Wonder Woman 1984: the villain, the philosophy, the outfits – discuss with spoilers

It nailed the era’s look – but what about the music? And just what is going on with Chris Pine’s character?

  • This article contains spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984

Director Patty Jenkins’ reunion with Gal Gadot after their 2017 runaway smash Wonder Woman has brought high expectations, but as the first comic book movie of the Covid era – as well as its many date changes – the anticipation can hardly be contained. Now Wonder Woman 1984 is out in UK cinemas it’s time to stop shouting “you go, Gal!” and talk about some specifics.

Acceptable in the 80s

Jenkins, along with production designer Aline Bonetto, costumer Lindy Hemming and all on their teams, should feel free to take a spin of celebration for their work recapturing the look of the era. From the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am to the multi-storey mall featuring a branch of Walden Books (RIP), the details are as luscious as Diana Prince’s hair.

One of the best sequences is an old comic mainstay: the wacky outfit-changing montage. But unlike the last film, when its subject was was the visiting Amazonian warrior in first world war-era Britain, this time it’s Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor raiding the wardrobe of a Washington DC bachelor, star-spangled fanny pack and all. (Naturally the ace pilot loves the parachute pants.)

Yet despite the tremendous clothes (Kristen Wiig’s visit to the gym especially) and early computer tech, did you find that the film failed to take advantage of the era’s music? Welcome to the Pleasure Dome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood – which is played 42 minutes in – is a tremendous choice (popular but not too popular) but one wonders why Jenkins left it at that, especially when the epiphanic “soaring” sequence reuses the old-hat Adiago in D Minor, John Murphy’s piece originally composed for Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and used dozens of times since.

Easy lover?

Back to Chris Pine for a moment. Not to get too deep into philosophy (this is, after all, a movie for kids) but was Steve Trevor really Steve Trevor? The plot hinges on wishes coming true, and Wonder Woman wishes for Trevor to return. Then – wham! – his soul or essence inhabits the body of some random fella. We have no idea if that guy got fired for not showing up at work, because once possessed by Trevor he’s off running around stealing planes and going to museums.

In an effort to keep Trevor-in-the-present different to unfrozen-Captain America from previous Marvel films, Wonder Woman 1984 makes his awakening extremely vague. But could we have done with a few more answers? Was this actually the spirit of the same Trevor who died decades earlier or some kind of projection, or echo, from Diana’s mind?

Pedro Pascal’s villain.
Well-suited to villainy … Pedro Pascal’s Maxwell Lord. Photograph: Clay Enos/AP

Lord of the things

Pedro Pascal’s turn as Maxwell Lord, the fraudulent businessman who stumbles into riches, is another highlight. By the time his ill-gotten wealth is rotting him from the inside thanks to hastily explained Monkey’s Paw rules, the derangement in Pascal’s performance is rare for something so mainstream. His arc makes sense in a broad-strokes way – he is greedy, like a great many famous capitalists of the era, one of whom eventually became president – but is it ever clear what exactly he wants? And would a lecture about hubris from a knocked-on-her-rear Diana really get him to change his ways?

Kristen Wiig’s character, the klutzy Barbara Minerva, has a much simpler narrative. She sees the self-confident and radiant Diana Prince and wishes she could be like her, unaware that this entails access to an arsenal of superpowers she does not know how to control. Might the film have benefited from more Minerva (and her eventual evolution into the Cheetah) rather than scenes of Maxwell Lord racing around the globe granting wishes?

Bustier of peace

Headlines were made in 2017 when Lebanon banned Wonder Woman because Gadot is an Israeli citizen. Knowing this, one has to wonder about the choice to set a major action sequence in Egypt, in which our heroine, shown in her costume for the first time in the film, stops battling baddies to rescue children in danger of getting caught up in the conflict. (Yes, Maxwell Lord wants oil, but he could have gone to Texas or Edmonton for that!)

Not only does Gadot save soccer-playing youngsters from rampaging military jeeps, she comforts them in Arabic while they are in her embrace. Whether this should be taken as a vision of coexistence or a moment of international pandering is up for discussion.

Special guest

And on the topic of pandering, how about that post-credits scene? On the one hand, the film should be applauded for resisting shoehorning more connections to the and increasingly disorienting DC Extended Universe. The gag at the end – in which Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman on TV in the 1970s – is just that: a gag. We see her from behind, thinking it’s Gadot (that hair!) but it turns out it is Asteria, a goddess mentioned earlier in the film.

Her line about having lots of experience with superheroic deeds is cute, but the literal wink to the camera might be betting on a nostalgia factor that not everyone understands. Most viewers under 40 will likely wonder who she is. That said, if she’s back for a more substantial role in part three, I’ll be on my feet and cheering.


Jordan Hoffman

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wonder Woman: best superhero flick since The Dark Knight? – discuss with spoilers
After the horrors of previous DC Extended Universe movies, this simple origin story is a tonic that takes its own sweet time

Ben Child

02, Jun, 2017 @12:00 PM

Article image
Wonder Woman 1984 review – queenly Gal Gadot disarms the competition
Gadot is terrifically imposing, while Kristen Wiig is the scene-stealing antagonist in Patty Jenkins’ epically brash sequel

Peter Bradshaw

15, Dec, 2020 @5:00 PM

Article image
Wonder Woman 1984 review – the superheroine 2020 needs
Gal Gadot’s warrior queen strikes just the right tone of hope and dynamism in Patty Jenkins’s stylish, empowering sequel

Mark Kermode Observer film critic

20, Dec, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
How Wonder Woman can save the DC Extended Universe
Five ways director Patty Jenkins and Warner Bros can create a feminist hero we will truly root for – and put the DC superhero system back on track

Ben Child

02, May, 2017 @2:24 PM

Article image
Wonder Woman breaks box office record for female director
Warner Bros/DC movie earns highest ever US opening weekend for a film directed by a woman, beating total set by Fifty Shades of Grey

Gwilym Mumford

05, Jun, 2017 @9:23 AM

Article image
Wonder Woman shakes off female superhero curse to top UK box office
Comic-book adventure outruns Baywatch, while My Life As a Courgette struggles to compete with another animated film, The Red Turtle

Charles Gant

06, Jun, 2017 @12:41 PM

Article image
Wonder Woman review – glass ceiling still intact as Gal Gadot reduced to weaponised Smurfette
Hopes for DC’s plan to deliver a shot of oestrogen to the superhero movie are disappointed in a silly plot that enlists Diana of Themyscira to help win the first world war

Steve Rose

30, May, 2017 @10:19 AM

Article image
Amazonian prime: why Wonder Woman 3 will be the star of the new-look DC multiverse
There’s been a cull at DC under studio boss James Gunn, but Gal Gadot’s warrior princess stands tall, and her previously cancelled second sequel is back on

Ben Child

04, Aug, 2023 @11:36 AM

Article image
Why Wonder Woman is a masterpiece of subversive feminism
Yes, the new movie sees its titular heroine sort of naked a lot of the time. But the film-makers have still worked to turn sexist Hollywood conventions on their head

Zoe Williams

05, Jun, 2017 @4:16 PM

Article image
Wonder Woman review – a gloriously badass breath of fresh air
Gal Gadot’s Amazonian warrior princess reinvigorates the superhero genre with a shockwave of fun

Wendy Ide

04, Jun, 2017 @7:00 AM