WONDER WOMAN 1984 (2020) REVIEW: Less Than Wonderful
In an age crying out for the strong female protagonist, especially in comic book media, director Patty Jenkins rose to the challenge with Wonder Woman (2017). Jenkins' vision captured the stand-alone origin story of Diana "Wonder Woman" Prince (Gal Gadot) from her Amazonian roots to her iconic prominence in the DC Comics Universe as a victory for women in cinema. Warner Bros. had hit a tender spot for fans of the DC Extended Universe, and their first female-centric film is still admired with fond regard. It would be expected that Jenkins would return to the Wonder Woman saga with the same energy the first movie was greeted with; instead, she delivers an insufficient second run.
In an age crying out for the strong female protagonist, especially in comic book media, Jenkins struggles to meet these demands. Focusing too intensely on the era of the movie, the cherished 1980s, Jenkins loses sight of the narrative that is expected to be driven by Prince, whose most heroic moments are found in hand-to-hand combat and nothing more. The outdated love for the '80s has no excuse for the poor cinematography, underwhelming CGI, or the futile writing that has Gadot performing as if she's read the script moments before shooting the final cut.
Even though the main villain, Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), is partially based on Donald Trump, Jenkins insists that Wonder Woman 1984 is not to be taken as a political vocalization. The erasure of the politicism in comics, let alone in a Wonder Woman live-action, forgets the morals, ethics, and values that are rooted within graphic novels and their storytelling. It's simply shameful that the largest injustice that Prince takes head-on is the gaudy golden eagle armor that she dons, and not any deeper issues that troubled the '80s.
Wonder Woman 1984 not only struggles to flatter itself with cinematic elements but struggles to coherently piece itself together. The return of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) will provoke confusion, as Trevor had "died" in the first film. The return of Prince's old flame is a hefty shoehorn to bring back Pine in a popular role. Trevor's return seems to be nothing more but for the film to remind audiences that yes, they are in the '80s.
The quirky, socially awkward Barbara "Cheetah" Minerva (Kristin Wiig)'s transformation is nothing less than predictable, and her savannah cat alter ego is visually offensive. For the resources that the DCEU and Warner Bros. have access to in order to polish their movies, there should be no excuse for such a sorry design for a villain - or for any character design at all.
It's a bit ironic that Wonder Woman 1984 is based around wishing and wish-granting, as there's the wish that this superhero sequel could be a bit more super. The coveted "Monkey's Paw" of the movie is a literal wish-granting crystal that falls into the wrong hands, and predictably, unravels global chaos. Unlike any other sought-after object of power, there's not much of an explanation behind this stone.
There seems to be a constant reminder of the conflict in which the movie pivots itself, and the plot itself remains to be average. There is no element of surprise, no rug to be pulled from under the feet of an audience, and there's a certain hollowness to the movie in which fails to be filled. In the end, there's never a disclosed reason for the return of Wonder Woman.
Three years ago, came a superhero blockbuster that refused to back down from oppression and stood up to injustice without a quiver in its voice- doing something that Wonder Woman 1984 couldn't muster- but at least we see the Invisible Jet.