by Rob DiCristino
Mild spoilers ahead.
The Future of Cinema begins with Wonder Woman 1984, the first major day and date release under Warner Media’s new post-COVID exhibition model. There was already quite a bit riding on Patty Jenkins’ sequel to her 2017 original — for female-led blockbusters, for the overall DC Extended Universe, etc. — but now an entire media empire seems to be resting on Diana Prince’s capable shoulders. And for all intents and purposes, Wonder Woman 1984 is up to the job. It’s a straight-up crowd pleaser with many of the same highs and lows as the original. Gal Gadot’s fourth outing as the princess of Themyscria offers her about as much depth and nuance as the previous three (Take that however you will), and the DCEU continues to distance itself from its early days of Marvel imitation, focusing instead on one character, one universe, and one movie at a time. These are positives! Jenkins is a capable filmmaker who, given the recent announcement that she’s helming Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, clearly knows how to navigate the rough waters of IP media. To the future, we go!
Wonder Woman 1984 works in the most elemental way that a story has to: Each of the three main characters has a basic arc that runs along a similar thematic line. They’re all wishing for something impossible, something improbable, or something that would require far too much luck to achieve through sheer force of will. The overall theme (hammered home by the opening flashback to Diana’s loss in a tournament as a young girl) is that greatness is earned; victory will come when and if we are ready. Any attempt to cheat that process will be disastrous. Got it. Lord, for example, is a supposed oil magnate looking to fake his way into the spotlight with a slick suit and a clever catchphrase. He’s a clear Donald Trump analogue, modeled on the soon-to-be-ex-president’s Art of the Deal days. He presents the illusion of wealth while lying, borrowing, and conning everyone in his life until the illusion has piled so high he can no longer keep his head above water. Pascal gives the film’s best performance, going full ham sandwich and eventually collapsing into gleeful madness.