1987’s Wall Street had Michael Douglass‘s Gordon Gecko say, “Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” The 1980s were a time of high fashion, the birth of MTV, and excess. This obvious declaration in American society of the haves and the have-nots. That period is perfect for a character like Wonder Woman – an embodiment of everything good. Her credo is one of honor and truth as passed down in his lineage. There’s a question of what would happen if both potent forces met and what would ultimately win. Would our heroes not be susceptible to basic human desires intensified?
Director Patty Jenkins introduced her version of Diana Prince (portrayed by Gal Gadot) in 2017’s Wonder Woman during the throes of World War I, where a woman’s place was very much lesser than it is today. An interesting dynamic played out where Diana learned about the modern world, yet kept the lessons of Themyscira and rejected society’s place for her. Wonder Woman 84 is set in Washington D.C. in 1984, complete with neon colors, tube socks, and big malls. Diana is an anthropologist at the Smithsonian while still being a specter of heroism as Wonder Woman. However, time has not been kind to her emotional state. She’s lost her friends from the war because of old age, and most important, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). For someone who can literally do anything, she would give that up to have one person back.
Through that job, she meets Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) who is very quirky and unsure of herself. She idolizes Diana as somebody she wants to be – the beauty, confidence, and likability. Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is a self-proclaimed oil tycoon of Black Gold Cooperative that sells dreams of riches through infomercials on TV. Once a stone that grants that who holds it one wish gets introduced, everything gets turned upside down. The story becomes a personification of 80s consumerism, consumption, mixed with the development of these characters in this space. Maxwell, in all his bombast, hides that he is inherently flawed. Barbara, despite having a unique personality, covets and envies someone else. With wishes, there’s always a drawback. For one person’s gain, many will lose.
Much like Diana was a fish-out-of-water in Wonder Woman, WW84 does this in reverse for Steve Trevor. Including a funny montage of him trying on various 80s fashions complete with fanny packs. Diana becomes his virtual guide through this unknown world. It’s a nice reversal and serves as a template for them to share memories through a more modern lens. The movie takes its time investigating how illusions, appearances, and aversions to truth change both the characters and the world in totality. Even though this movie is set in the 1980s, it doesn’t become a gimmick – it’s almost integral to the story. Everything is happening with the specter of The Cold War hanging in the background or an action car scene happens that feels like it has an Indiana Jones flavor to it.
Pascal’s portrayal of Maxwell Lord is outstanding, where you almost sympathize with why he does things. Lord’s rise to power begins with him wanting to live up to one wholesome thing in this life. That then careens off the edge as he gains more power. He loses sight of things and himself. Kristen Wiig does a great job in displaying Barbara’s transformation from nervousness into blinding vanity. Every aspect of her appearance changes, and she embraces it gradually. You will wish you got more from Barbara. Jenkins wanted to challenge Diana in different ways – both physically and mentally. While Diana has a lot of great action scenes and a couple of new powers to boast, much of the weight on the woman outside the armor. Gadot shows a charming and vulnerable side to Diana Prince’s character. This way, Wonder Woman doesn’t feel so distant to us. She embodies the compassion and love that ultimately bring the main story together. Diana and Steve’s story arc comes in, and it feels good to see them together again. Now, that same story falls into the tropes of a quintessential rom-com that weighs heavily in the middle of WW84. Sometimes it takes a bit for it to get going again as it switches from characters and themes.
Parts of this film will have some points of contention. The essence of how Steve Trevor is brought back in this story might be a head-scratcher to some. WW84’s opening scene is a flashback to young Diana where Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and Antiope (Robin Wright) instill a valuable lesson within her. Such a lesson comes in conflict with Steve’s very existence. Does wanting something or something despite the impermanence of death justify overlooking the obvious? Also, the finale feels almost anti-climatic in its nature. While the movie tries to tie up the story threads from its major leads, they really felt the most satisfying for one character in particular.
Wonder Woman 84 doesn’t choose to abide by the previous foundations of what superhero sequels have been. Some that simply turn up the volume up on the things you liked in the previous film. It at least tries to do something different from telling a more emotional story rather than just straight-up action. The lessons that are told within the time period applicable to the present day. It almost feels as fate delayed this movie from its original December 19th, 2019 release date. Despite things that may take away from it being a home run, Wonder Woman 84 brings fun and emotional brevity. It brings an overall story that shows that greed will never be as fulfilling as doing the right thing. How moving on will often reveal the best version of ourselves, no matter how difficult it can be. Diana Prince may be a God, but what makes her human is what will make you root for her.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros/DC.