In 2017 director Patty Jenkins released Wonder Woman – a smash hit both critically and commercially. Its style, action, humor, and overall character work has given this long overdue Amazonian Queen justice on the big screen. Wonder Woman 1984 or WW84 for short, is the colorful long awaited sequel we’ve all been tapping our foot in anticipation for. So, was it worth the wait? Well, that entirely depends on what you’re expecting from this sequel.
Wonder Woman 1984 is hands down an entertaining film… for about 40 minutes or so. Within those 40 minutes there’s goofiness, emotion, and an almost unabashed deep-dive into character development – within those 40 minutes I felt optimistic with the direction of this film and where director Patty Jenkins was taking the character of Diana. But the moment those 40 minutes are up it transitions into what can only be described as narrative mayhem. Now, make no mistake, the base narrative of Wonder Woman 1984 is quite simple. The film takes place decades in the future where Diana (Gal Gadot) is living a mostly peaceful life in Washington D.C — she even makes a friend named Babara (Kristen Wigg). Things begin to take a turn when a magical force resurrects her deceased lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) — events transpire and this magical force quickly begins wrecking havoc across the world. As I said, simple, so what’s the problem? Well, to understand the problem one must realize that Wonder Woman 1984 deteriorates in the places that aren’t immediately obvious.
To put things as bluntly as possible, Wonder Woman 1984 has a complete disregard for the guidelines of its own narrative rules and a naive and distorted perspective on our reality and its own reality. Let’s put what I’m saying here into context. The first egregious problem I came across was the film pushing the vague message that “truth is inherently good” and “lies are inherently bad”. Yes, that’s the message of the movie, that is quite literally it. To further place some context of this message in action, there’s a sequence in this film where Diana puts everything on the line and must convince a large group of people to “do the right thing”; in this sequence she takes it upon herself to provide a very motivational and emotional speech that can eloquently be summarized as “LYING IS BAD, BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER”. The speech is… borderline offensive to the viewers intelligence. It almost resembles the viral video during peak COVID-19 times of Gal Gadot and her fellow celebrities emotionally singing the song Imagine by John Lennon while they all sit in their Hollywood hills mansions. It’s all bit nauseating.
But the major issue with Wonder Woman 1984 is that almost nothing that is established remains consistent throughout the film; not a character, not a story arc, not even the structure of what is happening – each one of these things break their own rules they previously established. Characters have personality switches, story arcs are unashamedly abandoned, and the structure of this film is chaotic at best. Wonder Woman 1984 is excessive beyond measure in its lack of logical guidelines. The most surprising thing that Patty Jenkins did in this sequel was to take the weakest elements of the first Woman Woman film and amplify them here. Her messaging that “everyone is inherently good but an external force (like a god or magic) is what makes them bad” makes for quite a shallow and naive storytelling experience – one not true to reality – one that is devoid of nuance or expansive thought.
While the narrative faults are prevalent I cannot fault Jenkins on her work with Diana’s character. There’s a sense that Patty Jenkins genuinely cares for the Wonder Woman character, and that shows; it shows itself in the writing, in the form of Diana’s soft and delicate disposition as a character. This is something that is curiously unlike her comic book counterpart, who is a more coarse and commanding personality – one who’d rather have respect in the room than be seen as the delicate one – none of this is true for Gal Gadot’s version of Diana. Much of this lends itself to Gadot’s natural charm, as her softer expressions like smiles and empathy are more potent than her combative on-screen presence. Patty Jenkins is leveraging this to form a more empathetic and heartful version of Diana – which, in many ways is what makes these films work to begin with.
The discrepancy between Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 in regards to the cinematography is stark. Specifically, in relation to the composition and imagery – there isn’t much symmetry in shots or swooping close-up camera-work. While Jenkins smartly keeps the action style of Wonder Woman with changes in camera movement speed combined with slow-motion, the set-pieces don’t quite work. The action sequences lack creativity in the way they are choreographed and there is a lack of monumental build-up – which can’t be said for the first film (No Man’s Land scene). Wonder Woman 1984 is marketed as a colourful popping film, and yeah, there are moments of colour but for the most part, don’t expect it.
The production design really works in this film and as the film takes place in the 1980’s, it can have a lot of fun setting up an 80’s aesthetic – to which it does. Costuming is impeccable from Wonder Woman’s dresses and gowns to the 80’s fashion on the characters and extras. The main brilliance comes from large scale set-designs that capture scope and scale quite nicely – it also sets up a convincing atmosphere that the audience can get absorbed in. Hans Zimmer seems to have his focus set on Dune as the score uses previously composed music from past film such as the Wonder Woman theme, a Batman V Superman piece and the iconic piece from Sunshine (2007) – these three pieces of music all hit at key moments. If you know these pieces of music, it will take you out of the film rather than boost immersion and elevate the moment for you.
There’s fun to be had with Wonder Woman 1984, but the moment it decided emotional storytelling is a substitute for a logical film structure was the moment it lost me as a viewer. Wonder Woman 1984 contains as many problems as its marketing campaign has colors. It’s a messy thrillride that will scratch the itch for any blockbuster starved movie-goer — my back however, remain unscratched.