The much-anticipated sequel to 2017’s Wonder Woman hit our screens at the end of 2020, delivering all the cinematic pomp one would expect from the genre. Unfortunately, it also served up enormous amounts of predictability, platitude, and a love-sick heroine who deserved, quite frankly, a better film. Here’s why we should leave Wonder Woman 1984 in the past and move on to better things in 2021.
Full disclosure: I’m not much of a super hero movie person, so it takes a really good one to thrill me. Wonder Woman 1984, I’m sad to say, was not one of those. It was made perhaps even more disappointing by the long wait the preceded it, and the build up which had viewers hanging on tenterhooks for months before it plopped unceremoniously onto streaming service HBO Max.
The film follows Wonder Woman (or Diana Prince), played by the gorgeous Gal Gadot, as she carries on with her life – decades later in 1984 – , still pining over the loss of her pilot boyfriend. When, through the course of her work, she crosses paths with a mysterious crystal which has the ability to grant wishes, things start getting interesting – briefly. Before we realise that from that point on we can predict everything that’s going to happen for the rest of the film.
The shit hits the fan when the villains – yes, plural – get involved and start using the magical wish-granting stone – which looks like it would fit in quite well on any hippie’s bookshelf – for their own nefarious ends, obviously.
Everyone loves watching Gal kick butt in her teeny tiny outfit (and now a kickass shiny metal one), with her hair somehow remaining perfectly styled throughout the commotion, but if you’re looking for a film that will also impress you with its story line, writing, and character development, Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t the one you’re looking for.
It’s not any one of the film’s failings that causes it to fall flat, but the clumsy way they seem to have been put together. Personally, the excessively unrealistic action manoeuvres are what finally killed it for me. The effects fall way short of what we’ve come to expect from the genre. Characters float during fight scenes, as if being suspended from invisible cables, bouncing lightly between kicks like a kid in a jumping castle. I’m not asking for a super hero movie to obey the laws of physics, but if the plot takes place on earth, as this one does, at least apply some wind resistance and a smidge of gravity to make it look a tad less awkward.
The film has also received criticism for the way it failed to further the character’s strength and independence in a male-dominated genre. As Manohla Dargis writes for the New York Times, “three years ago, Wonder Woman emerged amid a reckoning on male abuse and power; the timing was coincidental, but it also made the character feel meaningful. In 2017, when Wonder Woman was done saving the world, her horizons seemed limitless. I didn’t expect that her next big adult battle would be at the mall”.
That being said, Wonder Woman 1984 did offer a fair amount of escapism from the weird and isolating festive season that many of us had – and again, it’s got Gal Gadot in it so we could at least be distracted by her face even if we didn’t enjoy the story itself. It’ll probably quench the thirst of a few die-hard fans, but if you’re not overly fond of the franchise, perhaps you should watch something else.
In the words of K. Austin Collins for Rolling Stone, “it doesn’t always add up, the acting isn’t always great, the climax overreaches a little. Courtesy of the stars, and of the filmmaker’s clear affection for her subject, there’s a little more soul here than there had to be, thankfully. That’s not everything. It’s also not nothing”.
As for me, that’s 151 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Let’s hope the third instalment of the Wonder Woman franchise, which is already in the works, does better than this one.