CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Wonder Woman 1984 review: DC's neon thrill ride back on HBO Max

Spoiler-free: Diana Prince's second outing streams on HBO Max from May 13, for free this time.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
Expertise Culture | Video Games | Breaking News
Sean Keane
3 min read
Chris Pine goes back to the decade fashion forgot.
Enlarge Image
Chris Pine goes back to the decade fashion forgot.

Chris Pine goes back to the decade fashion forgot.

Clay Enos/Warner Bros.

It took a while for Wonder Woman 1984 to reach our screens. But delays haven't hurt the sequel to 2017's Wonder Woman at all, as star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins deliver a wonder-filled superhero movie.

Originally released in January in theaters and for a month on streaming service Max, Wonder Woman 1984 is now available to rent and buy online. And now it's back on HBO Max for free when you have a subscription.  

This superpowered sequel opens on our hero's home island, establishing the movie's central theme through a spectacular opening sequence. Then we jump forward decades to find Diana (Gadot) stopping crime in the most '80s location imaginable: a shopping mall. This sets us up nicely for the neon-tinged Cold War-era adventure ahead.

Even though nearly 70 years have passed since the events of the first movie, immortal demigod Diana hasn't moved on from the loss of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine). He was the first man she'd ever seen, and he whisked her off to a life of excitement and superheroics, so I guess it's understandable.

In the midst of this loneliness, she befriends fellow museum worker Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). She's the kind of socially awkward character seen in countless '80s movies, a person others ignore or forget. Wiig puts her Bridesmaids-honed comedic chops to good use as the seemingly powerless Barbara, making her utterly endearing despite occasional bumbling, and provides a nice contrast to Gadot's more stoic Diana. 


Barbara Minerva takes a stylish turn as her character evolves.

Clay Enos/Warner Bros.

Minerva's villainy plays off that relationship, and she becomes more intense (and cooler looking) as the movie progresses. She loses much of her charm as she goes bad, however, and becomes an overly stoic vilain.

Main villain Max Lord (The Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal) fits another familiar '80s mold -- the head of a failing business whose slick TV infomercials lure investors into a pyramid scheme. Desperate for true success, he wants to track down an ancient stone that can grant wishes. 


Max Lord is a man of style.

Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures

Pascal infuses some of the charm we saw in his Game of Thrones character Oberyn Martell into the greasy Lord, making him a nuanced baddy with sharp retro suits. We never lose sight of his emotional turmoil, even if there are also some distracting logical leaps when it comes to the powers he gains (though these leaps are ultimately excusable, since they're magic).

Diana soon finds herself dealing with the return of Steve Trevor, setting up a nice flip of the dynamic they had in the first movie. She isn't the same wide-eyed fish out of water she was the last time they met -- by 1984 she's in tune with the modern world, while his last memories are of 1918. This sends us on a fun tour of '80s Washington DC as they investigate the cause of his return.

Gadot and Pine are as fun to watch as ever in this colorful setting. They even manage to bring Wonder Woman's most ridiculous gadget into this cinematic universe convincingly, giving the movie a warm emotional grounding as Lord goes on a wish-granting power trip and events become increasingly chaotic.

A chunk of the movie doesn't have major action sequences, but the characters are all so engaging you won't get bored. And when the action comes, it's a delight. Diana's powers offer plenty of visual variety (though some of the CGI is surprisingly weak), while composer Hans Zimmer uses her epic theme music to get your adrenaline pumping.

New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More

See all photos

Surprisingly, the movie doesn't tap into many '80s songs to set the scene, like 2019's Captain Marvel did with its '90s soundtrack, leaving Zimmer's score to do much of the heavy lifting. Instead, colorful outfits and locations, big hair and beige offices bring us into the era.

As engaging as most of this adventure is, it does feel a little long at 2 hours and 31 minutes. The location of the finale is also a little drab and dark, considering all the vibrant places we visit beforehand. 

Wonder Woman 1984 works beautifully as a followup to the superhero's 2017 adventure, expanding Diana's character and leaning into the '80s with style. It's easily the most emotionally engaging DC Extended Universe movie, with eye-popping action scenes, vivid settings and a positive message that's a breath of fresh air. Jenkins' next stop might be a galaxy far, far away, but let's hope she and Gadot reunite for another DC adventure soon.