Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman, portrayed as eloquently as ever by Gal Gadot, makes a sweet come back in Wonder Woman 1984, set in the titular year at least 66 years after she’s last seen in the Armistice of 11 November. The heroine is currently living a serene routine as Smithsonian Institution expert in Washington while cautiously and secretly helping people and fighting crimes. When an ambitious con-artist, Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), comes up with a foul plot that might cause ridiculously mythical cataclysms around the world and turn an innocent gemologist and Diana’s colleague, Barbara Minerva (Kirsten Wiig), into an apex predator like never before, she must take her super-heroine mantle once more even when she’s faced to the ultimate vulnerability she doesn’t know she has.
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In this strange year, Diana’s much anticipated come-back also marks the rebirth of cinema in most countries after going on an unforeseeable hiatus for around 9 months. It’s a delicate coincidence that Wonder Woman 1984‘s delicate theme that sparks hope and optimism gives audience the much-needed inspiration to look forward to the future positively. The same thematic buoyancy was also the differential factor that separates Petty Jenkins’ 2017 effort from the rest of previous DCEU outings and eventually inspires some titles that followed, such as Aquaman, Shazam!, and Birds of Prey. In the sequel, Jenkins explores the true nature of Diana’s power—truth and the universal love—while, at the same time, exploits her vulnerability—her innocence in the desire to embrace the love of her life, WWI pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine).
While the zeitgeist of the 80s demands attention for the accurately vibrant portrayals, the decade comes with the signature markers—the blooming of capitalism and the endgame of Cold War—to trigger the fabled conflicts. Pascal’s Lord is the embodiment of capitalism, shaking money out of his unfortunate investors through his fraudulent Ponzi scheme; before long, he’s abandoned and indebted. Therefore, he’s after the movie’s over-powered macguffin, an ancient citrine artifact with the ability to grant people’s wishes and take something from their lives in return. The power the stone wields only make Lord an even more chronic Ponzi master, tricking people with lies but trickily granting their wishes for something in return. His dishonest trait makes a stark contrast with Diana’s quest for truth and, undoubtedly, her Lasso of Truth.
The mythical macguffin sounds like a device from ancient Greek mythology that finds a campy entrance to the modern era. It’s ridiculously comical but somehow working to appease the story’s much-needed power to fuel the protagonist’s seek for identity among the realm of men. Not only it grants Lord the power like no super-villain has ever had; it grants Diana the dilemma she never anticipates before. She has a second chance to be with her awe-struck lover but, at the same time, she starts to lose her bulletproof ability. Absorbed into the calamity is Barbara Minerva (Wiig), a woman who always looks up to Diana. One a rare moment, her wish to be like Diana comes with overabundance of bonus, including the super-humane strength. To actually prove this point, Jenkins finds the freedom to over-exaggerate Diana’s charm among men and women alike, which will eventually be mirrored by Barbara. The dynamic between Max Lord, Barbara a.k.a. Cheetah, and Diana flows comically but, at the same time, effectively.
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The narrative benefits from the uplifting and vibrant atmosphere of the setting, which makes a perfect background for electrifying action sequences. From the showdown at the mall to the paramilitary chase in Egypt and the White House face off, Wonder Woman’s agility and strength feel satisfying to watch. 1984 avoids the slippery road the predecessor took especially towards the end. Instead of showcasing CGI-fest final battle that looks like a diamond in the rough, the sequel takes it slow and uses a different approach instead. The penultimate battle with Cheetah feels fast-paced and slickly choreographed, but it ends as quick as it starts; meanwhile, the stand-off with Lord feels a little preachy even if it fits the thematic quest for truth.
Gadot lends her charisma to make an already likeable Wonder Woman a more sympathetic heroine. And yet, the real breakthrough is how Gadot handles the protagonist’s looming vulnerability, even when her range doesn’t always reach the desired impact. In a strange year like this, we all feel vulnerable just like Diana does; however, the love that makes her vulnerable gives her hope and eventually a moment of truth as she learns to accept it and learn to fly. Wonder Woman 1984 shows us that the very same love always unravel the truth and the very same truth is what sets us free. Wonder Woman comes back stronger, tougher, and grittier; and she’s there to inspire us to come back the same way when we’re ready.