By Efrat Malachi
“Greatness is not what you think. Pace yourself and watch.” A pep talk young Diana receives from her mentor and aunt, Antiope, before stepping off into a competition. The paradox here is its lack of practice by the film’s makers. “Wonder Woman 1984” was supposed to be a blockbuster, instead, we got a lackluster movie. It officially premiered on HBO Max, a streaming service, on December 25 after being delayed several times due to COVID-19. Anticipation was overdue and the hype was unparalleled across social media platforms. Unfortunately, you don’t need to be a film critic to catch the plot holes and worn-out rhetoric. Let’s be clear, standing independently it was a good movie, though coming off the heels of the 2017 film, also directed by Patty Jenkins, it wasn’t what it should have been. “Wonder Woman” was excellent, soaring beyond everyone’s imagination. The bar was now raised to a height that even the superhero had trouble reaching.
The first scene opens with a spunky, youthful Diana Prince running through the woods, accompanied by a voiceover of her present self (Gal Gadot) as she reminisces on “the magical land of my youth” (Themyscira). We trail behind as she gets ready to compete in an Amazonian Olympic of sorts. Spoiler, she was in the lead going against warriors twice her age and size but met defeat. On the verge of victory, she was pulled back because of haste and ego. Antiope needed to teach her a lesson she would never forget — “you took the short path…no true hero is born from lies.” The motifs, truth versus lies and personal versus universal interests, gather momentum as things unravel toward the climax. Though, they were the only elements cleverly and consistently echoed throughout.
Bringing attention to the first of many issues, the Amazonians failed at imitating Gadot’s Israeli accent. The characters prove they can speak with a foreign tongue but it was not authentic to the actress’ and difficult to understand. The second issue: some underdeveloped ideas were scattered and paced improperly, as if the directors expected audiences to make the thematic connections on their own. Watching a movie should be an enjoyable and effortless escape, not another homework assignment. The third: problem, way too many plot holes. I don’t think the ambiguity was intentional but if it was, there was no purpose for it. While villainous Maxwell Lord can only grant people one wish, some are given two? There’s no answer as to why.
Another questionable decision is having Steve Trevor return in someone else’s body. A magical wishing stone is not limited to logic, so when Diana wishes her lover back there’s no reason to jump through hoops. We see Chris Pine’s face on the screen but in the mirror he’s a man left unnamed. It unnecessarily overcomplicates, subtracting from the story. Largely, the movie focuses heavily on the grand scheme that it neglects to prioritize the small yet significant details that fans haven’t forgotten about. It’s been 3 years since the first movie but 60 + years for Wonder Woman herself. Where has she been all this time and what has she been up to?
We jolt into 1984 with a melancholy Diana working as a scientist at the Smithsonian Museum with no insight as to how and why; a simple timeline or a few brief flashbacks would have been enough to catch us up. We meet her co-worker, Barbara Minerva, who initiates a genuine friendship with Diana but later transforms into an unlikely and unconvincing adversary. The character just seemed rushed and needed more time to grow, as well as the relationships introduced along the way. The foreground was wealthy while the background stood vacant. The film had incredible potential but was overshadowed by cliches and grandiosity when it should have been overpowered by Wonder Woman’s journey. The movie lost the superhero’s meaning, especially with the sad ratio of action to non-action sequences. It almost felt like a new genre was made if you married romcom and action; neither would approve of this union.
Putting critiques to rest, there still are delightful parts we can praise. One, the light humor and political jokes relieve the imbalanced intensity of the film. Two, Gadot and Pine again bring such elegance and presence to the screen. Three, the costumes were brilliant and Gadot’s make-up and wardrobe for the final showdown were superb. Four, the superpowers she gains, like flying, is a nice touch at the end. All the little screws outperformed themselves but the bigger bolts were placed crooked, therefore the machine did not perform optimally. Overall, I would give this film a 6/10 but I’m hoping the third installment for the “Wonder Woman” trilogy (underway) will have her mother, Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta’s blessing, “one day you will be all that you dream of and more.”