Granger on Film: Wonder Woman 1984 doesn't live up to the first

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Gal Gadot in a scene from "Wonder Woman 1984." (Warner Bros. via AP)
This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows Gal Gadot in a scene from "Wonder Woman 1984." (Warner Bros. via AP)Associated Press

Years ago, when I taught screenwriting at the University of Bridgeport, we discussed how a superhero must not only struggle morally to do the right thing but he/she must also battle a worthy villain who epitomizes a powerful, evil threat.

When “Wonder Woman” (2017) debuted, the origin story of the Amazonian princess was sensational! It detailed her background, childhood and how she fell in love with Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a dashing-but-doomed WWI pilot. Director Patty Jenkins proved female super-heroes were just as mighty as men.

Its sequel, “Wonder Woman 1984” (Warner Bros/HBO Max), begins on the island of Themyscira, and once again recalls how fearless, young demigoddess Diana (Lilly Aspell) learned tough lessons about truth and honesty from her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) and mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen). Actually, that’s the best part of the entire movie.

Jump to 1984 and she’s back as her alter-ego Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), an archeologist at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., where she’s kind to an envious, inept gemologist, Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who is tasked with identifying a mysterious citrine crystal with a murky past.

This stone has wish-granting power. Barbara wishes to be like Diana, and Diana wishes she could be with her beloved Steve again. Then TV huckster Marshall Lord (Pablo Pascal) steals the gemstone, seeking world domination through greed. He’s like a Tony Robbins/Donald Trump clone, more ridiculous than wicked, insisting: “I’m not a con man but a respected television personality.”

Clumsily scripted by former DC Comics president/CEO Geoff Johns, Dave Callahan and director Patty Jenkins, even Matthew Jensen’s splendid cinematography can’t redeem the tortuous, overstuffed plotting and choppy editing.

Pascal also stars in Disney’s “The Mandalorian,” concluding its second Disney + season, and Asteria, the legendary Amazon warrior seen midway through the credits, is Lynda Carter (1970s TV “Wonder Woman”).

FYI: Because stars often receive a percentage of the box-office gross, Gal Gadot walks away with at least $10 million of additional compensation, despite its release on HBO Max.

On the Granger Gauge, “Wonder Woman 1984” lassos a stunt-filled 6. Such a shame!

Susan Granger has been an on-air television and radio commentator and entertainment critic for more than 25 years. Raised in Hollywood, Granger appeared as a child actress in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, and Lassie. She currently resides in Westport.