A magical artefact has been discovered by Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) and Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) which grants whoever touches it one wish, no matter how impossible or implausible it may be. However, when a ruthless businessman named Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) gets his hands on it, the very fabric of reality begins to come apart...
Compared to what we know of comic-book movies today, 'Wonder Woman 1984' does feel like it's from another time and place. Not necessarily in its setting, but rather in just how earnest and lacking in cynicism. Think of the likes of 'The Dark Knight', 'The Boys', even some elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They're all quite dark, very much about the grittiness and the realism, and rarely does it move beyond that grim, shadowed viewpoint.
It wasn't always that way, of course. Richard Donner's 'Superman' was upright, Christopher Reeve was every inch the superhero, and you could tell that the idea was to bring to life that morality in the comics that's since given way to more morally ambiguous stories and characters. 'Wonder Woman 1984' is firmly, proudly in that camp - and all the better for it.
Cynicism in our world today is pervasive. In 'Wonder Woman 1984', the central villain is a failed businessman and television personality who lies to everyone and everything. Reality itself begins to break apart when a stone that grants everyone and anyone their one wish, without any care to the consequences of that wish for anyone else. The lies and false promises of wish fulfilment in the movie is literally the central evil. It's only up to a woman with a lasso that forces people to speak the truth that can save the day, even though she herself has wished for someone she once loved to return to her.
Gal Gadot is confident and assured in the role of Diana Prince / Wonder Woman, though the true star of the show is Pedro Pascal's portrayal of Maxwell Lord. Capturing the '80s business guy look and the maniacal, self-help optimism, Pascal's villain feels by each turn laughable, pathetic, and truly terrifying. Likewise, Kristen Wiig's vulnerable dweeb borrows heavily from Michelle Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle in 'Batman Returns', without the skin-tight spandex and whip.
Patty Jenkins' direction is likewise confident in itself, and it feels as though this is much more her movie than the previous one, freed from any obligations to make the story fit into the wider franchise plans and the like. Aside from some pacing issues towards the end, it zips along quite nicely for a movie that's over two and a half hours long. The colours pop out of the screen, the charm and humour between Gadot and Pine is easy and carefree, the villains are outrageous, and, yes, the delivery of the movie's message is anything but subtle. As much as the movie asks you to believe in its sentimentality and rewards you if you do, the ending does get mawkish and probably explains that 'Imagine' video Gal Gadot did at the start of lockdown.
All in all, 'Wonder Woman 1984' is an effective comic-book movie that leans heavily on wholesomeness and optimism, leaving out any kind of moral ambiguity or nuance for bright colours and popcorn-friendly action and adventure.