Wonder Woman is one of the most dynamic of DC’s comic characters and has always stood as a beacon for what is good and right amid a power-hungry world. The 2017 live-action film is equal parts muscle and heart in a coming-of-age story that pitted Wonder Woman against Ares, the god of war, and his threat of world destruction. Director Patty Jenkins’ candy-colored sequel, Wonder Woman 1984, jumps from World War I-era Europe to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) now living quietly among mortals in the vibrant, sleek 1980s—an era of excess that has lost sight of truth in its pursuit of having it all.
Wonder Woman 1984 feels like a movie from the ’80s. The plot, reminiscent of fantasy films like The Dark Crystal, revolves around an ancient stone—or perhaps more aptly a magic rock—that immediately grants you whatever you wish for, resulting in both wacky pranks and massive catastrophes. Diana works as a curator at a museum, where her new coworker, the mousy Barbara Minerva (played with incredible deadpan humor by Kristen Wiig), first discovers the mysterious stone when it comes into the lab. This discovery is immediately followed by the arrival of fluffy-haired television con man Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), a fake oil tycoon promising prosperity to the masses. Crafting a wealthy facade and living beyond his means, Lord is an archetype of the era as he constantly asks each person he meets, “What do you wish for?
The foundation for the script, which Jenkins wrote with Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham, based on William Moulton Marston’s original characters, is a pretty simple one: it’s an indictment of greed, of our entitled desire to have what we want and have it now. Diana wishes she could once again be with her love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), who has now been deceased for seven decades. Barbara wishes she could be more like Diana: confident, strong, sexy. These wishes feel mild in comparison to the desires of Max Lord and others, as the film explores people’s yearning for everything from fame and wealth to political power in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, each person quickly learns that wishes come at a cost. Though they may gain what they most desire, they lose something infinitely more valuable as a result: their humanity.
The foundation for the script is an indictment of greed.
This echoes the warnings of the prophets in Scripture. In Micah, the prophet challenges his hearers that everything comes at a cost—to ourselves and to others. During Micah’s time, the powerful simply took what they wanted. Whatever they wished for, they would seize, no matter how evil the means or how damaging the consequences. This is exactly what Micah criticizes: “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud people of their homes, they rob them of their inheritance.” Greed has caused people to lose their homes and their livelihoods. In response, God says that a reckoning is coming: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves.”
Just because we want something, it doesn’t mean we should have it. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:23, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial.” Our desires often hurt others. In fact, in Wonder Woman 1984, the more wishes that are granted, the more the world descends into chaos, death, destruction, and war.
Simultaneously, wish fulfillment and instant gratification causes us to become our worst possible selves. Wonder Woman eventually loses her superpowers. Barbara transforms from nascent friend into the villainous Cheetah. As Wonder Woman points out to Barbara, in her new form she’s lost the best parts of herself: her kind and loving personality.
As nuclear destruction looms large, Wonder Woman offers one final message of hope to all humankind at the end of the film: renounce your wishes and be content. Likewise, we, as followers of God, are to trust in God and be content. Contentment is not only a crucial component of the Christian life, it’s also a gateway to fair and equal relations among people. Wonder Woman 1984 takes place at the height of Reagan-era conspicuous consumption, hence the title, but the point the movie makes about the destructive nature of avarice is certainly relevant today.
Though we may no longer desire to wear polo shirts with popped collars or parachute pants (and our 21st-century vision of a feminist superhero is certainly not clad head-to-toe in shiny gold), the pursuit of fashion, wealth, beauty, and reputation continue to plague our hearts and minds. The objects may have changed, but the struggle with greed remains. We still want to have it all. Wonder Woman 1984 reminds us of the age-old-truth of God’s word: that loving God and being content is the greatest treasure we can ever hold.