Patty Jenkin’s first Wonder Woman film is widely regarded as the best film in the current DC Comics Extended Universe (DCEU). It’s a colorful film that’s mostly cheerful and fun until the final act. There were high hopes for the sequel, Wonder Woman 1984 (WW 1984), with the film scheduled to release in theaters and on HBO Max on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, Wonder Woman 1984 does not live up to its predecessor and is arguably the worst film in the DCEU. Let’s take a closer look in our Wonder Woman 1984 review.
Most of the films in the DCEU aren’t absolutely terrible. Some people think the best films can be considered good, while others are of the mindset that even Wonder Woman and Shazam were just average at best. For those who fall into the latter category, WW 1984 is a mess at best, and the bottom of the DCEU film slate at worst. For the more optimistic Wonder Woman fans, WW 1984 is serviceable, but still nowhere near the level of quality found in the first film.
The latest DCEU film from Patty Jenkins brings back Gal Gadot as Diana Prince (Wonder Woman) and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor (despite the fact that he died in the first film), while introducing new bad guys, Pedro Pascal as Maxwell Lord and Kristen Wiig as Barbara Minerva (Cheetah). Comic book fans will see some similarities between these on screen characters and the original comic book versions, but Patty Jenkins and the rest of the writing team on WW 1984 took quite a few liberties with the material in order to make it work.
All of the talent involved in WW 1984 is trying their best to make a terribly lackluster script actually work. Pascal is passionate as business mogul Maxwell Lord. It’s a far cry from the comic book version of the character, but it mostly works within the context of the film. His evil ambitions are not explained until the very end of the film, and despite the two and a half hour run time, the film only spends a minute or two on Lord’s motivations. Kristen Wiig’s version of Barbara Minerva has a bit better character development, but still features similar faults with no real motivation for her evil tendencies. Who needs character development, right?
While Gadot and Pine try to rekindle the playful banter they shared during the first film, with a focus on 80s gags that mostly fall flat, the magic is gone. Diana Prince spent nearly 70 years pining over Steve Trevor, but their attempt at flirty banter in WW 1984 doesn’t convey that love at all. They seem more like a couple who have only been dating for a few weeks. The chemistry just isn’t there like it was in the first film, and a lot of that has to do with the poorly written script.
WW 1984 is two and a half hours of nothing. The first hour feels more like a cartoon than a live-action superhero film. It’s filled with tired 1980s gags, action sequences that feel like they were pulled out of early 90s comic book films, and exposition that serves no real purpose other than to give nonsense reasons for certain items to be in certain places so the movie isn’t completely random. Most films that are over two hours long need the extra time to tell a good story. In the case of WW 1984 you can trim off a good 45 minutes from the first act alone and nothing of importance would be lost.
One of the biggest reasons for the downfall of Wonder Woman seems to be the completely new writing team. The first film was written by Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs. While none of those guys have terribly impressive writing resumes, they clearly got the job done. WW 1984 threw all three of them out and replaced them with Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham. With Johns being a major player in the DC Comics world, you’d think the film would turn out well, but it’s unknown how much influence he had. Callaham is mostly known for the Expendables series and the 2014 Godzilla film, while Jenkins really only has Monster under her writing credits. Whatever the reason, the script for Wonder Woman 1984 is drastically lacking and a big reason why the film turned out so lackluster.
Unfortunately, the script isn’t the only cause of concern for WW 1984. Many of the special effects feel as though they were pulled right out of the 1978 Superman film. Diana Prince’s lasso techniques still look good, but everything else feels as though the effects team was working with a TV budget. In one specific scene you can clearly see that children were replaced with mannequins as Diana Prince saves them while tumbling to the ground. In other instances the gravity feels off while Prince is swooping around doing Wonder Woman things. Almost as if she has no weight to her. It looks off and feels off, especially with how far special effects have come over the past two decades.
There isn’t much praise that can be given to Wonder Woman 1984. Some people will assuredly like it, even Batman v. Superman and Justice League have fans despite being widely considered two of the worst DCEU films. There will be some diehard fans that look beyond all of the faults in the film and just enjoy Diana Prince doing Wonder Woman things. It’s a very positive film, so it has that going for it, but otherwise this is easily one of the worst films in the DCEU roster. It’s a good thing Patty Jenkins signed on to Rogue Squadron before the reviews for WW 1984 came out. Let’s just hope she does not handle the script for her first Star Wars film.
About Wonder Woman 1984
Synopsis: Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writers: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham
Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal
Runtime: 2 Hours, 31 Minutes
Releases: December 25th, 2020 (Theatrically and HBO MAX)