The long-delayed sequel to that rare thing, a lively and enjoyable DC superhero picture, Wonder Woman 1984 takes most of the things that made the first Wonder Woman work – namely its supernaturally charming star Gal Gadot and her chemistry with Chris Pine – and even improves upon them, with unusual antagonists, a dose of camp, an earnest message about the perils of selfishness, and a third act more story-driven than its predecessor's generic, CG-filled "final boss fight".
WW84's premise is the sort of hooey you might find in a 1984 DC comic book. For that very reason, you'll either buy into it and have yourself a good time, or the whole thing will strike you as so ridiculous that you'll feel like DC/Warner Bros. has reverted back to the Green Lantern era. (Full disclosure: I'm the only person I know who actually thought Green Lantern was kind of fun.) Said premise concerns a literal wishing stone: a magical artifact that grants whoever holds it exactly one wish. But like the 1902 short story The Monkey's Paw – referenced several times in the film – it takes your most treasured possession away from you as part of the deal. Our heroine, Diana Prince (Gadot), the immortal Amazon who is still fighting crime in 1984 Washington, nearly 70 years after the events of Wonder Woman, discovers this only after she casually wishes that her long-dead World War I boyfriend Steve Trevor (Pine) was back in her life. Guess what happens? He comes back. Guess what she loses? Her superpowers. It's an interesting setup, forcing Diana to choose between the love of her life and saving the world, even if Superman II pursued a similar course forty years earlier.
As for villains, we get two: First, there's Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig, playing it straight), Diana's sweet but socially awkward coworker who, not yet aware of the stone's magic, secretly wishes she could be like Diana – and soon receives not only Diana's beauty and confidence, but also her superpowers. In exchange, Barbara loses her most treasured possession: her kindness. (I guess? It's one of several plot holes.) The second is would-be oil tycoon Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), whose own clever wish is to assume the stone's powers, thus being able to grant anyone's wish and take away whatever is important to them. When Lord decides to take his mission on a global scale, a powerless Diana must make her choice.
Again, as long as you can forgive the confusing questions that the screenplay raises (down to the "why bother?" of the lengthy flashback that opens the film), WW84 will satisfy your need for escapist entertainment. Its re-creation of the year 1984 is spot-on, down to the last cheesy detail. And at least one of its action sequences – a thrilling, Raiders of the Lost Ark-inspired car chase set in Egypt – stands up to its predecessor's signature scene: Diana sprinting into No-Man's-Land amidst a hail of gunfire. The only thing I truly missed from that first film was the scruffy little team that assembled around Diana and Steve. Understandably, Diana couldn't wish all of those characters back to life, but they did add color. In comparison, WW84 only has four major characters (five, if you include Maxwell Lord's little boy). A supporting cast of thousands makes up for it somewhat.
As 2020's biggest blockbuster made for cinemas and dumped onto streaming services due to Covid lockdowns, WW84 is like the result of Warner Bros.' own Monkey's Paw wish: to finally release the film after so many postponements (it was originally supposed to come out in late 2019, pre-pandemic), but to sacrifice the one thing the film needed most: a shared audience experience.