This post contains detailed spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984
“I wish we had more time,” Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) told Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) before he sacrificed himself at the end of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman. A stable relationship is hard to come by for this with powers, which often puts a love interest in the crosshairs of a villain’s nefarious plan. In this case, Steve had more agency than is typically offered for the superhero beau as he actively chooses a fate that corresponded with his military role. Steve has not been kidnapped because he is Wonder Woman’s boyfriend, instead, his pilot skills are intrinsic to this heartbreaking demise. Despite Steve’s apparent death — the explosion seemed pretty conclusive — Pine appeared at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con alongside Jenkins and Gadot to discuss the sequel. First look photos showed what appeared to be Steve sporting an on-trend fanny pack and Members Only jacket was followed by some swoon-worthy moments teased in the trailer. Therefore, it is no surprise going into Wonder Woman 1984 that Steve plays a role (despite being dead and all), but is his return a hindrance to Diana’s arc and the movie as a whole?
Yes, is the short answer and while this is something I address in the WW84 review, it requires some unpacking delving into the spoiler-laden particulars. Also, it is worth emphasizing for the purposes of this debate that Chris Pine is my Best Chris for a number of reasons including his deft absurd comedy ability (see Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later) along with dramatic and blockbuster leading-man roles. Off-screen he is also the Best Dressed Chris, which has seen him embrace vacation caftans, sherbet tones at the aforementioned SDCC, and leopard print quarantine sartorial delights. His playful attitude toward fashion lends itself to the ‘80s outfit montage that costume designer Lindy Hemming serves a number of winning looks that Pine would probably wear IRL. Pine is game for anything, which plays into the role of Steve Trevor as a man out of time enthusiastically responding to aspects beyond wardrobe including trash cans, escalators, and Pop-Tarts. His presence is full of heart and humor, unfortunately, it pains me to say that this reunion is detrimental to the movie.
It is eyebrow-raising that Diana has not moved on during the 60 plus years since Steve’s death. In fact, Steve is the first to suggest that she should get back in the dating game — another tick in the Steve Trevor is the ideal man column because he has no qualms about this. After the Themyscira flashback opening sequence, we join adult Diana saving the day followed by dinner alone. There is, of course, no shame in solo dining but the waiter removing the extra place pointedly underscores her singledom. Other than lunch with new colleague Dr. Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), she doesn’t socialize and the framed photographs in her apartment point to a group of friends who have since died — while she looks the same age as she did in 1918. Even before the wish stone has made its first appearance, the notion of getting everything you desire has been laid out by Max Lord’s (Pedro Pascal) bombastic TV appearances and it is only time before Diana gets her deepest wish.
It is through this ancient artifact that Steve returns to the land of the living, except he isn’t really Steve but just a random guy — it is only Diana who sees him as Steve Trevor. “I wish we had more time,” says this stranger to Diana at the Smithsonian party hosted by new benefactor Max Lord. But this guy sure sounds a lot like Steve and the camera spins around the pair to reveal Chris Pine’s handsome face and piercing baby blue eyes. After everything that Diana has done for the world — and the sacrifice Steve made — it is hard to begrudge her happiness of this kind. It should also be noted that I had a huge dopey smile plastered across my face during their impromptu Washington DC monument-framed dance (no doubt referencing the night they first hooked up) and subsequent romantic moments. But as the film progresses and Steve is still on hand to help combat various villains it becomes clear he is dragging down the plot and pulling focus from Diana as a character in her own right. Additionally, all this time with Steve could have been spent building more of a relationship between Diana and Barbara rather than the one lunch and subsequent rescue from the drunk catcaller.
Even Steve knows it is silly he is sticking around for so long as he pointedly tells Diana she needs to renounce her wish so she can get her full powers back. What Jenkins and co-writers’ Geoff Johns and David Callaham have done is address the elephant in the room (see also his incredulous response to her 60-year-plus solitude). Steve is the audience stand-in, but even with this level of awareness, too much time is spent on this pairing. Using Diana's great love as a catalyst to weaken her powers — the wish stone is a monkey’s paw taking something in return — is relatable but the Steve arc could (and should) have been condensed. The opportunity to explain his innate connection to flying while also nodding to the invisible jet from the comics doesn’t need to be cut, however, his overall involvement doesn’t have to be as prolonged. This way the audience and Diana get the swoony power of Steve (and Chris Pine) and it would benefit the pacing. In fact, this whole plot is a monkey paw for the WW84 narrative because while it is great seeing Steve, the suggestion that is Diana is ultimately unable to get over her first love is frustrating.
Another aspect of Steve that makes it hard to say goodbye is he subverts some of the tropes that a superhero love interest falls into. He is never under the assumption that she is a regular person, which automatically removes the clunky alias factor. He is also the rare boyfriend who supports his partner without feeling inadequate or acting in a petulant manner about her achievements and the important role she plays — You’re Wrong About co-host Sarah Marshall raised this particular trope pitfall recently on Twitter. In the first movie, he has a couple of moments that lean into this pattern, but the only time he tells Diana what to do in WW84 is when he implores her to renounce her wish — therefore “killing” him. It is a selfless act and Steve Trevor really is the best of boyfriends.
When the bloody and weakened Diana realizes she needs to choose to save the world over personal happiness it further centers this relationship and Steve’s dreamy qualities. It isn’t hard for the audience to understand why she wants to find an alternate solution to keep Steve in her life. But this isn’t Steve, and we also need to consider the man whose apartment he woke up in likely has loved ones who might not be so on board with this brand new persona. Diana’s reaction to this realization is heartbreaking and for a second time, she has to say farewell. Without this burden, new life is breathed into the final act, and through flight the Steve voiceover is unintrusive. The final showdown would be more effective with a strong connection between Diana and Barbara, but unfortunately, this is one of the casualties of the overstuffed plot. “I’m already gone,” Steve tells Diana in their last moments together, which is how this character should stay in the next Wonder Woman movie.
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