There’s this moment in Wonder Woman 1984 where Diana Prince/Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) rescues her new friend Barbara (Kristin Wiig) from a lecherous man hanging around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. Diana tells a shaken Barbara that the trick is to use the attacker’s weight as momentum against them.
And then Diana tells Barbara to go home.
Wonder Woman lets her female friend walk home alone after said friend was attacked.
What if the film had Diana insist on accompanying Barbara home? Show the audience that they’ve been friends for a while. Show a Diana angry at herself for not realizing what Barbara had to deal with everyday on her nightly walk home from work. That’s what friends do, they look out for each other.
There’s a lot of moments like that in Wonder Woman 1984. Moments, ideas and plot points that probably looked good on paper, but the actual execution in the final film was weak. Gadot really does a good job reprising her role as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, but the sequel doesn’t really allow her to make her own decisions.
The opening scene of the film was great. Young Diana is shown in a flashback determined to compete against older Amazons in an Olympics-esque competition on Themiscyra. After Diana takes a shortcut it looks like she’s actually going to win until her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) holds her back. Diana throws a fit and Antiope relays what is supposed to be the message of the entire movie.
“No true hero is born from lies.”
It’s a fantastic message. The audience is sent to Diana’s current present, in 1984. Diana is depicted as leading a double life. Anthropologist by day, Wonder Woman by night…and day.
There’s a scene where Wonder Woman stops a a robbery at a local mall. She saves a little girl and winks at her when she stops the bad guys. It’s a bit cheesy. But, it was nice to see a moment of awe from a little girl looking up to the iconic lady hero. Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins had to fight to keep both the Amazon and mall scenes in the movie. Warner Bros. wanted her to cut one of the scenes to keep the runtime down. It’s good Jenkins kept these two scenes in, but unfortunate that the film seems to go downhill from here.
The Return of Steve Trevor
Rather than focus a bit more on the really cool job Diana has at the Smithsonian Institute, the film centers on Diana’s loneliness as a focal point. Diana eats alone! She doesn’t seem to have any other friends until she sorta befriends Barbara! (We’ll get to Barbara in a minute.) When Diana has a chance to make a wish she thinks of her lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine.)
And voila! The Dreamstone (the magical plot device of the movie) grants Diana’s wish!
So the catch about Steve’s return is that his soul inhabits another man’s body. Diana simply doesn’t care about this. Her loneliness magically vanishes in the blink of Chris Pine in 80’s fashions! Which was a fun scene, but I digress.
It’s great to see Gadot and Pine together again and they continue to have great chemistry. Story-wise, Steve’s presence is off-putting. Diana and Steve have a romantic night together in the apartment of the guy whose body Steve is possessing? And the couple joke about it like it’s no big deal? Like, I get it. Diana’s thrilled to have Steve back, but there isn’t a single instance where she questions the morality and ethics of the whole situation.
I’m all for a good romance but the way they brought Steve back was one of those things that get weirder the more you think about it.
Steve eventually has to tell Diana to renounce her wish and let him go after he realizes that his presence is sapping away Diana’s powers. Once again Steve sacrifices himself for the greater good, while Diana cries that she’ll never love again.
Now, I actually did like how this humanized Diana a bit, but I wish they had made that decision together? Diana wasn’t going to give up her wish on her own even as the world was plunged into chaos. It took Steve lovingly putting his foot down for her to agree. He tells her that he’ll always love her and encourages her not to give up on love.
Their final moment was definitely heartbreaking. It was just a bit frustrating that Diana herself didn’t choose to renounce the wish on her own.
The Problem with Barbara
Let me preface this by saying Kristin Wiig did such a fantastic job playing Barbara/Cheetah. I mean don’t we all want to be a bit more like Wonder Woman? The audience and Diana first meets Barbara when she’s about to start working at the Smithsonian as well. I mean clearly Barbara is accomplished if she landed a job at such a prestigious place! But I can’t even remember what Barbara’s specialties were supposed to be because all the movie focused on was how insecure she was.
Barbara chooses not to renounce her wish because she doesn’t want to lose her newfound confidence and strength. Diana has it all, so why can’t Barbara? However, Barbara’s choice is framed around her jealousy of Diana. We never really learn much about Barbara other than the fact that she’s shy, can’t defend herself very well, and seems altogether invisible until she wishes to be more like Diana.
Would it have been too much to ask to see a bit more of Diana and Barbara bonding? Give us some moments of hope from Diana, where she realizes she finally has a friend and doesn’t feel so lonely outside of Steve? It certainly would’ve made their final fight in the third act of the film sting more. Barbara’s “turn to the dark side” so to speak could’ve been more emotionally impactful, where the audience felt as sad as Diana did for losing her best friend, her only friend at the time. This also could’ve made the loss of Steve more meaningful.
Diana alone, once more. But let her make that choice herself, instead of letting others do it for her.
Until she talks to the guy whose body served as the vessel for Steve’s soul. But would she had done that if Steve hadn’t suggested it?
Wonder Woman 1984 would’ve been a really fun romp if the character development had been better. I think it’s easier to forgive nonsensical plots if the characters are compelling and have agency. 2017’s Wonder Woman did such a good job with character driven moments, but the sequel failed to keep up the momentum.