Is ‘Wonder Woman 1984’ in 2020 a Comedown or an Uplift?

This movie was supposed to come out November 1st, 2020. And yet despite the extra time the special effects are bad, the writing sloppy and the film edit drags. I can’t explain how the film came in initially hot and highly rated. Maybe during the pandemic critics were clamoring for anything. With positive reviews like Forbes Scott Mendelsohn saying: “It doesn’t always work but Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot’s superhero sequel attempts to rebuke the last 20 years’ worth of masculine-coded blockbuster filmmaking.” This despite having two male co-writers and a sympathetic male villain who gets as much or more screen time as the title hero herself. This is a less polished film than the original despite 3 years of progress and much goodwill.

I wasn’t a fan of the first film. But it still had its charms. The two leads Gal Gadot and Chris Pine had chemistry, and in an effort to bring that back, the sequel’s script has a flimsy way of bringing them together again. I was a bit confused by exactly how that happens, but in a year that gave us Tenet as the only other major blockbuster you can’t be too picky about the when or how of it all. You just have to accept the blockbuster B.S.

This film also has its charms. Gal is as glorious as ever as Diana Prince and an early flashback though it has trouble linking to the main story makes for a nice action scene. Apart from that race, there’s little of interest in the way the action unfolds. Curiously the film doubles down on its villain and makes him into somewhat of a sympathetic figure. Pedro Pascal gives a great performance in a role that could have been unmemorable but his interactions with Wonder Woman are a missed opportunity about the destructive effects men have on women. He has a monkey paw wish fufillment device that grants whatever someone wants at a cost. And its hard to calculate the costs in any sort of film that hops from scene to scene like this. To be fair that’s difficult subject matter to tackle that’s questionable territory for Wonder Woman to tackle as entertainment but the pieces are all there. She is such a uniting force for everyone. In that way the movie sets itself up for failure. Its comfortable enough to show us multiple scenes of harassment, but this is also a four quadrant family film that can’t get too dark. So Diana is always there to save the day from bad men who prey on vulnerable women. And what does it have to say about women who gain or lose power? I don’t know. If you have a comment I’d love to hear it.

Kristen Wiig is fine but questionably cast as Barbara Minerva a.k.a. The Cheetah. One of Wonder Woman’s main rivals. She doesn’t exactly fit into the rest of the plot a whole lot and probably could have been saved or combined with another character. The central set piece in Egypt doesn’t star her, but you’ll notice as in many Hollywood movies characters can hop from locale to locale and geography barely matters. That happens here. Like the CGI wall erected around Egypt in the film by media mogul Maxwell Lord, there’s no consequence to it. You can choose to applaud the ambition, but given the director’s comments of not knowing which major scene to cut, it seems the filmmakers like the main villain had too much wealth to go around. For what its worth Wonder Woman 1984 could have been more.

Warner Brothers has already fast-tracked a sequel but I’m not sure how fans will receive it. I don’t think Patty Jenkins is a good or especially action oriented director. She excels at telling human scale dramas like in Monster. And there is unrealized potential in Diana losing her powers for that kind of human scale story to be told but you won’t find it in ’84 or this year.

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