While Kathleen Kennedy’s vision for Star Wars was crumbling, and the dynamic duo of Favreau-Filoni were given a separate track with a far bigger budget, it was believed that there was one good arrow in Kennedy’s quiver. Although she had been restricted from bothering the new Star Wars Streaming and Cinematic Universe being catapulted by The Mandalorian, she had still snagged what she had been after: a female director of awesome stature to lead a Star Wars feature film. The director was Patty Jenkins.
Except for abandoning Thor 2, Patty Jenkins had a sterling record. In fact, recently I was extremely complimentary towards her, because while I know that she has views and politics different from my own, I’ve always felt she knew how to make a good movie for all audiences. Wonder Woman was, in fact, the sole bright spot for the DC Comics Cinematic Universe (DCU) outside of Aquaman. And you have to consider just what a letdown the DCU is… this is a franchise that came on the heels of the Dark Knight trilogy, which still is considered not just one of the greatest comic book trilogies ever, but one of the greatest cinematic trilogies ever, period. All the DCU had to do was be competent, and they failed. But within that massive, stinking miss of opportunity was a jewel: Wonder Woman.
It stood to reason that when Kathleen Kennedy picked up for Rogue Squadron, she had nabbed a serious winner. Certainly investors thought the same. But now Wonder Woman 1984 is out, and Kathleen Kennedy once again has a serious director problem instead.
It’s not that Wonder Woman is the worst movie of all times, like some hyperbolic headlines say. It’s certainly not in The Last Jedi realm of franchise-murder bad, nor in the Gigli realm of train wreck cinema bad. But it’s not good either. And it is poor enough that it probably takes the character of Wonder Woman, which was a bankable female superhero, and turns it into a questionable property going forward. Yeah, you can do a third movie, but it’s no longer a guaranteed blockbuster. Pandemic or not, if everyone is stuck indoors and you’re projected to bring in a quarter of your original film’s haul… yikes. If you’re attempting to bring on a director to your next Star Wars movie, and you know you’re now competing with a completely different ideology within your own franchise, you probably aren’t happy that the director you’ve chosen is looking a little like a Rian Johnson lite.
You may have liked Wonder Woman 1984, if you saw it, and that’s cool. There’s no beef here with that opinion. But I want to break this down for you from a business standpoint so that you see the movie in the way that film executives and investors look at these sorts of things. So I’m going to take apart one concept from the movie and let you see how someone from a high level looks at it. Consider for a moment the idea in the film that Wonder Woman makes a wish and has the spirit of her deceased lover inhabit the body of an unwilling and unsuspecting man. Now consider that Wonder Woman has sexual relations with the body of the unwilling and unsuspecting man repeatedly in the film. Okay, artistically, maybe that has some value that I don’t understand and perhaps you do. But if I’m a film executive and I get wind that my director is having a little girls’ role model – that sells toys and merchandise – have sexual relations with an unwilling and unsuspecting individual, I’m marching to the set and saying, “what in the blankety-blank are you thinking?”
So why would a film exec do that? Because it’s a pointless, unforced error. All you have to do is tell the story in such a way that the heroine doesn’t sexually assault someone. It’s that simple.
Okay, so Wonder Woman 1984 is rife with pointless, unforced errors. It’s also a mess narratively, from a continuity standpoint, and in the editing. Alright, things happen, and even great directors have some stinkers. I mean, even Steven Spielberg directed AI Artificial Intelligence. But the problem here is that there’s a repeat of the same old pattern that should be making executives nervous. Director releases clearly flawed movie featuring ideological narrative. Majority of fans are turned off by flaws, want no part of ideology. Internet ideologs and access media attack fans. Director hops right in and joins the attack. Granted, Patty Jenkins hasn’t taken this to the extremes that other directors have, but her tactics have mostly been to attack the studio instead.
What all this means is that Jenkins is no longer a sure-thing for Rogue Squadron. Oh, she’ll almost certainly direct the film, but now Kennedy has to watch the project like a hawk. What does she do if the film starts to go the way of Rogue One or Solo? Does she trust Jenkins to play by Kennedy’s rules now that she’s shown she’ll denigrate both Warner Brothers (WW1984) and Marvel (Thor 2)? And now that Wonder Woman 1984 has horrible reviews, Kennedy has to deal with the oncoming headwinds from Star Wars fans that will believe Jenkins is coming to taint the brand in the way the sequel trilogy did.
None of this is what Kennedy wanted or needed. If Wonder Woman 1984 had come out to the same accolades as the first movie, everyone would be in a win-win situation right now. But as it is, KK has a director issue once more. And, frankly, that makes it the same situation as every Kathleen Kennedy Star Wars film before.