Wonder Woman 1984

Director: Patty Jenkins

Writer: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham (screenplay), William Moulton Marston (original characters)

Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal

Producers: Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder, Andreas Wentz

Music: Hans Zimmer

Cinematography: Matthew Jensen

Editor: Richard Pearson

Cert: 12

Running time: 151mins

Year: 2020

What’s the story: Washington, 1984. While still mourning her lost love Steve Trevor (Pine), Diana Prince (Gadot) begins to suspect businessman Maxwell Lord (Pascal) is hatching a plan that could end the world.

What’s the verdict: Back in 2017 DC couldn’t get a hit movie for all the money in Bruce Wayne’s bank accounts. Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman stepped up to show the boys how it should be done.

Chiefly, leave the extended universe stuff to Marvel and tell a pretty much standalone tale… liberally lifting from 1978’s Superman also helps. This simple formula equalled big paydays for Aquaman, Shazam! and even Joker (minus the Superman bit).

But the postcode-sounding WW84 was hobbled before it hit cinemas. The supervillainous Coronavirus repeatedly bumped its release and now means most UK audiences will watch the film on premium rental in January. Well done if you live somewhere that had an open cinema when it was released earlier this month.

Yet, the pandemic is only one foe this Wonder Woman finds itself facing. Internet fanboy ire has crashed down hard on this second outing, although Warner Bros. have announced Diana Prince will return for a third time regardless.

So, does WW84 (or Wonder Woman 1984 to give its other moniker) soar or stumble? Truthfully, both. Sometimes stumbling into awesomeness, other times tail spinning after achieving dizzying heights.

Despite the generous 151 minute run time, numerous subplots are raised and quickly resolved/forgotten (although tying this into the wider DCEU is largely discarded). The action comes thick and fast, but a couple of FX moments feel unfinished, ironic for an oft-delayed title.

But crucially, Wonder Woman 1984 brims with adventure, excitement, heart and a sweeping romance we’ve been denied this year. Even when watched via a screening link on a PC.

While some FX shots wobble, this has a good thrills-per-set-piece ratio, returning director Patty Jenkins being a dab hand at mixing mayhem with emotion.

A Middle Eastern convoy chase recalls a similar scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. A White House-set smackdown is super-heroics by way of Jason Bourne. Nothing rivals the awe of the first movie’s No Man’s Land sequence, but this is all far more diverting than Tenet

Gal Gadot once again dons the costume like she has just stepped out of a mythological storybook. By far the best feature of the new DC movie universe to date, her Wonder Woman illuminates the screen, an irresistible blend of bravery, humour and dignity.

It’s enough to make you forgive Gadot that toe-curling, blood-freezing Imagine video she put out in March. Early proof that 2020 could indeed get worse.

The story sees Diana working in antiquities at Washington’s Smithsonian Museum, while also Wonder Woman’ing various street level bad guys.

Into her orbit comes wallflower scientist Barbara (Wiig, channeling Michelle Pfeiffer’s nervy Selina Kyle and Jim Carrey’s Riddler to winning effect), ignored by her colleagues and in awe of Diana. Note to studio: not having the trailer spoil the dark turn Wiig’s character takes would have been nice…

Less welcome within Diana’s sphere is ebullient businessman Maxwell Lord (The Mandalorian’s Pascal delivering thick, spicy ham), who has a quick smile and quicker promises of easy paths to fame and fortune.

But, when people begin seeing their dreams magically become reality, “be careful what you wish for” takes on world-imperiling meaning. Even when this results in Diana being miraculously reunited with her great love Steve Trevor (Pine, always reliable).

Hitting the appropriate notes of positivity for a film aimed at kids, this ticks off such messages as violence is never the answer, more inevitably equals less, it’s better to be loved by one person than worshipped by millions.  

Genuinely surprising is the film’s political slant. Pascal’s Lord is a Trump analog down to his hollow promises, inhuman greed, cartoonishly unrealistic blond hair, and a habit of blurting out his evil schemes (“I need to touch a lot of people at the same time”).

How much must Donald be hating the fact that a Chilean actor is essentially playing him?

This aspect justifies the 80s setting, a decade that turned Trump into a star and popularised “Greed is good”. But, despite being set almost 40 years ago, the avarice on display is very much 2020, chiefly executive America 2020. Which is presumably why no-one in the film wishes for rain in Africa…

Most likely this was intended to appeal to swing voters’ sense of decency ahead of the November election, but COVID-19 biffed that plan by erasing release dates. Luckily, the movie does not stand on its politics alone, although paeans to decency are political in this darkest timeline.

So, let the messy majesty of WW84 light you home. Personally, we’re looking forward to that third instalment. While hoping that Zack Snyder’s cut of Justice League, arriving in 2021, will be mostly more Wonder Woman.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
Letterboxd: RobDan
Podcast: The Movie Robcast

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