So…I’ve watched Wonder Woman 1984 and I’m finding that the film suffers from what a lot of superhero genre films have as of recently.
I’m calling it the Two-Villain Problem. The problem is that there are two villains and no focus. This is a bad problem with this movie given that these are two marquee villains, especially with Cheetah being the Joker to Wonder Woman’s Batman. There were a lot of places they could have gone with this if they only had one villain.
It’s hard to manage two villains. Each one must challenge the hero in different ways. The next blog, I’ll get into how I would have done it with either one villain or the other. Right now, I’m going to just discuss the main issue.
Like I said earlier, each villain has to challenge the hero in different ways. In Wonder Woman 1984, the villains try this: Cheetah (in her later phases) matches Wonder Woman as far as raw physicality. She can take and dish out the punishment in equal measure which is good. In this film, Diana has to use tactics and cunning to neutralize (not kill…) Cheetah.
Unless we can get a three-picture deal…
In the first film, Wonder Woman has little in the way of physical challenges. Keep that in mind, I am going to bring it up in depth in the next blog.
Maxwell Lord is more of a societal challenge for Diana. Remember, Diana’s role nowadays is as Ambassador to the World of Man. She has to exercise hard power (beating the Huns) and soft power (talking people down). She can beat the crap out of Maxwell, but would she cut through a swath of innocent people to do it? Amazonian pragmatism (more on the opening scene in the next blog) would say yes, but not taking a life because they’re not really in control of their selves. Diana’s innate sense of mercy would make her balk for the same reasons. They’re pawns and don’t deserve it. Now, she must exercise diplomacy to get to the center of the issue – that center being Maxwell Lord.
In the movie, she does do these things but there’s no real impact. We just shrug our shoulders and say ‘well, that’s that’. This is the crux of the issue. We lose the focus. We don’t feel at any point she’s in peril. We don’t get the hat-trick moment where victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat.
We could have had a decent post credit scene with Cheetah to introduce a seriously long-awaited DC villain – that scene I will discuss in the next blog.
I have to keep you coming back somehow.
Anyways, the first Wonder Woman film works because there was one villain working the picture. The second suffers for two. Shazam has one villain and it works. I’m not saying there are pictures with two villains that don’t work, but it’s a delicate balancing act. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one that works very well with two villains, even if one of the villains isn’t revealed until the third act.