Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
Wonder Woman 1984: Breakdown of The Real Problems Behind the Camera
By: Domonique Salberg
There are insane amounts of backlash for Wonder Woman 1984, where people are sharing many criticisms about the script, style, acting, CGI, and more all over the internet. However, if you’re like me where you prob into who’s behind the camera, there is much more to be said and learned about the Wonder Woman 1984 disaster. And unfortunately, it revolves around reckless trends I’ve noticed within a few major studios like Disney and Warner Bros. regarding the creative decisions and hiring by their executive and studio heads as of the last few years. I want to shed light on it since not many people are talking about the root of the problem that these movies are having. So, I decided to break down all the messiness of 1984 to unfold why it had problems and how its issues are shared among some of the biggest films being made today.
Quick jump to the following sections:
The details of Wonder Woman 1984’s development from who was hired to script, production, and finally release is extremely telling of where the problems are rooted. This time around, Patty Jenkins had complete creative freedom plus a deceiving dose of believing in your own hype and not giving enough credit to the rest of the people working on the first film and decided not to follow up with it in almost any way. Instead, I think Jenkins saw them as obstacles and believed she could do it better, and without their input. That now has been disproved with the final product.
We can find her in interviews talking about how Warner Bros. wanted a big action scene in the third act, which she objected to, and they were worried about the tone when she showed them the dailies where she insisted trust her hubris to get the credit. Well, when you do that, and things go wrong, everyone is now looking at her, wondering what happened. Except, these reasons are only a snippet of why the film was so poorly received.
Zack Snyder, Warner Bros., and Geoff Johns
For the first Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins worked with Warner Bros. and Zack Snyder‘s people, which may have been why it was more balanced and enjoyable for the majority; their different perspectives came together well. Now with Wonder Woman 1984, Snyder was a producer again, only this time Warner Bros. gave her complete creative control, which she made clear in her interview stated before, but she took it even further.
In another interview, she mentioned how she cleaned house to make the film fit her vision. Such as not bringing back Zack Snyder’s VFX and stunt team, screenwriter, and extensive comic book writer Allan Heinberg and replacing him with now debased Geoff Johns.
Source Material and Fandom
Moreover, Heinberg was the one who came up with the Disney princess angle for the first film, AND he wrote Wonder Woman comics. Instead, Jenkins took advice from and did business with Geoff Johns, a DC comic book writer known for being self-interested and has never written a Wonder Woman comic.
Either way, whoever she ended up taking advice from concerning the comic book material, as the director/writer, she should have dived into the source material herself to make informed decisions. So, her choosing Johns over Heinberg and not consulting other Wonder Woman writers like George Perez or Greg Rucka, who recently did an origin story for Cheetah underlined how little she knows about comic books.
Even more, 1984 does not use the source material; Cheetah’s origin story and Maxwell Lord are basically different characters. Another DC film Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, comes to mind, where Margot Robbie (Producer and lead of BOP) didn’t know the source material and was being advised and ended up creating Harley to fit her own interest instead of taking into consideration the essence of the character and what fans want.
Honestly, I hope Kaley Cuoco gets a go at the character in the future—she has done a fantastic job voicing Harley and producing the Harley Quinn show. I digress. The moral of the story, writers, actors, and directors would more likely get a better film if they looked into the properties and comics and the fandom themselves rather than taking someone else’s word for it.
What DC’s Most Successful Properties Have In Common
And speaking of the fandom, across different IPs, the most successful tend to be dark and realistic. The Dark Knight trilogy and Joker were beyond successful, winning Oscars and owning the box office. Aquaman, too; all made it into the billion-dollar-club. They are the epitome of what fans prefer. Yet, Patty Jenkins made much effort to make a light and cartoonish superhero movie, taking inspiration from the 1970s Lynda Carter tv series even Diana’s style borrowed directly from it; however, it takes place in the 80s.
Interestingly, during a time when the talented Frank Miller was making comics darker in the mid-80s, style fans are loving right now. If only Jenkins considered that. Her choices further show how bad it is to give control to one person and allow them to dismiss legit criticism, especially blockbuster filmmaking. It requires a team effort and has to appeal to the masses, so it makes sense that many people would be making decisions.
Numbers Do Not Lie
Nonetheless, this is the most frustrating trend. It happens to be what Patty Jenkins (1984), Christina Hodson (Birds of Prey), and Chris Terrio (Justice League/Rise of Skywalker) all have in common: they are all problematic screenwriters that keep getting hired for major franchises. They already announced Wonder Woman 3 with Jenkins attached to direct after already becoming the lowest-rated DCEU film on IMDB; Christina Hodson and Margot Robbie are set to ruin another franchise at Disney with their Pirates of the Caribbean, and the madness continues. They keep failing upwards.
Studios are not what they use to be. Furthermore, they seemingly don’t even like or know comics or the IP they’re hired to bring to life. They change the characters so much it makes you wonder, do they even like Wonder Woman, Harley, or Superman? Whether you like the idea of watching these characters reinvented, the numbers do not lie; the majority do not like their attempts and do not pay to see it.
These writers have proven they are not the best people to put an interesting twist on these characters as Todd Phillips did brilliantly with Joker. Real interest and passion go a long way and should be an important factor when hiring. The directors who show a genuine interest in the original properties have more than delivered. Here is to hoping for these trends to fall out of favor.
For more DC content check out: The Batman: Breakdown of The Three Comics Inspiring Reeves’ Gotham & New Set Photos, ‘The Batman’ Trailer: Embracing Vengeance, An Unhinged Bruce Wayne, How ‘The Dark Knight’ Improves The Modern Action Genre.