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Left Us Wondering, Woman

Updated: Oct 27, 2021

Wonder Woman 1984, written and directed by Patty Jenkins, is the follow up to the hugely successful first film which captured the hearts and wallets of many. The sequel is a vastly inferior, tonally inconsistent, and garbled mess which not only doesn't work like its predecessor, but also actively works against the DCEU universe. This brings me no joy to say this, coming from someone who actually enjoyed the first film. Honestly, I never want to put down anyone else's art, but this feels just so lazy and uninspired - it's almost as if I put more time, care, and attention into this review than they did for the script of this whole thing. It just feels so insulting to me that Warner Media would peddle something like this onto us on Christmas Day. Enough of all that, let's dive into the meat and potatoes of it.

The beginning of the film is so needless, it's embarrassing. We already caught a glimpse of her backstory in the first film that we did not need to go back into her childhood again. Especially since the introductory sequence of this film (nor the point of it) ever came back later on in the film in any meaningful way. If you're gonna put something you feel is important in your film, you need to pay it off in some significant way. This did not pay it off or call back to it whatsoever. This entire introductory sequence could have been cut from the film and you would have trimmed at least ten or fifteen minutes of useless story and made the runtime more manageable for your audience. This also negatively impacts the pacing of the film, which is just all over the place. Historically, blockbusters are always at such a breakneck pace, but with how tedious the pacing is throughout, you'd better have exciting set pieces to win your audience back over. Speaking of "winning over your audience," the lack of 'Wonder Woman' through over an hour of this film can leave the viewer confused. At such point, the movie would be better if it were named, "[Princess] Diana in 1984".

The film's flaws mostly lie with its clearly rushed, lazy, and uninspired script. I have always maintained that you simply cannot make a good film from a numb minded script. The characterization of Diana [Gal Gadot] is so weak, which should be the heart of the film. She is practically a Mary Sue covered in plot armor that there is no tension or excitement. What made her so compelling in the first film was her naivety, charm, charisma, and her chemistry with Steven Trevor [Chris Pine]. Some of the chemistry with Chris Pine comes back in this film (spoilers, I guess), but we're just retreading old ground so it makes it hard to care. Additionally, the film spends so much time on a far less compelling counterpart and it's so glaringly obvious she will be a dual villain/sidekick that the "twist" does not work. Also, once we get to the fight sequences (which are also incredibly bland and generic) we should care because we know the stakes and care about what happens to our heroes, but by then, we simply just don't care. So it doesn't even matter how "cool" the mind-numbing fights look (and they don't, by the way) because I had already checked out by then. The dialogue is also laughably awful that there was no thought or effort put into the writing of the characters' lines throughout. The script is also so incredibly tonally inconsistent, it's so difficult to figure out what exactly they're going for here. It honestly just feels so low effort that I was frankly shocked at how offensively bad the screenplay was. This script would have done a lot better with weeks or even months of rewrites before moving forward with the project as a whole. But, again, they felt they needed to rush the script so they could fast track production, and thus begins the onslaught of problems this film would ultimately encounter.

Now, about that tone of the film. The film feels campy, but in a bad way. I understand they were going for somewhat of an 80s feel, obviously. But, the camp just simply does not work for the film overall as it's cringe-worthy and eyeroll inducing. It's like they saw what Marvel did transitioning from the dark and gritty Thor 1 and 2 films going into Ragnarok, and wanted to achieve a similar tonal transition for Wonder Woman. What does not make sense here is that Wonder Woman absolutely did not need a transition in tone from one film to the next. The first film worked so well for it as it blended its dark and lighthearted tones very well and with a seemingly deft hand. However, the shift in tone in the second WW film just felt jarring and so out of place. It was completely needless and it leaves me to wonder what their thought process was here. I was unaware that Wonder Woman had an identity crisis and did not require a transition to campiness, but here we are. Now Wonder Woman doesn't know what it wants to be - it doesn't have an identity now. And that's a huge problem for the DC universe at large.

Next, we need to talk about the special effects. The sound effects are botched and unrealistic. Laughable at times. The visual effects at play here are honestly astoundingly chippy. It feels like I am playing a video game in third person perspective and get too close to the wall and change my camera to see my player's facial expression. Usually, you can tell right away what is "real" and what is fake, especially in a superhero film. This is increasingly evident in this film as it goes along. You can easily tell what is computer-generated, what is green screen, and what is simply synthetic. What is so mind-blowingly bad about the CGI in this film? Everything. Especially considering the whopping $200 million budget. I have to make this comparison here: the Sci-Fi thriller Possessor from this year had a budget of $6-7 million. This film had better visual effects, practical effects, makeup/prosthetics than this film and it's not even close - it's leagues ahead, even with a tiny fraction of the budget. How is this possible? Again, because WW84 was such a low effort, "let's just do the bare minimum" money grab. And they aren't even going to achieve that. It's abundantly clear why Warner decided to shove this film onto HBO Max instead of delaying it further and making an attempt at a proper theatrical release to win its budget back, and more.

The acting is an interesting piece to this puzzle. I thought at the very least we would get some type of redeeming quality out of this film from its acting. Not so. Each character introduced and reproduced in this film became one dimensional. None of the cast was given room or time to produce a strong representation alongside the elongated unnecessary scenes we received. Maxwell Lord [Pedro Pascal] is always great in everything he's in, and gives it his all. He was the strongest component in this film giving consistent effort on what a salesman would be like in the 80s. He is unsure yet confident to the point where he would be able to deceive the common investor. Unfortunately for Pedro, the script did not give him anything to work with. Sadly his character was a caricature. Barbara Ann "Cheetah" Minerva [Kristen Wiig] does some interesting work here, but is ultimately a miscast. Another victim of one dimensional writing as she attempted to claw out of the "Clumsy, nerdy scientist who goes mad," stigma, but that perception has been produced so many demonstrative times on screen that you wouldn't be able to make this out to be an actual attempt at a well produced portrayal if you tried. Gal Gadot was flat and dull throughout. Wonder Woman was such a success because it was aware of what makes Wonder Woman such an impactful character to the big screen. This film turned the Princess Diana we know as the standard for a strong, impactful, empowering persona into a monotone millennial born in the early 90s. So gloom. When you remove what made the first so good, you're gonna have major problems, and it did. Chris Pine gives his level best, but it's not nearly enough. He was self-conscious in the first film, but he came across as the blonde haired drama queen from a 90s hit television series who finds the most dramatized, emotionally erect way to become the comedic relief of the series in this film. This is often considered unappealing by any character who comes into contact with this person. Nothing changes in that undesired contact with Steve here. Except Diana seems to have no problem with this which does not seem coherent with her strong personality. And again, this all does boil down to the writing and direction.

Which leads to this topic of discussion that needs to be had: offensive and sexist attempts at feminism, male demasculation, and commercial propaganda. Why did this project go in the horrid direction their competitor did which was not received well by the public when the first installment was received with raving public reception? It is highly puzzling. This film is the prime example of what "double standard" means. Almost every male character in this film was presented as a predator. Even Steve Trevor was a predator at a point. When Steve wasn't a predator, he was a portrayed in a reversed sex role to Diana which was very odd and not accurate for any heterosexual relationship I have ever known. Well, except for Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable. In a live-action movie for a wider viewing audience, it looks odd and in bad taste. So why include it? As a male, it would be hard not to get offended especially whilst writing this. The best interest in being a male reporting on this is to ignore this, but to ignore this would contribute to the perception that this is perfectly okay, and would be the exact thing society has done to women in the past by forcing them to be silent about their expression. This film is highly offensive and sexist.

Overall, this film suffers from a poorly written script, a tonally inconsistent mess of a structure, abject and misguided direction, bottom shelf visual effects, and a complete lack of effort resulting in a hollow attempt at a cash grab. This film is such a misfire, and it's a shame because it had real potential after the roaring success that was the first film. Even with Gal Gadot and her shining ability to just radiate charm and charisma on screen just was not enough to save this shallow excuse for a blockbuster. I would wholly recommend staying as far away from this film as humanly possible, but if you feel absolutely compelled, I wish you the best in your endeavors.

It is exceedingly impressive how this outdid three other films on my list as far as low quality is concerned. I cannot believe that this film overtook (undertook?) them as worst film of the year in my eyes because those other three are also impressively bad. I honestly cannot get over my shock at how actively inadequate and turgid this film is. Don't let Wonder Woman rope you into this one - you'll never get that two and a half hours of your life back. It will be better spent with your family, but even that is controversial. Better stick with Die Hard.


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