Wonder Woman 1984

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Wonder Woman 1984
"The central characters, so often a weak point in superhero movies, are well developed with solid performances all round. Gadot, meanwhile, goes above and beyond."

What do you give to the woman who has everything? Let's put it another way - what problems do you give to a superhero that will present a real challenge which can't be overcome in no time through the use of special powers? This is the question that writers routinely struggle with, and as you watch the young Diana, in flashback, make her way through a competitive assault course back on Paradise Island, you may struggle to identify any weakness. It's there, though, as the end of the race reveals. Immortal she may be, but she's still a human being, with deep human needs.

When we meet her again, it's 1984. She's working at the Smithsonian Museum and doing a bit of crime fighting and rescue work secretly on the side, but her life is a lonely one; she still hasn't got over old flame Steve (Chris Pine). Life starts to look a little brighter when new colleague Barbara (Kristen Wiig) stumbles into her life; there's real chemistry between them and with star Gal Gadot having made a point of her character's canonical bisexuality, one wonders if it's going to lead to something more. Barbara's chance is lost, however, when a magical wishing stone brings Steve back into Diana's life. Her own wish to be stronger and sexier and cool takes her in a very different direction and, because she's not used to handling the resulting attention, straight into the arms of shady entrepreneur Max Lord (Pedro Pascal), whose real interest is in the stone itself.

Copy picture

The resulting story, though built around an interesting idea, is poorly thought through and has plot holes one could fly a jet through, but let's face it - that's not what most viewers are watching for. The central characters, so often a weak point in superhero movies, are well developed with solid performances all round. Gadot, meanwhile, goes above and beyond. The joy she evinces upon finding Steve again is irresistible, her heartbreak at the thought of losing him devastating. Though Diana has matured in the decades since the war when the last film was set, she has lost non of er openness and vulnerability, her sweetness and inability to defend herself emotionally against the cruelties of the world. She seems to need Steve's protection as much as he needs hers, but this is not another comic inspired story in which everyone has to come out the same way they went in; she has an emotional journey to make, learning how to become more independent.

It's this personal journey that elevates the film and gives it real charm, even at times when the plot is getting seriously overblown and silly. It also highlights an element of darkness within her which makes her a much more interesting character, as she blithely breaks her own rules to get what she wants. Those who came for the action, meanwhile, will find plenty to enjoy, from fist fights to car chases, dramatic battles in the sky and dizzying rescues, all of them handsomely choreographed. Both Gadot and Wiig bring a physicality to their roles that makes them much more convincing, whilst Pascal, with spectacularly bad hair and suits, gives us a perfect Eighties villain who, buying into the ethos of the time, really believes he's a good guy. He also brings a touching humanity to scenes with Lord's small son Alistair (Lucian Perez), which could easily have been pure cheese.

There are lots of nice touches here for Wonder Woman fans, including a scene in the middle of the final credits that will have older fans cheering in delight. There's also first rate production design and costume work which captures the era to a tee. Flawed as it is, this cannot be called a great film, but for the most part it's very enjoyable. Like its heroine, it's more of a mess than it first appears, but easy to love.

Reviewed on: 24 Dec 2020
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Wonder Woman 1984 packshot
Wonder Woman has to learn some difficult personal lessons as she faces off against Max Lord and the Cheetah with the fate of the world at stake.

Director: Patty Jenkins

Writer: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright

Year: 2020

Runtime: 151 minutes

Country: US, UK, Spain

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