When Wonder Woman was first released in 2017, the film marked a massive paradigm shift as it broke a superhero glass ceiling that should have been shattered long ago. The Patty Jenkins directed film was acclaimed for its balance between transporting action and invigorating drama, mesmerizing spectacle, and electrifying romance. Despite its lacklustre third act, Wonder Woman is widely regarded as the course correction that DCEU desperately needs. Naturally, a sequel was subsequently greenlit following the film’s critical and commercial success, in the form of Wonder Woman 1984.
In Wonder Woman 1984, most of what made the original film such a delight to watch are gone. The sensibility of the first film has been replaced by untethered obsession towards 80s nostalgia. Gadot, who was the highlight of the first film, is pushed to the side as the machinery around her becomes bulkier and noisier. Despite Gadot’s charismatic performance, her character is ultimately corrupted due to the warped vision of morality presented by this film with its awful writing. Diana, who was the very representation of hope in the first film, is now replaced by a feverish caricature that never stopped to think about the implication of her actions.
While the Wonder Woman is widely regarded as a monumental step towards feminism in film, its sequel seeks to undo its legacy at every turn. In the sequel, we witness the evolution of Diana from being a girl hung up on her ex in 2017’s Justice League, to a girl hung up on her ex for almost the entirety of Wonder Woman 1984. After such a stirring debut in her first feature film, it is painful to see how the filmmakers of Wonder Woman 1984 decided to treat its titular character.
A superhero film is only as terrible as its villains, and Wonder Woman succeeds in spades when it comes to delivering badly written antagonists. Despite her efforts, Kristen Wigg’s Barbara Ann Minerva/Cheetah is incredibly underwhelming, with many drawing parallels from villains in films such as Batman Forever and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (not the most exciting collection of films in the superhero department). On top of that, the film even manages to make Pedro Pascal, who is often the highlight in the projects he’s involved with, remarkably uncharismatic. With a weak story and even weaker villains, Wonder Woman 1984 is the definition of a film that is all style and no substance.
Speaking of style, despite being set in the 1980s, there is little to no reason why Wonder Woman 1984 was set in this particular time frame beyond appeasing to the “Hey look, the 80’s is rad again!” demographic. Mindless, unnecessary, and directionless, the Wonder Woman follow-up steers too far from the tone of the original film, delivering a poor attempt in a sequel that represents a huge step backwards in a franchise that had an impressive start.
On top of its problematic writing, the Wonder Woman sequel suffers from major pacing issues. Jenkins’ fast paced direction does not gel with the overblown script, which is ironic considering Jenkins wrote the script this time around. As a result, the pacing of Wonder Woman 1984 is often paced too steadily with major reveals and stakes of the story falling flat, as well as certain scenes coming across forced with little to no build-up. By the time the film reaches its third act, the pacing is wildly rapid and the whole thing crumbles before it even takes off.
At the bare minimum, superhero films are supposed to be mindless family friendly blockbusters that the audience can enjoy without thinking too hard about it. Turns out, Wonder Woman 1984 is not the much-needed escapism from 2020 that many of us hoped it would be. With an atrocious script, bad characterisation, questionable moral stance, Wonder Woman 1984 is a film that is far from wonderful.