As we speak, Wonder Woman 1984 (Warner Bros., 12.25) has an encouraging Rotten Tomatoes rating of 88%. Suggesting that most critics are in no mood to gripe and have fallen into line. But there’s one noteworthy pan from Vulture‘s Angelica Jade Bastien, who carries a certain weight and authority.
Excerpt #1: “This sequel had almost everything going for it. Its empathetic predecessor is likely the most beloved and critically successful of the slate of beleaguered DC Comics films. Its time-skipping story offered a way to expand the superhero genre’s usual plot beats — which was desperately needed — and arrived buoyed by an excellent cast. Perhaps its lopsided universe was not perfect; there were lackluster villains and a noticeable absence of racial diversity and sensuality, and the sequel had to contend with a significant jump from WWI-era Europe into early 1980s Washington, D.C. But these issues were surmountable.
“Sadly, all that glittered in the franchise’s first outing is gone in Wonder Woman 1984. The disappointing sequel highlights not only the dire state of the live-action superhero genre in film, but the dire state of Hollywood filmmaking as a whole.”
Excerpt #2: “Wonder Woman 1984 is a turning point in the history of Hollywood’s business, what with Warner Bros. banking big on the hope that the film’s Christmas Day release will be the push its (admittedly good) streaming service, HBO Max, needs (in the U.S., at least).
“But the film is indicative of the larger pitfalls of an aging superhero genre. Watching Wonder Woman 1984, I couldn’t help but think of the utter hollowness of representation and how corporations have adopted the language and posture of political movements in order to sell back to us a vacant rendition of the change we actually want. In many ways, studios have trained audiences to view the bombast of their blockbusters as possessing inherent worth — especially when they place reflections of us on the big screen. This isn’t good filmmaking. And as more and more exciting directors get caught up in the gears of this mammoth genre, I can’t help but reflect on how their talents would be better utilized elsewhere.
“If only Hollywood gave them real control over stories, rather than treating their work as mere conduits for content the studio can replicate and sell.”