I love superhero movies. However, I must admit I am quite biased, I prefer The Marvel Cinematic Universe to DC. So, as I sat down to watch the second Wonder Woman movie, I was a little sceptical.
This iteration is set in 1980’s Washington D.C. The hair is big, and the clothes are bright and flashy. This decade’s ‘more-is-more’ attitude suits the convoluted plot and general melodramatic nature of superhero films. However, as much as I’d like to think that the cheesy and predictable screenwriting was satirising 80’s films, I’m not sure it actually was and it just comes off as clunky. Wonder Woman’s enemies are a stone, a nefarious genie and a big cat. A bit of a downgrade from The God of War, but let’s go with it. The main villain, Max Lord, is extremely underwhelming. He absorbs the wish-granting power of an ancient stone to become a wish making machine. It’s…silly. The chaos he creates in the world is almost humorous; nuclear warheads start flying around everywhere. His relationship with his son is supposed to be key to his character development and the plot, but it just contributes to an inauthentic character arch as he treated his son like shit at the start of the film.
The movie could instead have focused on its far more fascinating antagonist, Cheetah. Having read how Barbara Minerva came to obtain her powers, it sounded much more interesting than the story created for this movie. She is meant to be Wonder Woman’s archenemy but, in this movie, she was side-lined to a ‘best friend’ stereotype in the first half of the movie. Kristen Wiig did well with the poor material she had been given and the transition from Barbara to Cheetah was going smoothly but another disappointing intervention from Max removes any excitement of it. I found it disheartening that Diana and Barbara’s friendship was also marked by cliche female stereotypes which was frustrating when the original Wonder Woman film had been so fantastically feminist.
One improvement made from the film’s predecessor however is Gadot’s Wonder Woman. In the first film, the studied Amazon somehow does not know what marriage was despite having read all twelve books on sex and speaking every language. Her fish-out-of-water performance, while funny at times, is strained at others. In this sequel she is maturer and quietly confident – turns out seven decades gives you a lot of time for self-improvement. Her fight sequences were better choreographed with less CGI for more authenticity. I liked this depiction of a ‘friendly-neighbourhood-Wonder-Woman’ battling some clumsy robbers in the mall fight scene. Despite these powerful sequences, Diana is still hung up on Chris Pine’s Steve which was tiresome to watch. Every superhero needs at least one fatal flaw, but couldn’t Wonder Woman’s flaw have been being too courageous or too ambitious, not fretting over a man..?
Wonder Woman 1984 suffers from the Spiderman 3 problem of introducing too many villains. Consequently, characters such as Barbara, who had a lot of potential, aren’t successfully fleshed out. However, it doesn’t dash my hopes that other female-led superhero films have potential. I might even go watch all the other ones. There are other ones, right?
Image: Javier Carvajal via Wikimedia Commons