Wonder Woman 1984 Lacks a Puzzle Piece Which Had Made Its Predecessor Great
Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman sequel is short on one thing that is widely regarded as a bane to filmmakers worldwide. Wonder Woman 1984 is certainly not an awful superhero film, but if we place the movie side-by-side with its predecessor — Wonder Woman (2017), it certainly leaves much to be desired. And I mean, an awful lot, to be desired.
Much of the hype surrounding Wonder Woman 1984 centered around Jenkins, who had shocked the world with the success of her first Wonder Woman film. To which, Warner Bros had wasted no time to catch up with her and made it very clear — they would readily part ways with $8 million dollars to get her back on the director’s chair for a Wonder Woman sequel.
Had Jenkins shown the executives of Warner Bros her front door at that time, the directorship would have made its way into the hands of another filmmaker. Perhaps, one who had never directed any superhero film before, like Tom Hooper. If that is the case, the outcome of Wonder Woman 1984 at its current state certainly does not need any demystifying.
If you do not know who Tom Hooper is, I strongly suggest that you should. After all, Hooper has a great reputation of emptying cinema halls globally even before the pandemic hit — not a simple feat, but his musical fantasy film, Cats (2019) certainly had done it.
Of course, Jenkins gave her nod to the paycheck and any undisclosed compensation which have been offered by Warner Bros and tagged along Gal Gadot to make her next Wonder Woman film, much to the delight of DC and movie fans worldwide. The sequel was initially raved and received good reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, but time has proven that the second Wonder Woman product from Jenkins is a different animal altogether. What’s even more confusing is, though the dynamics have worked out differently in Wonder Woman 1984, the film still feels familiar towards the 2017 film. So, what goes? Let’s dive in after the spoiler- warning.
Warning! Major spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984 ahead.
When I mentioned bane, I really mean it. Film directors are the leaders of one of the most creative and artistic projects in the world, and the last thing they want to face is intervention into their film projects. Logically, no director would actually wish for someone to step in and bend the film away from what he/she has envisioned it to be. But intervention, as a whole, might have saved Wonder Woman (2017) and propelled it into the stratospheric status that the film has today.
There are two parties which have played a pivotal role in the earlier Wonder Woman film. One, is none other than the father of DCEU and Gadot’s Wonder Woman — Zack Snyder. Okay, I hear you, Batman v Superman is a joke, and that man might be doing more harm than good to the DCEU as a whole. But we just can’t deny that Snyder is the one who had brought in Gadot as Diana Prince, can we? Contrary to popular belief, Jenkins was not all that enthusiastic about Gadot wielding the Lasso of Truth when news about her casting broke. It was only after Jenkins had observed her for some time (possibly through BvS), that she got warmed up to Gadot as the character whom she would ultimately continue to develop and create a massive cinematic hit with.
Now, apart from the obvious casting decision, what was Snyder’s contribution to Wonder Woman (2017) which is seemingly absent in the second film? No doubt that he still served as a producer to Wonder Woman 1984, but Snyder had a discernibly larger role in Wonder Woman, perhaps even larger than his official roles as co-producer and co-writer may suggest. In fact, Snyder’s influence, though unquantifiable, can be found in what’s widely accepted as the defining moment of Gadot’s Wonder Woman career — the chill inducing, No Man’s Land sequence.
In No Man’s Land, the Princess of Themyscira fought like a true ancient warrior. She appeared to leap and dash with incredible strength, without being too obvious that she received most of her boost from the post production room. Naturally, the subsequent film couldn’t resist itself from giving Diana Prince a massive boost of speed, hence the crew has no one else to blame when Diana ran comically like she was strapped to a treadmill in 1984.
Still, it is the overwhelming masculinity of her moves which have ultimately separated the first film from the second, and visibly conveyed Snyder’s heavier involvement in the first film. The explosive sword-swinging action of Diana Prince that was heavily punctuated with slow-mo’s is reminiscent of Snyder’s earliest works. Back in the era when his affection towards six-packs and men in tight-clothing started, he certainly employed plenty of slow motion to elevate the fight scenes, much like what we saw in 300 (2006).
In stark contrast, the final battle between Wonder Woman and the fully-evolved Cheetah — though now blessed with a flashy golden armor and better CGI — still looks like a grand wrestling match between sisters aged 4 and 6, no matter how I look at it. The elder one looked determined to force her younger sister to let go of her new-found toy, and the little one certainly would not give up without a fight. Alas, went hairy, the fight did.
Of course, the final battle between Diana and her half-brother, Ares, is not perfect by any means. David Thewlis’ initially timid and peaceful character became barely recognizable once his face is bruised by CGI overload and his body packing an additional 80lbs of pure VFX muscle. Critics and fans alike claimed that Ares looked like a video-game boss, to which, I totally agree. But shoddy CGI aside, that fiery battle with Ares rightfully served its purpose, perhaps in a more significant way than most of us have realized.
If you have followed Jenkins in the news, it will not come as a surprise to you that she had initially planned for her first Wonder Woman film to settle down with a much smaller conclusion. Nobody knows for sure what kind of ending that was originally planned for the film except for Jenkins herself, but if you look closely at how Diana Prince handled Maxwell Lord in Wonder Woman 1984, talking Ares out of his evil plans certainly stays high in the list of options. Now, of course, the question is, if Diana successfully convinced her evil half-brother to drop his plans, or somehow broke his hatred spell without ever going into a huge fight, would Jenkin’s first Wonder Woman film produce the same impact as it did in 2017?
The Ares fight gave the main villain a chance to culminate into a physical form which is intimidating enough for Diana to finally face, after playing hide-and-seek and virtually leaving the audience in limbo for the rest of the film. It is a tonal shift which showed that the film is serious to bring in a formidable villain into the ending, and not just messing with our heads and call it a day. Yes, the CGI was weak, but that is something that we had to live with unless someone actually managed to convince Warner Bros to drop a figure north of $200 million for Jenkins to pursue Gadot’s Wonder Woman origin film, which, had seriously lacked proper backing other than an extended cameo in Batman v Superman.
Warner Bros’ push for the big battle to happen definitely seems like a sour case of giant studios overstepping into the creativity realm of the directors, but it appears that Wonder Woman had benefited from the intervention in overall. No further guesswork is needed to conclude that even though Jenkins explicitly stated that it was Warner Bros who had requested for it, Snyder himself would have willingly given his seal of approval to the big conclusion, given how similar the brawl is compared to his previous films — or simply, how much Snyderism is present in it.
He has always been bold with his films, it’s just that he couldn’t come up with a rock-solid plot to back those excessive fights. But Jenkins, on the other hand, has all the expertise that he was lacking, and hence, one can easily see now why Wonder Woman erupted to become one of the most well-loved films of 2017.
Before DCEU geeks charge here to set this article on fire, I need to set it straight that Ares-battle aside, all other attempts by Warner Bros to interfere with Jenkins’ Wonder Woman films could have possibly left some serious damage to the franchise. Their intention to eject the No Man’s Land sequence from the 2017 film is one fine example of a close call for Gadot’s Wonder Woman. It was then revealed by Jenkins that Warner Bros intended to cut certain scenes again in the sequel, and this round, either the Olympic’esque games in Themyscira, or the 80’s mall fight had to go, because they seemed to prefer only one introduction sequence for Wonder Woman 1984.
Which is such a shame, really, because both scenes are easily my favorites in the sequel, and of course, I did not mind the lengthy but sensibly executed introduction. We can really start to see a developing trend here, that generally, attempts by Warner Bros to remove any material are usually a red sign, and their intention to add in something might work out favorably for the film. Usually, any difficulties faced by the crew will crop up in the news once the sentiments toward that particular film turn negative. It remains to be seen if there are actually undisclosed conflicts during the production of Wonder Woman 1984, but at least, we now know the driving force behind the first film’s success.
Originally published at https://www.thefilmaddict.com on January 12, 2021.