By ANGELA XU
No true hero is born from lies.
On Dec. 25, DC Comics released the sequel to the 2017 Wonder Woman film, Wonder Woman 1984. The film follows Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) on her struggles to balance her life as a superheroine and a normal citizen. Within these efforts, Diana finds herself facing off against fake oil tycoon Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) and her old friend Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig).
While the first Wonder Woman movie has been a breath of fresh air to the DC lineup by delivering a new take on the superhero genre by pairing dynamic action with light humor, the sequel ultimately falls short in comparison.
To start, the movie’s plot conveys a two-dimensional message to the viewers. The story revolves around an ancient artifact, the dream stone, that could grant someone’s deepest dreams and wishes, and Maxwell Lord attempts to find the stone in hopes of saving his near-bankrupt company. Barbara Minerva who worked alongside Diana in a museum also desires to become more like Diana, leading her to acquire Wonder Woman’s powers. However, it is shown that there has to be an equal exchange for wishes to be granted, which leads to Wonder Woman losing her powers as she wishes for Steve Trevor to come back to life. In essence, the film’s theme is about how wish-fulfillment cannot deliver satisfaction to anyone’s deepest desires, a very typical trope in movies. However, the problem stems from the main goal of the story, for Diana to move on from her lover's death. Instead of exploring Wonder Woman’s character as a superhero and individual, the audience is caught up in a whirlpool of events that lead to nowhere. Granted, learning to move on from the death of a loved one is a touching message; however, the film delivered it in an almost comical way with the plot device of a dream stone to the point where the audience cannot take it seriously.
Unsurprisingly, the film suffered even more due to the high expectations set from the first Wonder Woman movie.
For instance, one major criticism of the film was that it lacked the needed action scenes to make the villains less boring. The exclusion of Cheetah especially showcased how the story did not necessarily require two main villains as one barely had participated in the conflict. Barbara’s role in the plot was not even relevant until the end, where she was there to make up for the lack of action scenes as the movie mainly focuses on the other villain Maxwell Lord. Although the addition of multiple antagonists can sometimes work as it did for the 1992 Batman film, in this case, it created shallow-level villains where the limited screen time did not allow them to explore their motives and powers. Compared to the first Wonder Woman movie, Diana has essentially one enemy she is trying to hunt down. This setup allowed for the movie to have a simple but profound storyline as it can focus on developing both the main character and their foil.
Furthermore, the sudden comeback of Steve Trevor was a decision that undermines the first film’s ending. Diana has been a phenomenal example of how a woman superhero can be as entertaining and dynamic as their male counterparts. But the sequel backtracks her entire character and submits her to solely focusing on her lost love as if she can not be happy without him. What about her role in protecting the world? What about her beliefs to reform the people that have gone bad?
In addition, the CGI in this movie made certain scenes feel very fake as if little effort was put into critical scenes. For example, when Barbara transforms into Cheetah, the animation looks very unrealistic from omitting the common rules of gravity in her fights with Wonder Woman. Although the dark cave setting forgives some of the awkward animations, the weightless action had less of an impact in both the blows and sequencing.
Overall, the movie lacked in many aspects that made the original so well-liked. The lost potential is especially disappointing as the Wonder Woman franchise has been a leading force in creating more mainstream films around woman superheroes. However, not all hope is lost as the writer and director of the Wonder Woman movie series Patty Jenkins has confirmed that there will be a third Wonder Woman movie that will make up for the lacking sequel.