Now that most of the world has had the chance to see the second installment of Party Jenkins’ Wonder Woman franchise, it’s time to debate which film is superior. The franchise has become divisive because of the drastic change in tone between the two films, causing fans to choose sides. Still, there are fans of both films and tones, so it’s time to figure out which one is better all-around.
In this face-off, both films will be evaluated based on the pros and cons of each. The films will each be judged by how it is, not how we would like it to be. It’s easy to lose sight of the true quality of a film when it subverts expectations because the public, knee jerk reaction is typically not indicative of the actual quality. Without further ado, let’s breakdown the Wonder Woman franchise in this week’s Filmnetic Face-off.
After a series of disappointing and controversial movies, the DCEU finally got its first decisive win with 2017’s Wonder Woman. Director Patty Jenkins delivered a truly special film that was more than just a crowd pleaser. She balanced meaningful themes with crowd pleasing action to create a truly great film that is still highly regarded today.
Wonder Woman’s biggest strength is its all-around quality. The script written by Allan Heinberg managed to blend the characters mythology with a World War I setting perfectly. Jenkins and Heinberg crafted a story that framed a superhero origin story as a coming-of-age film that chooses to focus on Diana’s journey to understand the world.
The original film is incredibly memorable. The No Man’s Land scene alone sets this film apart from the competitive superhero landscape by creating showstopping scene that is as emotional as it is thrilling. Fans also remember the chemistry between Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince and Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor because it is so rare for a blockbuster film to put so much effort into developing a romantic subplot. The cast overall left a big impression on audiences, which carried most of them into the second film.
Since its release in 2017, the ultimate complaint about the original film is its overly CGI third act action sequence. Jenkins revealed that this choice came from the studio and she reluctantly went along with it, but if the sequel is any indication, Jenkins should learn how to properly execute CGI action sequences for her own long-term benefit.
All-around, Wonder Woman represents the best that DC has to offer. Some fans prefer a darker tone like The Dark Knight and some prefer a lighter tone like Shazam!, but its clear that the DC fandom’s strength is its diversity of tastes and its ability to strike a balance between light and dark as they did with Wonder Woman (even if DC is inconsistent).
Wonder Woman 1984
The newest film in the DCEU has set off a firestorm of public conversation. The film was incredibly divisive, and it seems to have started a massive social media argument between those who loved it and those who hate it. It’s an odd situation considering while the film has its many problems, the backlash is somewhat unfounded because the contents of the movie are not very controversial at all.
There are plenty of good ideas in Wonder Woman 1984, but its execution is somewhat sloppy at parts. Jenkin’s newfound creative freedom caused her to ignore the helpful benefits of studio executives that understand the important qualities of a blockbuster. She made creative choice that had the best intentions but just proved to be ineffective for mainstream audiences.
Jenkins decided to do a 180 from the tone of the first film. She capitalized on the divided opinion of comic book fans of whether or not to depict Wonder Woman as a warrior goddess or as a defender of peace. The first film took the warrior goddess angle and general audiences loved it, but 1984 takes the defender of peace angle that some absolutely love, but now it’s clear that general audiences do not. Jenkins would be wise to revert back to the original tone for the third film.
The greatest strength of the second film is its thematic coherence. It plays into Diana as a defender of peace successfully and manages to form every single character’s arc around the “truth over everything” theme of the film. It even manages to set up Steve Trevor’s return successfully, even though the exact way it was executed is somewhat controversial.
The film’s biggest drawback is the poor execution of its action pieces and its VFX. Jenkin’s attempted to make Wonder Woman 1984 with a lighter, more cartoonish tone, but this does not work with Gal Gadot’s established version of the character. Overall, Jenkin’s had some great ideas, but she needs to embrace the benefits of studio collaboration so sloppy mistakes are not made.
Both films have legs to stand on, but the original 2017 Wonder Woman is far superior. 1984 has incredible moments, but it has far more misfires than the original, which makes this a clear choice.
WINNER: Wonder Woman