Fighting with compassion and kindness, Wonder Woman makes a strong return in the sequel ‘1984’

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in her gold armor
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a promo image for “Wonder Woman 1984.”
(DC / Warner Bros.)

There are some critics and superhero fans who will tell you there’s not a lot of action in “Wonder Woman 1984,” as if that’s a bad thing.
If action is what you’re worried about, you can relax: there is plenty of it in this “Wonder Woman” sequel. Maybe it’s not wall-to-wall explosions (looking at you, Marvel), but it has car chases and foot races and battles in the sky.
But remember, Wonder Woman is a character whose fans extend far beyond the DC Universe and comic book fandom.
She also appeals to young kids who look up to this fierce warrior who can turn jets invisible, and to those who may ordinarily not like superhero films, but can relate to a character who has both strength and compassion.
So, along with battles against maniacal characters, the sequel is also packed with comedy, drama, a bit more origin story, a dash of romance and ... gasp ... even a fashion montage.

Revisiting Themyscira

The island paradise of Themyscira is home of the Amazons and Wonder Woman's homeland.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Remember when the first “Wonder Woman” was released in 2017? It was the first time some had ever seen themselves reflected as the powerful main character — the one who steps into battle, the one who protects. It was so powerful — specifically the scenes on the idyllic island of Themyscira — that people were moved to tears.
While “Wonder Woman 1984” doesn’t have the same exhilaration as that first one, it still feels bold and special.
Once again, director Patty Jenkins opens the film on this mythical island, home to the Amazons and a young Diana Prince.
It begins with a pre-teen Diana (Lilly Aspell)competing in some kind of Amazon Olympics (which, by the way, is filled with dazzling action). When Diana takes a creative path to the finish line, she’s taught a harsh lesson by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) that guides the rest of the movie: there are no short cuts in life.

Welcome to 1984

GAL GADOT as Wonder Woman in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure "WONDER WOMAN 1984," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
(Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures/ DC Comics)

As the title says, this movie takes place in 1984 and there are lots of visual gags throughout to never let you forget it: leg warmers, shoulder pads, fanny packs, roller skates, teased hair, bustling malls. It’s a bit over-the-top, but it is entertaining nonetheless.
Diana (Gal Gadot) is now working as an antiquities expert at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, while also stopping various crimes around the neighborhood as her alter ego, Wonder Woman.
Diana is sophisticated and smart and does not suffer fools, especially those who fawn over her flawlessness. She lives a solitary life, clearly not over the loss of her World War I-era love, Steve Trevor.
Diana eventually befriends her painfully awkward coworker Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) and they work together to unlock the secrets of a mysterious gem that finds its way to the museum.
It turns out the gem grants wishes! Barbara’s desire is to “be like Diana” while Diana’s secret wish is to be reunited with Steve.
And that’s what they get.
These early wish fulfilment scenes, when Barbara discovers her strength and when Steve (Chris Pine) realizes he’s in the future, are the best parts of “Wonder Woman 1984.”
Watching Steve marvel at modern airplanes and try on various ‘80s outfits (yes, the fashion montage is for him) is so charming, it could be its own movie. And watching Barbara realize her wish comes with unexpected super powers is empowering.

Careful what you wish for

GAL GADOT in a scene from "Wonder Woman 1894." Credit: Clay Enos/ Warner Bros. Pictures/ DC Comics
(Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures/ DC Comics)

Of course, wishes don’t come free — though it grants wishes, the gem also takes something in return.
Barbara loses her kindness and transforms into the ruthless Cheetah. Wiig is surprisingly skilled at making us empathize with her character, though. How many times have we felt overlooked or undervalued, wouldn’t we fight like hell to keep that newfound power?
Unfortunately, because of Steve, Diana is losing her own strength. She bleeds, she gets winded, she isn’t able to do the marvelous feats that normally come so easy to her.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, this gem is also on track to destroy the world.
The second half of “Wonder Woman 1984” becomes a more typical superhero story, in which the fate of all humanity is at stake — the battles become bigger, the storyline more absurd.
The person ruining the world this time around is sleazy TV businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). Not only does he steal the stone, he becomes the stone and then feeds on the wishes and losses of others — including the president of the United States — to stay in power.

A true superhero

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in Warner Bros. Pictures' action adventure "Wonder Woman 1984."
(Warner Bros. Pictures / DC Comics)

From here the plot is all over the place and far-reaching.
But as crazy and as ugly as the world becomes under Maxwell Lord’s wishing frenzy, the movie sticks to its core tenets: kindness, honesty and compassion. Or, as we learned on Themyscira, there is no short cut to life.
The best part about Wonder Woman is that she is thoughtful and humane. She isn’t going to senselessly kill every single human who stands in her way during a car chase. And she would never, ever wipe out an entire street filled with innocent people who were standing near a battleground, which is the norm with so many other superheroes. (She actually goes out of her way to help anyone in her path.)
Gadot is so skilled at bringing vulnerability to her battles — whether it’s a physical fight with Maxwell Lord or an internal struggle about giving up the one thing she’s ever desired. She embodies a true superhero, one who is inclusive and noble. And just the kind of person we need to guide us into whatever may come in 2021.