Wonder Woman 1984’s Christian Message on Truth
There’s plenty to criticize about Wonder Woman 1984: lackluster special effects, run-of-the-mill action scenes, and corny dialogue. But the film tells a story that goes deeper than the hero-vanquishes-villain narrative of typical comic book stories. Whether or not this was purposeful or inadvertent is another question, but the movie gives a moral instruction about Truth and the redemption one finds by seeking it.
I highly recommend people watch the film before reading this review because it contains spoilers.
The movie’s chief villain is Maxwell Lord, an oil tycoon obsessed with an object called the DreamStone to gain all his material desires. The stone promises to give the hearts of men one of its desires, but in return would take something critical to his or her world. Lord asks to become the Stone itself, a wish it grants, and gives him the power to provide others one wish while leaving ruins in his path of seeking earthly dominance. It sets the world onto a path of destruction, and brings him to a point of near irredeemable greed. “You can have it all! You just have to want it!” he declares in the film.
Wonder Woman, Diana Prince, herself asked the stone for a wish earlier in the film: that her deceased lover Steve Trevor return to the world and be with her. It grants Diana’s wish, but takes away her powers, eventually forcing her to decide between keeping her first-love or renouncing her wish to save humanity. She decides the latter, fulfilling our hopes as the selfless hero we expected her to be.
In the end, however, Diana finds herself physically unable to defeat Lord through might alone, instead using her lasso to rope his leg and show to him, and others influenced by him, the Truth.
Diana reveals to us in this film that her iconic lasso of truth is powered by the very element of Truth. It not only has powers that compels men to speak Truth, but also allows those willing to see the Truth. It’s through her lasso she shows her resurrected lover Trevor the origins of her golden eagle armor. The origins of said armor are worth discovering by watching the film.
“This world was a beautiful place just as it was, and you cannot have it all. You can only have the Truth. And the Truth is enough. The Truth is beautiful. So look at this world, and look at what your wish is costing it. You must be the hero. Only you can save the day. Renounce your wish, if you want to save this world,” Wonder Woman pleads to Lord and all others. “Why would I, when it’s finally my turn? The world belongs to me,” Lord shouts back.
The lasso confronts Lord with awful realities of the past, showing him being abused by his father and mocked by his peers. He then sees a vision of his present reality, where his son is fleeing scenes of chaos caused by his very pursuits of selfish desires. He’s about to lose the one person he wanted to admire his success. And after being witness to the Truth, he forfeits all he has gained for a virtuous path of loving his son. After all, as the old saying goes,"how good is it to gain the world, but lose your soul?" “I renounce my wish,” he exclaims. Unlike other superhero films, it shows even the ominous villain is capable of redemption by discovering the Truth.
The story of humans’ spiritual struggle and search for the Truth is told wonderfully (pardon the pun) in this film. We often seek personal enrichment, sometimes nobly so. We’re tempted by zeitgeist of our time to conform to a particular public standard of what defines success, influence, or satisfaction. Our fallen nature oftentimes makes us fall short of achieving what we may know as good or beautiful.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul teaches the Christian believer to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul adds in the Book of Colossians that we are to set our minds on things that “are above, not on things that are on earth.”
For the Christian, scripture explains the film’s conflict as the struggle in our souls, the sin of our desires versus Truth. And what value do we place on a pedestal in our minds? Our fading will, strong as it might be, or something stronger, something eternal? Wonder Woman 1984 tells us that Truth is the thing we must seek for genuine fulfillment. But how does one seek such a thing?
In the book of John, Christ declares that He is “the way and the truth and the life,” and that none shall see Heaven’s glory without choosing Him, the Truth. Before his arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection, Jesus prays to the Father asking him to “sanctify” us in the truth. “Your word is truth,” Jesus prayed.
In scripture, Jesus surrounds himself with those rejected in society, including tax collectors and harlots, sinners thought to be unworthy of redemption. Yet He ministered to them and used them for his mission of proclaiming Truth. When being questioned by Pontius Pilate, Jesus says “everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” It’s in that quote we understand that anyone who hears his Word and believes Him, hears the truth, a standard sufficient for sanctification. In Wonder Woman 1984, not even the villain was beyond being redeemed by the Truth. And as it states in the Bible, neither are we.
Whether you’re a believer in Jesus being humanity’s savior from spiritual death or not, Wonder Woman 1984 was a welcome change of pace to the moral dynamics typically observed in Hollywood films. There is something that’s even greater than vigorous, mundane impulses, a higher good worthy of pursuit and capable of redeeming all who seek it: Truth.