(Branching from here).
(Trigger warning: Hitler and Nazis).
The question has been raised in numerous places, how will Wonder Woman 1984 reconcile her “withdrawal from a century of horrors” with the super-horror that was World War II. I have a personal theory how that could work, although it may be a little too “alternate history” wonky for the movie to use.
First, I believe that the conditions set in the 1918 Armistice made WWII inevitable. The Allied Powers simply put far too heavy a reparations load on Germany for them to ever recover peacefully, not in a useful timeframe anyway (in politics, 10 years is forever, let alone 50 or more). (Also, note that, in the first WW movie, Ares is pushing the Armistice, because he knows what will happen because of it. That’s a very subtle point that I haven’t seen called out often.)
However, the exact nature of WWII may not be set in stone. The piece I believe that would have made it imperative for Diana to intervene was the Holocaust; absent that massive act of genocide (and the human rights abuses that preceded it), WWII just becomes another, larger version of WWI, which itself was yet another rendition of Europe blowing itself up a few times every century (see: Franco-Prussian War, Thirty Years’ War, etc.) So if, at the end of the first film, Diana accepts Ares’ contention that humanity will keep killing itself regardless of his interference, and if WWII isn’t particularly horrific (as it was in real life) maybe she is justified in staying out of it.
So, why wouldn’t WWII be as horrific on Earth One as it was in our world? How might Germany fall under an “ordinary” militarism rather than the total horror of the Nazis? Hitler didn’t rise in a vacuum; he had backers and people who created the atmosphere that led to his party getting seats in the Reichstag in the first place. One in particular comes to mind, a former general who loudly sounded the drumbeats after WWI that the German war effort had been sold out by the politicians, that the Reichstag was full of pacifists and socialists who effectively prevented the victory he fully believed was possible. I believe he even funded Hitler and the Nazi Party in the early days.
His name was General Erich Ludendorff.
We’ve heard that name before: he appears in the first Wonder Woman film, played by Danny Huston. Diana believes he is Ares. She kills him.
So, my theory is this: without Ludendorff, the Nazis never rise to power in Germany. When WWII happens, it’s still very large, but without the genocidal aspects it’s not unique, it’s just bigger, and Diana might just shake her head in disgust rather than feeling a moral obligation to intervene as she would have in the real world.
As I said, it’s kind of a complicated theory to throw into a movie as an aside, but it’s one I think could explain Diana withdrawing from “a century of horrors” without making her an uncaring monster herself. At the same time, I also think that “without this guy, none of that ever would have happened,” even though I think it’s possibly true, could also come across as particularly trite and cold in a film like this.