Review: Will Wonder Woman 1984 Save the DCEU?
After a delightful first work, Wonder-Woman is back on our screens. The iconic DCEU superhero has a second feature film under Patty Jenkins. Wonder-Woman 1984 Will she save the DC Comics universe in theaters?
It’s no secret that the first phase of the DCEU was not a smooth river. After harsh criticism leveled at Zack Snyder’s films, Patty Jenkins’ first feature film was an exception, bringing together fans and new people. This second work promises to do even better, offering new adventures to the Amazon and exploring the ’80s.
In 1984, Diana Prince was working for a museum in Washington. When she befriends one of her comrades Barbara Ann Minerva, the heroine discovers an ancient relic capable of granting the wishes of those who possess it. But an oil tycoon got the thing and started using it to grow his business. Quickly, the world sinks into chaos and it is Wonder-Woman who will have the uphill task of saving her, to the detriment of her personal will.
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On paper, the plot of Wonder-Woman 1984 has it all. In the adventure film tradition, feature films promise to reconnect with the lightness of the first work and register as the opposite of Zack Snyder’s films. Halfway between Indiana Jones and Superman, this new Warner Bros. film is already a box office hit. However, after the first part which was all quite effective (without revolutionizing the genre), the film wallows in a melodramatic escalation. If the first few minutes don’t take themselves too seriously, with a focus on outdated but still fun mechanics, the conclusion is definitely not up to the challenge. Chaining script shortcuts, the film was written by the director in collaboration with Geoff Johns (Aquaman) and Dave Callaham (Return to ZombieLand) relies on shaky construction. Invested in overestimated stakes, Wonder Woman 1984 got lost along the way. This is the same observation that we can apply to almost the entire DCEU. Without revealing too much, the film doesn’t manage to find a guide, as evidenced by the final scene ostensibly straight out of a Christmas TV movie showing on the M6.
Patty Jenkins knows how to direct the action, or at least knows how to do it in the first work. In this sequel, it’s a little more complicated. After a fairly well-done, albeit slightly over-cut first confrontation scene, the film doesn’t manage to effectively copy the fights on screen. Wonder Woman shares mandals all the time, but behind the scenes, it’s the audience who suffer.
As for the first film, Patty Jenkins relied on a watery and fresh graphic world, a feeling that was amplified by the costumes attached to the time, and at this point, it was a success. Without plunging into the escalation of flashy colors, yet emblematic of the era, Wonder Woman 1984 offers beautiful moments on screen, especially when it comes to more intimate sequences. With a keen sense of framing, the filmmakers offer some graceful moments, especially during the exchange between the different characters. But then came the digital effects which greatly affected the final rendering. The CGI for the Cheetah character is reminiscent of that used for the infamous Cat released in 2019. It’s rough, disarming and not really tasty. We’ll also note the big missed encounter that represents the final confrontation scene, preferring to bet on dark lighting to hide the misery.
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The first work was quite successful and especially in its character building. Gal Gadot’s wily side succeeded in the first film, but failed to reinvent itself in this new masterpiece. Despite all his good intentions, Gal Gadot is sailing blindly in this sea of inconsistency. The character fails to rise to the hero rank, even worse, it becomes ridiculous in the last part. The same goes for the promising Pedro Pascal, who here plays a cartoon villain straight out of an episode of Inspector Gadget. All that’s missing is a cat mounted on a chair to complete the picture. But the real mess of this sequel is undoubtedly the fate of the character played by Kristen Wiig. Its narrative arc takes on all the patterns that Hollywood has exploited so much. We follow a character who idealizes the hero, to the point of wanting to be like him, and who ends up forgetting himself as his powers grow. It’s the same soup we’ve served Amazing Spider-Man with Electro. On the other hand, the bond between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine on screen is still intact and reminds us of the beautiful moments in the first film. This duo was supposed to be the center of the film, butfind themselves crushed by an overly ambitious plot. Without revealing too much, the film spoils the conclusion of their general narrative, with scenes that deserve better treatment.
Finally, we note that Hans Zimmer’s original music was successful and managed to accurately underline the action. The composer, to whom we also owe the incredible scores of Interstellar and Inception, sure knows how to do it. However, what is missing is a touch of Junkie XL, which has already worked wonders in Batman V Superman with the Wonder-Woman theme.
Despite all her good intentions, Wonder-Woman 1984 did not live up to viewers’ expectations. Wanting to do too much, the feature film got lost along the way, despite a promising opening act. The heroine deserves better and we have to hope that a third work, already in development at Warner Bros., saves the day. After all, in the continuity of the saga, the film is ultimately anecdotal. Therefore, we prefer to forget about it. Finally, Wonder-Woman 1984 is the epitome of a cinematographic universe that seeks itself between grand stakes and entertaining adventures. DC Comics is excited to review copies and offer independent films with multiple directors’ visions. Faced with a heavily formatted MCU, Warner Bros. has to establish itself as a house that trusts its creatives and frees them from restrictions to respect specifications. We can bet that this is the path the DCEU is now looking to take, with Matt Reeves’ The Batman at the forefront.