Diana Prince’s Character Assassination in WW84
The monumental success of 2017’s Wonder Woman, the iconic DC superhero’s first solo film, goes without saying that the anticipation for the franchise’s next installment was high. Gal Gadot cemented herself as a force to be reckoned with and inspired children across the world to have courage and fight for what is right, regardless of the attitudes of those around them. The first film, though not without flaws, set the bar high — its script maintained continuity, the cast boasted charming chemistry and notable skill, and most importantly, gave fans, both new and seasoned, a Diana Prince to be proud of.
The challenge for Wonder Woman: 1984 was preserving Diana’s brilliance and combatting her less-than-satisfactory depictions in other adaptations ( I won’t say Justice League, but . . . Justice League). Headliners Gal Gadot and Chris Pine (reprising his role from the First Wonder Woman movie as Captain Steve Trevor) give fantastic performances, along with an all-star cast including Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, The Mandalorian) and Kristen Wigg (SNL, Bridesmaids). Identity still a mystery to the public, Diana fights metropolitan crime as her alter ego Wonder Woman while simultaneously living a quiet life in Washington D.C. as a curator of cultural anthology for the Smithsonian. It is interesting to see her in a modern setting and fill in some of the gaps between her life in 1918 and her life a century later, like what we’re shown at the beginning of Wonder Woman, 2017.
The intrigue is cut short, though, when the extent of Diana’s solitude is revealed. We see Diana at work, beautiful as ever, but cold. Distinctly uninviting, closed off, all in jarring contrast to the warmth and compassion she exhibited in the first film. Part of her character’s brilliance was the emphasis on both her strength and emotions, that the presence of one did not mean the absence of the other. Her more maternal instincts, her desire to connect with people and show them kindness, were validated and made useful. While Diana is by no means hateful or unpleasant in her newest depiction, her character is disappointingly bitter. The ending of Wonder Woman implied that Diana, now optimised by the love she knew existed in the world, would be able to move on from Steve. Diana’s inability to process her loss unfairly reduces her to her relationship with Steve — which was brief, if we’re being frank. It is a strange choice on Jenkins’ part to isolate Diana and have her pine (excuse the pun) over Steve for six decades. Are we really to believe she has not met anyone, in a romantic sense or not, during all this time? Did she grieve the absence of her friends and family left on Themyscira in the same way? Did she nurse the loss of Antiope with the same devotion? Much of Diana’s character is sacrificed for the sake of plot and her regression into solitude is unrealistic, flirting with absurdity.
Even stranger is her decision to avoid friendship altogether. One of Diana’s most prominent motivators is her love for humankind — why, then, would she close herself off from people entirely? She initially deflects Barbara Minerva’s attempts at friendliness in favor of . . . what? Another sixty years of loneliness? It is a lot to ask an audience to buy that because she cannot have Steve in her life, Diana chooses to have no one. It is frustrating all-or-nothing thinking that simply doesn’t coincide with what we were previously shown her character to be. Steve is eventually able to return thanks to the Dreamstone, a wish-granting ancient artifact and a flimsy take on The Monkey’s Paw, and it is not until his reappearance that we see any true happiness from Diana. It is revealed later, however, that there is a price to every wish and by gaining Steve, Diana must lose her powers. Shockingly, she is all right with this. Do not misunderstand, I do not begrudge her love, nor do I think it would be an easy decision to renounce her wish and keep her abilities, but lose Steve yet again. The problem is that there has to be a choice at all. When has Superman ever been denied the best of both worlds? Batman? Why must Diana have to choose between her strength and love? If the Dreamstone is meant to mimic the monkey’s paw, what part of Steve’s return is connected to Diana’s powers? What does her possessing superhuman abilities, or not possessing them, have to do with Steve at all?
I was disappointed to say the least at having to watch Diana be so dictated by the presence or absence of a man. Her temporary willingness to let humanity collapse into irrevocable disorder for the sake of keeping her boyfriend around — whom she has had sixty years to get used to not having — paints Diana in an unfairly selfish light. Such writing throws her straight to the wolves, and unfortunately among die-hard comic fans, female characters are allowed very little room for mistakes. Diana’s indecision and temptation to act in her own interest might very well be more realistic than self-sacrifice and heroism, but considering the scrutiny the Wonder Woman franchise is under, it would have been better to protect Diana from the criticism invited by experimental or even unconventional writing.
Wonder Woman: 1984 had a tall order to fulfill, there can be no doubt about that. As with any sequel, there was immense pressure to not only support the previous installment, but to top it. Diana Prince’s unique but careful, clever characterization was the driving force of her debut film. Unfortunately, the writers failed to replicate it in this film and the overall perception of Diana’s prerogative suffered. We can only hope that in future adaptations, her character is appropriately appreciated and more mindfully handled, with past precedents considered as well as the shortcomings of the genre she finds herself in.