The DC Extended Universe has had a unique life in theaters. What began with Zack Snyder's handful of movies has grown into a massive franchise including a variety of directors and heroes. One of the first successes of the DCEU was Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman, which broke new ground and was a critical and box office success. The sequel 1984 is finally arriving on both theaters and HBO Max on Christmas, and the reviews have officially started rolling in.
Since its inception with Man of Steel, movies in the DCEU have had a variety of critical successes and failures. The originally Wonder Woman movie showed what the franchise was capable of, with rave reviews coming at a time when the burgeoning franchise needed it. This also added pressure for Wonder Woman 1984, although CinemaBlend's own Eric Eisenberg seemed head over heels in his 4.5 star review. It reads,
With the lead character firmly established in the sequel, the new movie doesn’t quite have individual moments that land the same way, but it has its own specialness, and it comes derived from the filmmakers’ genuine understanding of what’s spectacular about the character. Wonder Woman 1984 is not just a worthy follow-up, but a superior one, and well worth the extended wait that preceded its arrival.
Well, that's some high praise. Considering how acclaimed the original movie was, Wonder Woman 1984 being superior than its predecessor is certainly saying something. Of course, not all critics shared Eric's enthusiasm for Patty Jenkins' ambitious DC sequel. Variety's Peter Debruge took umbrage with the movie's, third act, as his review claims,
Like Jenkins’ original Wonder Woman, this sequel spins out of control once the villains gain their full power, shifting from engaging character-based comedy to eye-crossing, CGI-bloated super-battle. (Cue Hans Zimmer’s typically overzealous thunder-score.) Jenkins is an enormously talented filmmaker on whom the studio took a chance — one that’s seldom questioned when conferred upon men — and she proves her worth by never letting the spectacle drown out the performances.
Indeed, the final battle sequence from Wonder Woman 1984 seems to be getting some negative attention from a number of film critics. What's more, EW's Mary Sollosi seems to think the movie's big ending to actually be against some of the messaging that Patty Jenkins is sending throughout the sequel about excess. As she put it,
Not unlike its predecessor, this film’s finale is overwrought, its stakes overdrawn — even though, maddeningly, they really don’t need to be when the essential conflict is so clear and compelling. Perhaps inevitably, Jenkins herself did not prove immune to the excess that she spent her ambitious 150-minute-long movie denouncing; that runtime alone is more than a little self-indulgent. But hey, if this year has taught us anything, it’s to give each other a break — and to allow ourselves our indulgences. Maybe Wonder Woman will be the one to save us, after all.
Wonder Woman 1984 was pushed back a number of times throughout the years, most recently due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But Warner Bros. is putting out the movie in unprecedented fashion, as it hits both theaters and HBO Max in time for the holidays. IGN's Matt Purslow spoke about the timing of the sequel after a rough year, while praising the blockbuster with:
Wonder Woman 1984 is a film with a heart full of hope and love; a nostalgic look back to a beloved time that provides escapism from an exceptionally difficult year. The adherence to a more classic superhero template means it is lacking in any genuine surprise or outstanding innovation, but this approach is always filtered through Jenkins’ contemporary lens, which lends it distinct humanity amongst the ‘80s cheese. A notable improvement on its already great predecessor, Wonder Woman 1984 is exactly the kind of bright and hopeful movie the character’s legacy deserves.
The pressure is certainly on for Patty Jenkins to deliver with Wonder Woman 1984, considering how universally loved the first movie was. And according to Collider's Matt Goldberg didn't feel the same magic as the original. As he explained in his own review,
Wonder Woman 1984 is a movie with a well-intentioned message that has no idea how to put that message into a compelling story. The film is guilty of both trying to do too much with regards to how overstuffed it is and guilty of doing too little with its thin plotting and confusing character motivations. 2017’s Wonder Woman works because it’s the story of Diana going from a sheltered existence, discovering why the world needs her, and deciding to fight for that world despite its many shortcomings. The sequel has none of that, and while Wonder Woman is still a hero we need, she deserves much stronger stories than what her new movie has to offer.
One of the biggest questions currently surrounding Wonder Woman 1984 is exactly how Chris Pine's Steve Trevor will factor into the story. While the character sacrificed himself in the third act of the 2017 original, he's present in the trailers and miraculously hasn't aged a single day. Slashfilm's Hoai-Tran Bui spoke to the importance of their dynamic in the sequel, writing:
Diana and Steve’s romance served as the backbone of Wonder Woman and yet again it becomes the emotional crux of Wonder Woman 1984, as Diana is shocked out of her apathy by the return of Steve, who, in a Heaven Can Wait-style twist, is revived in the body of another man. Pine is having an absolute blast at playing up the comedy of his fish-out-of-water role, and Wonder Woman 1984 delights in doing a reversal of Diana and Steve’s dynamic from the first film. Diana attempts to dress Steve as a scarf-wearing European, Steve turns out to have awful fashion sense, and the pair of them flit about D.C., looking as gorgeous as the cityscape. In a standout scene that recalls the windswept sincerity of Richard Donner’s Superman, Diana and Steve share a lovely moment in a jet plane underneath a fireworks display that could take your breath away.
Clearly the critical response to Wonder Woman 1984 has been fairly mixed, so it should be interesting to see how moviegoers respond to Patty Jenkins' second installment in the DC Extended Universe. After all, audiences have been known to have differing opinions than critics. And while 1984 won't be making as much money as its predecessor, its simultaneous release on HBO Max and theaters should allow the blockbuster to be seen by countless eyes.