Wonder Woman 1984: The differences and similarities between Diana’s two films

GAL GADOT as Wonder Woman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “WONDER WOMAN 1984,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
GAL GADOT as Wonder Woman in Warner Bros. Pictures’ action adventure “WONDER WOMAN 1984,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. /

After the long, long wait for Wonder Woman 1984 to be released, it’s finally out in the world. But how is it different from the first Wonder Woman? Minor spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984 follow.

From the first trailer of Wonder Woman 1984, it was pretty clear the film was going to be pretty different from the first film. For some, this is absolutely a good thing. For others, it’s a bit of a disappointment. But for better or worse, Wonder Woman 1984 is very much its own thing in very much the same way that fellow DCEU entries Aquaman and Shazam! are.

Even though the two films are very different though, they do also share so much in common. In this writer’s opinion, both films are great albeit containing both high points and low points.

In fact, it feels like the films switched in what these points are. Where the first film fell flat, the succeeds incredibly well. While where the first film succeeds, Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t hold up as well.

The Villains

KRISTEN WIIG as Barbara Minerva WONDER WOMAN 1984
KRISTEN WIIG as Barbara Minerva WONDER WOMAN 1984 /

Probably the most important, non-aesthetic difference between Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 is the quality in its villains. Whereas Wonder Woman’s villains were mostly bland and forgettable, serving more as plot devices than characters, Wonder Woman 1984’s are arguably some of the DCEU’s best villains so far. Comparing Maxwell Lord and Barbara Minerva to Ares, Doctor Poison, and Ludendorff is like comparing apples to rotten orange juice. They’re not even in the same ballpark.

Both Max Lord and Barbara Minvera are compelling where none of the other three can be. From the beginning of Wonder Woman 1984, we’re shown the very human struggles that Max and Barbara have, providing the audience with an understandable motivation as to why they continue to strive for power throughout the film.

For Max, his motivation is his need for his son to love him and to make something of himself, something that so many people can probably understand. For Barbara, her motivation is defined completely by her isolation from everyone else. She just wants to feel like she belongs. Really, neither of them feel like villains, just people desperate enough to do bad things which is what makes them more compelling.

None of this can be said about any of the villains in Wonder Woman though. I literally had to look up the cast list for Ludendorff’s name because he is genuinely that forgettable. Adding onto that, he and Doctor Poison just feel like cartoon villains, but not in a fun way like a lot of Wonder Woman 1984 is. In fact, they’re pretty annoying. They just feel out of place. And while the Ares twist is pretty great, the film just doesn’t do much with it. In fact, the Ares twist, while fitting given how ingrained the character is in the Wonder Woman mythos, feels fatally flawed from the beginning with him apparently supposed to be an ethereal cloud-like being in the final showdown before being changed late into production.

So, all in all, the antagonists in Wonder Woman 1984 are just so much better than in the first film.

The Truth hurts

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984, Steve Trevor, Chris Pine
CHRIS PINE as Steve Trevor in the action adventure “WONDER WOMAN 1984,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.. Photo Credit: Clay Enos/ ™ & © DC Comics /

Probably the most important thing that both films have in common are the thematic elements, specifically when it comes to the theme of “Truth.” Both films are concerned with bringing the truth of human nature to the forefront and making the audience confront messy truths about the world, people in power, and even yourself while watching.

In the first film, the truth that is confronted is that, sadly, humans are just prone to violence. For whatever reason, we want to attack and hurt each other over perceived differences and so many other reasons. The truth is yes, we, as a people, as the human race, have great capacity for evil and the film doesn’t shy away from that. However, it is also true that humans are capable of great kindness, love, and sacrifice, which is exemplified when Steve sacrifices himself for Diana and the rest of the world. Even in hell, love and kindness can prevail.

As for Wonder Woman 1984, it’s a natural continuation of the themes from the first film, but the themes of truth and love turned inward a bit more than they previously did. At its core, Wonder Woman 1984 speaks truth about desire, greed, and a culture that just wants more. More weapons, more money, more anything. Never being satisfied with what you have, no matter who you are. From Barbara Minerva just longing to be like someone she admires to the President of the United States wanting more nuclear weapons, desire just gets in the way of understanding what is true. The truth can hurt. It can tear the soul apart. But the truth will also set you free more than desire and lies ever could.

Bright, colorful, and campy

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984
Wonder Woman. Image Courtesy Warner Bros. Entertainment, HBO Max /

The most immediate and noticeable difference between the two films though is obviously the different aesthetics present within both. This is undoubtedly going to happen when you go from the trenches of World War I to Washington D.C. in 1984, but the aesthetic difference goes further than that just the change in time period and fashion.

Everything about how this film looks is different from the first film. Whereas the first film was very purposefully shot to look similar to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the only similarity that Wonder Woman 1984 has to that film is that Diana wears the same design of armor. Where the first Wonder Woman had a blue-heavy, muted color palette, Wonder Woman 1984 eschews that entirely and has a bright, colorful palette that really feels like the most recent issue of the Wonder Woman comic has jumped off of the page and onto the screen.

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This brighter aesthetic also bleeds into the tone of the film as well as there’s some really campy moments throughout. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, especially Diana’s quick interactions with a cute little girl early on in the film, it just creates for a different viewing experience between the two films. It’s not like the first film doesn’t have humor, it does, but it’s much more present early on in this sequel.

In the back-half of both films though, whatever jokes were present pretty much disappear and the they become much more serious in tone. However, there are also differences. The end of Wonder Woman almost feels like it’s afraid to embrace the comic book nature of the film. Sure, Ares is there and there’s a giant fight, but it just feels oddly muted. Compare that to Wonder Woman 1984 and it goes the opposite way, embracing the comic book nature of the film. Even the final battle, when taking place at night like the first film, Diana pops off the screen thanks to her Golden armor.

With that said though, there’s no scene in Wonder Woman 1984 that feels like a perfect comic book action scene like the “No Man’s Land” scene did in Wonder Woman. “No Man’s Land” really feels like a one-of-a-kind scene that the sequel just couldn’t manage to do again.

All in all though, both films have a lot of differences but at their core, they share a lot of similarities, the most important of which is that Diana truly feels like Wonder Woman.

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Which Wonder Woman movie was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!