The Plot: Time has passed for Diana (Gal Gadot), but she hasn’t aged a day. She’s lived those years on other adventures though. It’s now 1984 and she’s working for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. She befriends mousey new recruit Barbara (Kristen Wiig), a woman who wears her insecurities on her shoulders. The two encounter oil businessman Max (Pedro Pascal), who embraces the excesses of the era. He wants the American Dream – now. He gets his wish and as his influence grows, so does his power. As the balance of power shifts, Diana also has to contend with the sudden re-appearance of her apparently deceased boyfriend Steve (Chris Pine)…
The Verdict: When DC’s new take on Wonder Woman blasted her way onto our screens back in 2017, it was met with both critical and commercial acclaim. Deservedly so. After some admittedly ho-hum efforts from the superheroic boys from the same fold, the dynamite teaming of star Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins showed what the ladies can do. Wonder Woman became the shining beacon of DC, but there was trouble in the mix. Jenkins recently stated her displeasure with the direction of the character in Joss Whedon’s edit of Justice League, saying that it contradicted her first film and its sequel (then in production). Whether the upcoming Zack Snyder cut will gel with Jenkins’ vision remains to be seen. Consider then sequel Wonder Woman 1984 a course correction of sorts, carefully aligning the character and performance with a specific time period.
The onscreen title of WW84 is not just an acronym. It also doubles as a hint towards a Cold War-era new conflict involving slippery charlatan Max Lord and the drastically changing nature of Diana’s friend Barbara. The story by Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham places Diana in the Greed Is Good era of the 1980s. Disposable income meant disposable wealth as people let caution fly to the wind and instead embrace a capitalist culture of excess. This is where Max comes in, a Trump-like figure who displays supreme confidence in himself but that’s really just masking his own insecurities and failures. There’s a heady, explosive mix of elements here: characters changing personality and becoming more or less powerful; a crucial plot device that could be regarded as wishy-washy in the wrong light; and the surprise resurrection of Steve – the fish out of the water this time around. How do you keep Diana both grounded and superheroic when there’s so much swirling around her?
The answer is to retain her inherent humanity and femininity, caring for a world that is in danger of falling apart due to its own misguided ambitions. Jenkins and Gadot do solid footwork here, keeping the character relevant not just in her time but also in ours. We Don’t Need Another Hero, Tina Turner belted out in 1985. Actually the 1980s need Wonder Woman and so do we. This year, of all years, audiences need their spirits lifted to the stratosphere and WW84 does so in rip-roaring fashion (and with lots of amusingly tacky period fashion too). The dynamic duo have created a rousing adventure that trots the globe over an extended running time, but which never draws attention to one’s watch. Such is the breathless speed in which Jenkins moves through the story, balancing thrilling action with meaningful character development and satisfying arcs that come full circle. The heady mix of elements works well, strengthening the crucial plot device so that it becomes a credible source of conflict.
Among the many names in the credits, you’ll find Dan Bradley as second unit director. Known for his innovative stunt design and co-ordination on the Jason Bourne films, he brings a kinetic energy to the action set-pieces from the corridors of power in the White House to the streets of Washington D.C. and the sweeping vistas of Egypt. One stand-out sequence in particular sees Diana soar to new heights, prompting fist-pumps from this reviewer. This is what being in the cinema with the enveloping big screen and thunderous Dolby Atmos is all about, whatever Warner Brothers senior management thinks about its 2021 slate: immersing yourself in another world for a few hours, with no distractions or ringing phones. Wonder Woman 1984 may not save Christmas, but it will certainly remind audiences why we go to the movies – something we’re in danger of forgetting after being confined to quarters for so long. The closing scene may be a happy accident, given the multiple delays on the film. However, it seems entirely appropriate for Diana’s world – and ours. This sturdy, wonder-ful sequel promised new heights and true to form it soars with its superheroine.
Rating: 4 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
Wonder Woman 1984 (USA / South Korea / Spain / 12A / 151 mins)
In short: Wonder-ful
Directed by Patty Jenkins.
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen.