the film presented, but with a relatively weak plot and several unanswered questions, I was left a little disappointed. I still think Patty Jenkins deserves props for creating one hell of a superhero movie, and I prefer this film to some of DC’s other misses. Diana Prince is Queen; despite this film’s underwhelming nature, I can’t wait to see Wonder Woman 3.
What did you think about Wonder Woman 1984? Let me know in the comments and be sure to check out my website for all things pop culture. Stay nerdy!