Wonder Woman 1984 feels like a messy first draft.
The basic skeleton and building blocks of a great comic book movie are there, unfortunately the sum of all its parts fail to mesh together in a cohesive, effective, or ultimately entertaining matter.
Director Patty Jenkins’ 2017 Wonder Woman film remains a pleasantly surprising experience for me. Having recently rewatched it prior to sitting down to experience Wonder Woman 1984, I was happy to note that it holds up pretty well as an origin story for the title character.
2020’s follow-up film however, doesn’t even hold up from one act to the next.
The film opens up with a supposed flashback of a young Diana participating in what can only be described as Themyscira Amazon Warrior, with her mother and aunt looking over her despite the very first conflict in the previous movie revolving entirely around Diana’s desire to train and grow her skills while her mother and aunt clash over the benefits and risks it could bring about.
The inconsistencies with its prequel as well as subsequent incompatibility with the rest of the DCEU continue throughout the movie and they never quite stop as Diana eventually gains new powers that she will mysteriously never use again even in situations where audience members now awkwardly realize would have come in handy.
The overly drawn out and now retcon-heavy opening flashback eventually culminates around Robin Wright’s Antiope teaching Diana a lesson about cheating and how the truth is that Diana did not win, establishing that the truth is “all there is” according to her.
This also establishes a sadly recurring theme for the audience as plot holes, retcons, inconsistencies and increasingly ludicrous scenarios (even for its genre) continue to mount, only for the movie to flounder at successfully connecting them all in an emotional monologue by Diana in the third act.
All of those flaws mentioned earlier would not feel as sharp nor stick out as sorely as they do if the story and characters were written well and to my great dismay, both are a downgrade compared to the previous movie.
Despite its generous running time, Wonder Woman 1984 simply has too much in it to develop any themes, conflicts, or character arcs in a satisfying manner that feels earned.
Instead, it suffers from the infamous Spider-Man 3 (2007) problem of having an abundance of underdeveloped villains and a lack of focus around the main protagonist as a continuously developing character.
Pedro Pascal seems to give his performance as the scheming Maxwell Lord his all, aided by supporting villain Barbara Minerva AKA Cheetah, played by comedy veteran Kristen Wiig. Whose character is woefully and tiresomely written in the laziest and most effortless manner as the bumbling nice nerd who drops their work papers and is ignored by their coworkers.
Chris Pine returns as Diana’s tragically lost love Steve Trevor, through an actual Monkey’s Paw wish with the requisite consequences. Unfortunately those consequences are established and then broken time and time again throughout. Draining the movie of any genuine emotional stakes or tension.
By the time the second act is in full swing, and Diana is once again using her lasso to unconvincingly leap around an Egyptian road, the once impressive slow motion action scenes have none of the gravitas or impact that they had in the previous movie.
Diana’s character feels reduced in importance and focus alike, with the bulk of the emotional lines in the movie delivered by Max Lord instead, it can be easy to forget that you’re watching a Wonder Woman movie as there is so little focus on what she herself is experiencing in this story.
A removal of either Steve Trevor’s return or Barbara Minerva’s turn from glasses-wearing nerd to stone cold apex predator would have allowed more focus on Diana as a protagonist and made clearer the contrast between her and Max Lord as the main antagonist.
As it stands right now, the movie remains an unevenly paced, messily executed superhero flick that is rich with interesting ideas and fun concepts but marred by dull execution and sloppy construction.
It is not the worst superhero movie out there, far from it. I cannot place it amongst the above average or even competent ones such as its predecessor however. It truly does feel like a first draft, and that is a real shame as its potential was as bright and glistening as the colorful promotional posters. The reality, like the grey and drab final battle, is much more disappointing and bland.
With Wonder Woman 3 already confirmed and on the way, my wish is for the lessons behind this one’s many flaws to be fully learned so that Diana can once again stand out as well as she did in the 2017 film. The potential is there, and it’s a pity this one failed to realize it.