Brow Beat

Here’s What Critics Are Saying About Wonder Woman: 1984

The sequel has a swoony romance, a nostalgic tone, and a villain who’s basically Donald Trump.

She runs in metal armor, somehow
Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman: 1984. Photograph by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Inc.

Next week, Gal Gadot will swing into theaters and onto HBO Max in Wonder Woman 1984, reuniting with director Patty Jenkins for the latest installment in the Amazonian princess’ story, with Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig as her new foes and Chris Pine returning as her dude in distress. The new movie places Diana in, you guessed it, 1984, but what do critics in 2020 have to say about the movie? We’ve rounded up the reactions below, ranging from the dazzled to the disappointed.

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It’s a blast from the past.

Nicholas Barber, BBC Culture:

[W]hat’s remarkable is how close it is to being a 1980s blockbuster itself. A funny, sweet-natured, brightly-coloured standalone adventure, it is so reminiscent of the likes of Raiders of The Lost Ark and Ghostbusters in its jokes, its plotting, its locations and its general atmosphere that it fills you with the same warm feelings that they did – one of those feelings being wonder.

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Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly:

Jenkins goes all-in on the ‘80s, a decade that was very all-in on itself. The bright, shiny production is deeply attentive to that sense of time and place, which is especially satisfying in a genre that can often feel vague in that regard (Jenkins’ previous film being a notable exception).

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Peter Debruge, Variety:

For nearly two hours of its 151-minute runtime, “Wonder Woman 1984” accomplishes what we look to Hollywood tentpoles to do: It whisks us away from our worries, erasing them with pure escapism.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:

… Jenkins, production designer Aline Bonetto and costumer Lindy Hemming … get most of the jokey retro visuals out of the way early with a riot of bad hair and pastel fashion crimes.

Though the movie may take place in the ’80s, it’s still a firmly 21st century story.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:

Where the 2017 film invoked the gods, the over-complicated, two-and-a-half-hour sequel — written by Jenkins, former DC Comics president and CCO Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham — invokes… The Art of the Deal? Pedro Pascal plays Maxwell Lord, an unctuously familiar breed of snake oil salesman in a honey-blond ’80s wig thick with hair product. He’s first seen hawking tickets to the American Dream in tacky TV commercials for his Black Gold Oil Cooperative, a dodgy land-rights purchase whose investors are getting antsy. Max’s greatest fear is being considered a “loser,” but his palatial offices are a front for an empire with no foundations.

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Peter Debruge, Variety:

Its Gordon Gekko-like greed-monger, Max Lord (played by Chilean Game of Thrones breakout Pedro Pascal with big hair and a small Ponzi syndrome), insists, “I’m not a con man but a respected television personality.” Uh-huh. Not since Joker re-cast billionaire businessman (and Batman dad) Thomas Wayne as a tacky attention hound has a DC project made such unsubtle reference to Donald Trump.

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Kate Erbland, IndieWire:

[I]t’s really Pascal’s bonkers Max Lord who proves to be the film’s primary antagonist and a fitting opponent for Diana. It only helps that the actor has a hell of a time with the role, hamming it up in ways both amusing and appropriate to a character who is obsessed with the appearance of things and shedding a past he doesn’t think is good enough. “I am not a con man! I am a television personality … and a respected businessman!,” he screams at one point, a moment both very funny and perhaps too close to real-world worries.

The villains are a mixed bag …

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:

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Given that advance press and trailers have made it abundantly clear, it’s no spoiler to reveal that Barbara becomes Cheetah, a role in which Wiig attempts to stretch her range but just seems miscast. Her transformation from sweet social misfit, yearning to be “strong, sexy, cool, special,” to a ruthless apex predator who sacrifices her goodness is too abrupt to be convincing.

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Matt Goldberg, Collider:

Wiig is surprisingly great in the role by conveying the awkwardness and shyness that curdles into resentment and anger, but the movie then reduces her conflict with Diana down to “The stone made Barbara evil, and we need a physical foe for Wonder Woman.”

Alex Abad-Santos, Vox:

Wiig, who’s made a career out of honing cringe, taps into that well to find Barbara. But she imbues Barbara with just enough friend-envy (frenvy?) that there’s just the slightest bit of relatable menace in the glances she steals and her talk about how easy Diana’s life must be.

… and threaten to over-clutter the film …

Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies:

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Pascal gives his all as a sleazy conman out for blood, but the film hasn’t got a clue what it wants to do with him, and poor Kristen Wiig barely gets a look-in as the much-hyped Cheetah (considered Wonder Woman’s arch-enemy in the comics). This nasty habit superhero movies have of hedging their bets by including two baddies for the price of one rarely pans out, leading to bloated runtimes and underdeveloped characters, and in the case of Wonder Woman 1984, it means that the third act redemption arc feels unearned.

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David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:

As talented as both Pascal and Wiig are, neither actor is given the scope to have much fun with their characters, and the climax in which good inevitably triumphs over evil and the myth of being able to have it all makes way for the value of truth, seems, well, anticlimactic.

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Alex Abad-Santos, Vox:

I’m confident Jenkins could have excised Lord, perhaps saved his role for a third installment, smashed together what was left, and created an even better Wonder Woman movie than the first one. Lord’s presence and his motives dull the interesting stuff about Wonder Woman, plunging us into rote superhero territory.

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

The biggest problem with 1984 is there’s just too much of, well, everything.

… but Gal Gadot is great …

Nicholas Barber, BBC Culture:

Gadot – smiling, glamorous, radiating alpha-female confidence – embodies that purpose as well as anyone since Christopher Reeve played Superman.

Alex Abad-Santos, Vox:

Gadot’s magic is in the small stuff. It’s the small wink that assures you she’s got this or that vague suggestion of a smile as she careens into a tank. Her Wonder Woman lives where joy meets strength.

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Ben Travis, Empire:

As with the last film, the heart and soul of Wonder Woman 1984 is Gadot. Her Diana exudes grace and goodness, her power displayed with an unabashed femininity that still feels revelatory amid a crowded landscape of ripped male heroes.

… and the romance is wonderful to watch.

Brian Truitt, USA Today:

Throw in a soaring Hans Zimmer score and together the two lovebirds give the film an exciting, earnest vibe that’s the closest recent DC superhero projects have come to Christopher Reeve’s original Superman.

Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies:

The most refreshing aspect of Diana and Steve’s relationship is how well they work together as a duo: he’s perfectly happy to let Diana run the show and feels no macho urge to protect her at all costs but rather assists her as he can; although we glimpse this in battle scenes, it feels almost accidental, as though the film is so preoccupied with pedalling its vague narrative about the perils of lying and greed, it doesn’t realise the elements which make it interesting in the first place.

Ultimately, the movie might leave you cold …

Matt Goldberg, Collider:

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All too often, Wonder Woman 1984 becomes a victim of the very excess and shortcuts it seeks to critique even as it tries to uphold truth and sacrifice as central values we must celebrate if we’re to survive.

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Mary Sollosi, Entertainment Weekly:

At a certain point, the film goes from saying something true about human nature and American life to devolving into a largely empty spectacle. The great cosmic drama grows so narratively unwieldy that the excellent work that came before, grounding this superpowered story in something like reality, comes a little undone. (An outlandish appearance from a nameless POTUS is particularly jarring, considering we all know who the president was in 1984 and how strongly he’s associated with the capitalist ethos that this movie questions.)

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Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies:

One of the enduring pieces of pop culture from the ’80s is Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, in which Michael Douglas’ ruthless stockbroker Gordon Gecko extols the virtues of unbridled capitalism. It’s clear that Wonder Woman 1984 is reading from a similar hymn sheet, trying to critique the era of excess by pointing out that the relentless pursuit of More with a capital M is likely to lead to ruin in the long-term. Of course, it could be argued this feels a little insincere coming from Warner Bros, particularly in the light of their recent HBO Max palaver, but even examining this idea solely within the context of the film, the overriding problem is that everything is a little vague.

… or it could inspire.

Kate Erbland, IndieWire:

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If that all sounds like a lot, it is, and Wonder Woman 1984 is well past its one-hour mark before its various characters and plot points coalesce into a single story, though it’s all so fun and frisky that such issues don’t entirely grate.

Ben Travis, Empire:

What’s most clear in Wonder Woman 1984 is that Patty Jenkins truly recognises the power of the imagery she’s committing to the screen: what it means to see a young girl be an action hero; the resonance of a power-hungry businessman broadcasting on White House comms; the majesty of Diana ascending skyward in the pursuit of changing the world for the better.

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