An analytical look into the painfully terrible “Wonder Woman 1984”

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Chau Nguyen

After almost a year without a major theatrical release, AT&T attempted to deliver a blockbuster spectacle right when we wish for it the most. But “Wonder Woman 1984” (“WW84”) was so bad, audiences worldwide want to either renounce their wishes, or cancel their HBO Max free trials.

WW84 is once again directed and co-written by Patty Jenkins. She hasn’t had a writing credit since the 2003 Oscar-winning Monster,” so it was definitely exciting to see her take on more control of the franchise. Back in 2017, when Wonder Woman” was released, the bar for female superhero movies was set low (the last ones standing being Catwoman and Elektra) that I didn’t know if another superheroine origin movie was going to succeed. But Wonder Woman” shined–Jenkins directed her earnest energy to the thrilling action-packed movie. Coupled with the high hopes and expectations trailing from the first movie, I really wanted to love this sequel.

Unfortunately, I ended up having a lot of issues with Wonder Woman 1984,” the main one being the screenplay itselfa massive letdown and extreme disappointment. And it pains me to say that.  

The film opens with its only interesting sequence, where a young Diana trains in Themyscira, highlighted by Hans Zimmer’s music. Here, Diana takes a shortcut ahead of all other competitors; General Antiope stops her and accuses her of cheating. I keep expecting that theme to come back later on, that there would be a reason for this opening beyond just introducing the CGI golden warrior suit Diana happens to wear in the end. But that theme is not well-executed; it’s only briefly explored in her wish to bring Steve Trevor, her lover, back to life. If this is the best connection I can make after much leniency, and even that feels shallow and flimsy, then the intro loses sight of its purpose.

Right when Barbara Minerva, Kristen Wiig’s character, is introduced, the film suddenly halts, its pacing drags. I scream in horror, realizing what the script is guiding its audience to: a stereotypical shy-guy-turned-bad antagonist. Much like Jamie Foxx’s Electro in “The Amazing Spiderman 2,” Minerva is a neglected employee of a company that doesn’t realize how smart and essential she is, a shy and timid woman who wishes to not be shy or timid. Something villainous might just be what she needs to face off our protagonist in an epic showdown she’s guaranteed to lose. Decades of cinema still couldn’t shake off this extremely cliché trope of cheesy superhero movies. 

I was even more disappointed when the Dreamstone is introduced, on which all characters in the movie want to make a wish; it becomes clear that the narrative is revolving around this funny-looking object, and that anything horrible could happen would happen. It’s one of the laziest ways to tell a story. “Be careful what you wish for” is a theme that has been explored for too long: everything becomes predictable, and the joy of story unravelling is stripped away. 

Steve Trevor has one of the oddest storylines in the film. Upon Diana’s (and female teens’) wish, Chris Pine is also back as Steve Trevor to goose even more sales, only to be put into another man’s body. I was utterly confused: not only was there a lack of logical explanation for the constant appearance switch between that of Trevor and the poor man, there was also no emotional connection established. As the movie slowly progresses, I can’t help but wonder how horrible this man would have felt had the movie followed common sense. His consciousness would have been held captive, his body involuntarily used by Diana. Does he not have a family, kids, a job, or a life?

Another strange aspect is the action, or the lack thereof. 100 minutes into the movie and there have only been two scenes of actual fighting, not to mention that none of them matches the thrilling height of the first film. There’s nothing in “WW84” as thrilling as the epic “No Man’s Land” rescue, or that scene where Diana ran under snipers’ rain of bullets that had the audience sitting on the edge of their seat.

The off-beat pacing of the movie is partially to blame. According to the vaguely defined Dreamstone, Diana has to lose her powers in exchange for reviving Steve Trevor. As a result, she’s weaker and no longer bullet-proof. Yet whenever the plot demands, Diana can still kick a truck up in the air and swing the Lasso of Truth to prevent bullets, which, by the way, never makes anyone tell any truth. I did recall having watched this superpower-losing motif before. However, this movie’s second act is so boring and drawn out compared to its great predecessors that no climactic finale can be reached. Even if Diana wasn’t Wonder Woman for a good chunk of the movie, but the narrative was compelling, the movie could have been completely different. “Dark Knight Rises’” Bruce Wayne didn’t always put on the Batman suit, only emotionally investing enactment. Movies that follow this route need to explore a never-before-seen aspect of the protagonist, what makes a superhero ‘human.’ “WW84” fails in that regard.

Too many crowd-pleasing elements in this latest DCEU installment couldn’t deliver a performance worth of its potential. I simply couldn’t like it.