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Forward Into the Past! a Look at Wonder Woman ’84

Robert J. Sodaro is an American born writer, editor, and digital graphic artist, who loves writing about comics, movies, and literature.

Wonder Woman 1984

Background Marquee

Background Marquee

A look back

Back in 2016, with the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice we got our first DC Cinematic Universe look at the Amazonian princess, Wonder Woman (as played by Gal Gadot) on the big screen while we were less than completely impressed by that film, we were suitably impressed by her appearance and performance in it. We were also a big fan of her stand-alone film in 2017, as well as her appearance in the 2017 JLA film which arrived later in the year. Unfortunately, that film also left us a tad high and dry — but that’s a very different review — here we’re going to be talking about the third corner of the DC Trinity, Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman 1984 – Official Trailer

Wonder Woman, the early days

Now, quite a bit has been already been written about this film, and we’ll get to some of that in a bit, but first, let’s discuss the film itself. The film starts out with Diana Prince as a young girl, participating in a multi-stage athletic competition on Themyscira (the island where the Amazons live), where she is competing against older Amazons. During the competition, she falls from her horse and, thinking quickly, takes a shortcut (think Kirk’s Kobayashi Maru gambit), she is disqualified by her mother, Queen Hippolyta. When young Diana objects, her aunt, Antiope, lectures her on the importance of truth, because “No hero is born from lies”.

A princess in D.C.

Wonder Woman to the rescue.

Wonder Woman to the rescue.

The big set up

From there, we flash forward to the “present” (that is to say, 1984). Where — while working as a senior anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. — she specializes in (what else?) the culture of ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Meanwhile Diana (as Wonder Woman) continues to fight crime, albeit while attempting to maintain some measure of anonymity. To this end, we witness her taking down some crooks during a robbery. The crooks flee from the scene of the crime to a mall (interestingly enough, it is the very same mall — the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Los Angeles — that appeared in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1985 film, Commando).

Barbara Ann Minerva

Here comes the cast

Here comes the cast

The coming of the Dreamstone

At the museum, Diana meets Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig), an insecure, overly-klutzy woman who both idolizes and envies Diana for her beauty and confidence. After the attempted robbery, the FBI asks Barbara to identify a cache of stolen antiquities. One item that both of the women take notice of has an inscription in Latin. It is this mythical and magical “Dreamstone,” that businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) wishes to acquire and so visits the Smithsonian under the guise of making a donation in order to get his hands on it. Secretly, he covets the Dreamstone, because he believes that by possessing it, he could save his failing oil company. Given that neither Diana nor Barbara initially understands what the stone is, they inadvertently each tap into its latent power to fulfill their own desires. Barbara to become more like Diana, and Diana for her deceased lover, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), to return to her. While it is Diana’s wish that causes more consternation for many filmgoers, we will get to here in just a bit.

All your wishes can come true

When you wish upon a stone.

When you wish upon a stone.

Here comes the Cheetah

Meanwhile as Barbara grows in confidence, she is actively courted by Lord who is always more interested in the Dreamstone than in her. Once he finally acquires it, he absorbs its powers, and then begins to grant wishes to others so as to gain his own ends. Each person with whom he interacts and grants a wish is just another steppingstone for him to a larger score. It soon becomes clear that he truly cares nothing for the people with whom he interacts but is merely using them to implement his own nefarious goals. Lord’s character, like Minerva’s (who becomes Cheetah later in the film) is based in the DC comics, and both of them were villainous in nature, which carries over to this film.

Straight 'outta the comics!

From the comics to the film.

From the comics to the film.

And now, Maxwell Lord

As the film progresses, Maxwell increasingly becomes a powerful and influential figure even as the magical properties of the stone slowly begins to destroy body, even as he leaves chaos and destruction in his wake. For her part, Diana becomes distracted by the sudden and (initially inexplicable) appearance of Steve (whom we come to learn has possessed the body of another man — the “problem” we mentioned earlier). Putting that aside for a moment. Diana and Steve begin to search for Maxwell in order to somehow separate him from the stone and return things to normal. As it turns out, the Dreamstone’s was created by Dechalafrea Erov — the god of treachery and mischief — and the only way to reverse the exchange is by renouncing the wish or destroying the stone itself, only neither Diana nor Barbara are willing to renounce their wishes — so that’s something of a problem.

Maxwell Lord

Not a very nice guy

Not a very nice guy

We have some issues

As indicated, it wasn’t the only one. Many folks had issues with the possession of some random guy by the spirit of Steve and wonder why it had to occur that way. While we’re not entirely comfortable with the switch either, it is truthfully less important to us than it was to others. (We wish it was done differently, but no one asked our opinion, so, unfortunately, we’re stuck with it.) The larger issue (to our way of thinking) was setting the story in 1984. By doing so, the film’s producers chose to go with a totally rad 1984 style of filmmaking, big, bombastic, and over-the-top showy. So yeah, it while you may not have entirely enjoyed the format (we were a tad disappointed ourselves, given the enormity and impact of her initial film), but, again, this was precisely the look for which they were going (including the unfortunate Steve Trevor possession).

Wonder Woman [Blu-ray]

Yet another problem...

Finally, our largest problem with the film (and again, this may be in part to do with the whole “It happened in 1984” motif, was that it seemed to us that Pascal’s Lord (and to a lesser extent, Wiig’s Minerva) were in a very different film than were all the rest of the cast. While Pascal seemed to have been channeling Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor from the Christopher Reeve films (and to a lesser extent Jesse Eisenberg’s Luthor from the Batman v Superman flick), and Wiig’s interpretation of Minerva seemed to by way too comedically klutzy to have actually achieved and sort of professional standing, they both seemed to be out of place here. Each of these performances may have been intentional, but again, seem to be — sadly — something that seems to plague more than just a few DC films.

Steve and Diana

Don't they make a darling couple?

Don't they make a darling couple?

Still a watchable film

All-in-all, it is our considered opinion that while many comicbook fans were less than completely enthused with the film, there were many fans of the cinematic incarnations of superheroes that absolutely enjoyed it. Thus, having said all of the above, while we preferred the first Wonder Woman film over this version, we still had an enjoyable experience watching this version. Your mileage may differ. (Also, make sure to sit through the credits to catch the de rigueur post credit film clip. You’ll be glad you did; we know we were.)

Defending the White House

A hero for the ages.

A hero for the ages.