** SPOILERS **
So Many Things.
Wonder Woman 1984 has a golden, beating heart unlike any seen in a superhero movie before. Director Patty Jenkins' long-awaited follow-up to her 2017 smash hit, Wonder Woman, is a bigger and far more ambitious film about Diana Prince (a radiant Gal Gadot who is more assured than ever as Wonder Woman) saving the world during the Me Decade and what her sacrifice costs the most selfless and altruistic woman who ever lived. Wonder Woman 1984 is breathtakingly beautiful, has moments of raw emotional power, is, at times, unbelievably messy and convoluted, but triumphs unequivocally because of its genuine sincerity, re-enforcing Wonder Woman's nobility, her goodness, and the undeniable truth that the world is better with her in it.
67 years have passed since Wonder Woman helped end World War I but lost the only man she's ever loved (and maybe will ever love), Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in the process of saving the world. In the decades since, Diana has traveled the world and helped people in need in clandestine fashion - although whenever someone actually sees her in her gleaming red, blue, and gold armor swinging her shiny golden Lasso of Truth, she asks them to keep it a secret and they all apparently do! - but her extended (and possibly infinite) time in Man's World has been marked by stark loneliness now that her old friends from 1917 are all dead. In 1984, Diana Prince lives at the Watergate in Washington, DC, works at the Smithsonian, and no one catches on that one of the most startlingly beautiful women in the city is also the mysterious vigilante saving people and beating up crooks in the mall in broad daylight. Diana is happy to give of herself and save lives but, if she is going to be completely truthful, she misses Steve, and seeing him again is the only thing she wants. After he died, Diana visited Steve's home and learned who he was, which made him even more precious to her.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a contrast of two professional women who are both exceedingly lonely. The other woman is Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a mousey geologist no one ever "sees", and she's the lastest of the superhero movie trope's nerd in glasses who becomes a supervillain, following Jim Carrey's Riddler and Jamie Foxx's Electro. Barbara and Diana become friends, and Minerva certainly envies her beauty and poise. Barbara's wish to be more like Diana comes true thanks to an ancient artifact that comes into the Smithsonian's possession called the Dreamstone, and the machinations of the film's uber-villain, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). Lord is a self-styled Tony Robbins-like TV personality and he's a budding oil baron, but he's secretly a fraud at both. But he knows about the Dreamstone and he wants to use it to become the most powerful man in the world. Once Max steals it from Barbara and the museum, he literally becomes the dreamstone, and he starts granting wishes, growing more and more powerful (but also sicker, with his comic book counterpart's trademark nosebleeds) as his payment for each wish granted is to take something precious from the grantee.
Barbara's wish is granted and she becomes stronger, more agile, and she emits pheromones that instantly make her more desirable - and, of course, she loves it and won't go back to being a nerd. Diana's wish is far more interesting; her heart's desire to have Steve back is granted and he re-emerges in a new body (belonging to Kristoffer Polaha, who is credited as Handsome Man in the film), but Diana can still see Chris Pine's face. Steve coming back to the miraculous future of 1984, with its jumbo jetliners, Pop-Tarts, and parachute pants, is the biggest delight of Wonder Woman 1984 and Pine is fantastic as New Steve. This time, Diana is the worldly one while Steve is the fish-out-of-water, and their scenes crackle with palpable comedic and romantic chemistry. Diana is a bit out there when Steve returns as she has no problems with this situation and no intention of giving him up, while Steve, as much as he's enjoying himself being back with Diana, is also aware that he stole some guy's body and this probably shouldn't be a permanent thing.
Speaking of stealing, Max Lord keeps granting wishes, becoming the most powerful oil magnate on Earth, and he also starts granting wishes of foreign powers, and even President Ronald Reagan, which allows him to literally rewrite the planet into a New World Order. Truthfully, Max's scheme and the rapid domino effects of it, are when everything really gets away from Wonder Woman 1984, because unlike Max's new philosophy of "Why not more?", more isn't really better for the movie. To Diana's shock, she realizes what her own wish has taken from her: her gods-given Amazon superpowers. Diana gets shot an alarming number of times as she's becoming too slow to block bullets with her bracelets. Meanwhile, Barbara gets stronger and meaner as she becomes the apex predator of her deepest desires: the Cheetah. As the crisis escalates, Steve may not understand how an escalator works or what exactly is going on but he grasps the reality of the situation and he urges Diana to give him up to save the world. Finally, Diana acknowledges the truth and in the movie's most heartwrenching scene, she promises "I'll never love again!" as she renounces her wish and gets more and more powerful until she can take to the skies as the apex Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman 1984 cleverly updates a couple of the comic book character's own tropes: the invisible jet is reimagined as a fighter plane she and Steve steal to get to Cairo, but she is able to make it invisible using the same magic Zeus used to make the island of Themyscira hidden from Man's World. Meanwhile, the question of whether or not Wonder Woman can (or should) fly and how is ingeniously resolved; Diana has always envied that being a pilot and knowing how to fly was Steve's gift, and Diana takes his Zen-like philosophy of "riding the air" to heart as she learns to use her lasso to catch thin air itself to propel her into the skies. It's a brilliant way to give Diana the power of flight while differentiating her from Superman (Henry Cavill), her future Justice League super friend. The scenes of Diana soaring through the skies are stunning and emotionally uplifting. It's also laudable that, unlike the sword-and-shield-swinging warrior in her previous movie appearances, Jenkins and Gadot purposefully make Wonder Woman a non-lethal combatant in Wonder Woman 1984, and she swings the Lasso of Truth as an eye-popping weapon for attack and defense. Diana even scolds Steve not to use a sword when fighting at the White House. Even when she's decked out in her new winged golden armor, Diana left the sword and shield behind.
The hows and whys of Max Lord's ultimate defeat and the people of the world choosing to relinquish their wishes to restore the world to how it was are bewildering. But it's to Wonder Woman 1984's credit that, after a too-brief throwdown with Cheetah, Diana doesn't beat Max with muscle or her fists but with her heart and her own goodness that she shares with the world. Even Max finally changes for the better and remembers his son is the most important person in the world to him. It's all emotionally powerful in a genuine way that makes up for how hard all of it is to explain, although it's nowhere near as impenetrable as Tenet, for example. The important thing is Diana's sacrifice and her indomitable capacity to love setting an example to the world, even if they still have no idea who Wonder Woman is. But we know who Wonder Woman is and we truly are so much better of a world for having Diana Prince in it - if only she were real. Finally, the fantastic post-credits scene cameo by Lynda Carter reminds us that every generation will have a Wonder Woman to look up to and we're so lucky to have her.