16th Dec2020

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lilly Aspell | Written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham | Directed by Patty Jenkins

Wonder Woman returns in Patty Jenkins’ eagerly anticipated set-in-the-’80s superhero sequel, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine. Striking a confident balance of action, emotion and character, it’s the comic book blockbuster you’ve been waiting for.

Scripted by Jenkins, alongside comics honcho Geoff Johns and co-writer David Callaham, Wonder Woman 1984 takes place, as the title suggests, forty years after the end of the previous movie, with Diana / Wonder Woman (Gadot) living in Washington D.C. and working in the Smithsonian. Though she distracts herself with costumed crime-fighting, she still pines for lost love Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), so she’s understandably knocked for six when he suddenly reappears in her life, after she unknowingly makes a wish on a mysterious object known as a Dreamstone.

However, that’s just the start of Diana’s problems, as the Dreamstone also transforms her meek and mild museum colleague Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) into super-powered nemesis The Cheetah. Worse still, when power-hungry businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) gets his hands on it, he sets a ripple of chaos in motion that could have devastating consequences for the entire planet.

As with the previous film, a large part of the success of Wonder Woman 1984 is down to the white hot movie star charisma of Gal Gadot, and her equally impressive chemistry with co-star Chris Pine. Their relationship here is given an intriguing extra dimension, bringing both intense emotion and amusing comedy, cleverly reversing the dynamic from the previous movie where Diana was the fish-out-of-water in a different time.

The villains are much more interesting this time round too, with both Wiig and Pascal given emotionally compelling, even sympathetic character arcs. Wiig, in particular, is a joy to watch as Barbara, with the film paying close attention to the evolution of her character – for plot-related reasons, it’s not an instant transformation and the whole thing is much more satisfying as a result.

Action-wise, Jenkins front-loads the film with a pair of terrific set-pieces, the first a flashback to young Diana (Lilly Aspell, fiercely determined) competing in a competition on Themyscira, and the second in a Washington mall, as Wonder Woman takes down a gang of thieves, adopting a commendable anti-gun stance as she does so. Thereafter, the action scenes are slightly more spread out (especially with the slightly overlong two and a half hour running time), which feels like a bit of a pacing issue, though the scenes themselves – notably a desert chase with armoured vehicles and an initial face-off with Cheetah – are a lot of fun, aided by some excellent special effects work.

Pleasingly for comics fans, the script includes several nods to the source material, including a couple of surprises that it would be churlish to spoil here. Suffice it to say that Wonder Woman is much closer to her current comics counterpart at the end of the film than she is at the beginning.

In fairness, Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t entirely without flaws. It’s fair to say that the 1980s setting is disappointingly under-used, for example, other than for gags involving Pine’s wardrobe choices. There’s not even a big ’80s soundtrack moment, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Similarly, Diana’s golden armour – a supposedly key aspect of the movie, at least according to the marketing – is poorly used in the context of the film, which is particularly frustrating because it could have been a powerfully emotional moment with just a little tweak to the screenplay. On top of that, the film’s messaging is a little too on the nose and without giving too much away, let’s just say the finale posits a view of human nature that is more charitable than we really deserve.

Ultimately, however, those flaws are the sort of thing you’ll think about afterwards, rather than the sort of problems that impede your enjoyment at the time. Taken moment to moment, Wonder Woman 1984 is an energetic, colourful and thoroughly entertaining superhero blockbuster that will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Bring on Wonder Woman 3.

**** 4/5

Wonder Woman 1984 is in cinemas from today.


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