Wonder Woman 1984 isn’t just a phenomenal, superior sequel – it’s a shamelessly uncynical dose of big-screen hope.
To hell with justice, Batman and Superman’s heavyweight angst brought the dawn of Gal Gadot’s shield-bearing, lassoing superhero and her pulse-pounding riff. She didn’t steal their thunder – she earned it. Now, she’s riding the lightning.
Four years later, through a distinguished solo movie, a disastrous team-up and a franchise and world in freefall, Themyscira’s god-killer has returned, surrounded by cheesy TV ads, neon-puffed clothes, breakdancing and synth-pop. God bless 80s nostalgia.
Patty Jenkins is back in the director’s seat, co-writing alongside Dave Callaham and Geoff Johns. We open on our young Diana with the Amazons, back ‘when the whole world felt like a promise’. Screw Quidditch – the arena tournament she competes in, featuring climbing, cliff-diving, archery and extreme equestrian, is a lively spectacle.
Having lived on since the First World War, defeating Ares and losing Steve (Chris Pine), our hero has floated through time and arrived in the 80s. For now, she’s a friendly neighbourhood Wonder Woman, saving women from harassment – the constant pestering of the two female leads doesn’t go unnoticed – and handling small-picture thieves in shopping malls. She’s a legend, a myth, not known to the masses.
However, her life is thrown into chaos after meeting Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a kind-hearted archaeologist who’s always wanted to be popular, and Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), an aspiring oil entrepreneur and TV personality, always urging people that ‘all you need is to want it’, with his eyes on a monkey’s paw, so to speak. Other plot details are too hazardous to tread.
It’s no spoiler to say Steve returns, but its reason is almost remarkably sound (also, the inverted fish-out-of-water hijinks are delightful). Wiig’s eventual transformation into Cheetah isn’t a big reveal either – the CGI was always going to be tricky, but bar a few dips, it’s quite impressive.
Throughout the film, I felt myself thinking of Spider-Man 2 and X2. Not necessarily for thematic similarities – Diana’s sacrifices to be a hero do link nicely with ‘Spidey no more’ – but it takes everything from her 2017 movie that worked and does it better.
There’s no scene on par with ‘No Man’s Land’ – one of the decade’s very best blockbuster moments – but the action is fluid, kinetic, more sure of itself in establishing trademark flourishes. Visually, the dreich trenches of wintertime war are long gone, with Diana’s mortal playground finally matching the vibrancy of her home.
As she dispatches fools with her lasso or flips an armoured truck into the air, it’s exciting and extravagant without resorting to the Snyder bombast that cluttered the earlier film’s climax.
Hans Zimmer takes over from Rupert Gregson-Williams, going full operatic throughout and letting loose with his signature ‘braaaams’. The familiar motifs make for affectionate listening, but his new theme for Cheetah is spine-tingling. Also, it passes a secret quality movie test: having a scene with Adagio in D Minor that makes me weep like Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar.
The performances are stellar. It’s surely the best work for Gadot, affectingly vulnerable yet charismatic, often dealt profoundly sad hands as the film goes on. Her chemistry with Pine is reliably irresistible.
Pascal and Wiig are the standouts; the former a timely, greedy, rather despicable tycoon, the latter an insecure person who blossoms with sinister style. Her spiral is compelling, and his growing madness gets under the skin.
Story-wise, it’s a little bit all over the place. Not that it’s incoherent, but at a bladder-bursting 150 minutes, it dares to pack in two villainous origin stories, a lover’s comeback, some sort of development for the titular hero and a hokey conceit that threatens… let’s say, lots of people. It somehow feels too short and too long, hampered by a messy script.
Yet, it’s an absolute blast to sit through, and most-definitely an experience built for the largest screen you can find. Jenkins clearly adores the character as much as Gadot playing her, and the sequel lets her shine beyond absorbing the force of a hail of German bullets.
Some may feel it indulges too readily in its own gooey, optimistic worldview. But as Kate Winslet says in The Holiday, ‘I like corny. I’m looking for corny in my life.’
Wonder Woman 1984 is the perfect hit of blockbuster dopamine to see us into better times ahead. Heartwarming, valiant, enthralling and yes, wondrous.
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