By Nicole Rees-Williams
As a child I was a huge superhero film fan, however in the 2000’s superhero films were still a very much male-dominated sphere and tended to cater to a male audience. Any female character involved in these films was hyper-sexualised and used purely as a benefit to the male gaze or to act as a love interest for the male protagonist.
I didn’t even realise how much I needed a female superhero until I watched Wonder Woman (2017). Seeing a woman use powers such as strength and agility whilst displaying kindness and humility was so rare for a superhero film. I had become adapted to the fact that if a female had any role in this kind of film it would be the sassy, mean seductress type (Black Widow, Catwoman) or the damsel in distress love interest (Pepper Potts, Lois Lane). Wonder Woman changed this whole dynamic. I can’t even describe the feeling of seeing the incredible ‘No Man’s Land’ scene for the first time. Since I left the cinema after watching Wonder Woman, I have been dying to see the next instalment.
But Wonder Woman 1984 is so bad.
The film begins with probably the most exciting scene of its whole duration as we see Diana as a child taking part in an athletic tournament on Themyscira. It’s fast paced and has a great soundtrack and I wish I could leave this as the one praise this film is worthy of until I remembered that in the first film Diana wasn’t allowed to train until she was way into her teens, yet somehow she’s allowed to take part in this tournament? Okay. First strike.
We then jump to the 80’s where Diana now works at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The pacing from this point onwards is absolutely awful and getting through the first hour and a half was genuinely difficult. Diana is stripped of any aspect of her personality that made her interesting as the only thing she seems to think about is how much she misses Steve Trevor. Though I’m sure we were all saddened by the death of Chris Pine’s character in the first film, this was around 70 years ago at the time of Wonder Woman 1984. This film was a chance to demonstrate female independence and power and prove there is a place for female-lead superhero films, but instead the great Wonder Woman was moping over a man she knew for about a week, tops, 70 years ago.
Oh, but wait, Steve Trevor comes back! The film introduces a magical stone that can grant anybody’s wishes and Diana, of course, wishes Steve Trevor would come back to life. She’s got her boyfriend back!
The scenes with Diana and Steve were insanely dull. I adored their relationship in the first film and thought Gadot and Pine had brilliant chemistry, but this relationship ended in that film and should have stayed that way. There is endless opportunity to insert Wonder Woman into an interesting storyline that develops her as a character but instead the film chose to focus on an already dead relationship, that we obviously know isn’t going to last as bringing someone back to life has literally never ended well in the history of film and TV.
Though Chris Pine does return, the character of Steve Trevor does not return in his original body. Trevor returns in a random man’s body. Chris Pine is only visible to us as an audience as every other character in the film views him as the random man whose body he has inhabited. There is literally no reasoning or explanation for this decision at all. When other characters get their wishes granted by the stone, everything seems to happen smoothly. So why is Steve inside this random dude? Who is this guy? Does he have a family? Girlfriend? Job? Is he going to get fired now because he hasn’t showed up for work at all? Why are there no repercussions to this!
The villain arc for Barbara/Cheetah was unfortunately very weak as it was an arc that we’ve already seen hundreds of times in superhero films. The underappreciated colleague is suddenly introduced to new powers and rises up against everybody that doubted them. It was very reminiscent of Poison Ivy in Batman and Robin or Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The aspect that bothered me the most about Barbara’s transformation was that it was largely based on the fact that she never used to be able to walk in high heels, and then after her wish to become ‘like Diana’ she could – wait for it – walk in heels. Is walking in high heels really what it takes for a woman to be respected? This kind of message feels so dated. Putting down women because they’re not ‘feminine’ enough is a trope that has never been enjoyable.
It promotes the idea that you need to be sexy, tall and fashionable to be respected as a woman and honestly, I expected better from Wonder Woman 1984.
The general ‘a woman’s entire personality depends on the man they’re dating’ and also the ‘you need to be hot to be respected’ storylines have made me lose a lot of respect for this franchise. With huge studios like Disney beginning to create films where women don’t have love interests, (Elsa in Frozen, Moana etc.) it seems ridiculous that DC couldn’t create a compelling Wonder Woman storyline without the return of her week-long hook-up. How is it so difficult to write an interesting female character?
Believe me, I never thought I would be writing a negative review about a Wonder Woman film and it breaks my heart that I have to. The first film meant so much to women and girls everywhere and this sequel does such a disservice to its predecessor. The writing was bad, the pacing was bad, and the general message was bad. If you’re considering spending £15 to stream Wonder Woman 1984 from your home – don’t.