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Wonder Woman 1984 review: ‘Gal Gadot rules and Kristen Wiig as Cheetah is our new spirit animal’

Superhero sequel is overloaded with imagery, ideas and undeniably impressive action sequences - sometimes to a fault

By Jamie Tabberer

Words: Jamie Tabberer; picture: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine in Wonder Woman 1984 (Picture: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved/Clay Enos/ ™ & © DC Comics)

What was truly wondrous about 2017’s Wonder Woman was the dilemma it presented movie snobs.

It upended what we thought we knew about superhero movies: it was high-minded and serious; much of it took place during WW1. And, still, in places, it was a lot of fun. (More fun than Logan or Joker, anyway).

Plus, it came supercharged with a message of female empowerment impossible to begrudge.

Gal reprises the role of Diana (Picture: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved./Clay Enos/ ™ & © DC Comics)

Three years on, sequel Wonder Woman 1984 continues this legacy, casting shade on its glut of samey stablemates in the years since. Its mere premise is curious and refreshing. Why the decade taste forgot when, given its ageless protagonist, it could have been set anytime?  

Well, why not? A film full of the yuppie greed and extreme fashion of 1984 was never going to be boring.

That said, our heroine Diana – now an archaeologist working at Washington DC’s Smithsonian Museum – eschews perms and flammable fabrics for classic minimalism. There’s a timelessness, too, to Gal Gadot’s performance, and that deep, creamy voice: intense but with the right measure of warmth, she’s the person you want around in a crisis. (And the sort of solid star you want fronting your movie amid numerous coronavirus-induced delays).

She anchors the film, even in its most absurd moments. Of which, inevitably, there are many. The plot, for example, is both unwieldy and deceptively simple: standard man tries-to-take-over-the-world stuff.

A hugely charismatic Kristen Wiig has the most interesting character arc as Diana’s colleague Barbara, whose transformation from bumbling wallflower to ferocious superhuman Cheetah is again expressed, at least in part, through an evolving wardrobe. Think scrunchies and sweaters, and later, a chaotic, animal print-heavy look with plenty of eyeliner.

Kristen Wiig and Gal’s characters meet for the first time (Picture: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved/Clay Enos/ ™ & © DC Comics)

In its playful archness, Wiig’s performance recalls Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns. She is our new spirit animal – and yet, she is underused.

The film’s biggest issue, in fact, is how little time it dedicates to Wiig as Cheetah – bemusing, given the film’s indulgent 149-minute running time. When she finally emerges, it’s in a night-time fight sequence so dark, you can barely see her.

Pedro Pascal, meanwhile, is unrecognisable as sweaty, shifty Trumpian businessman Maxwell, a man of naked ambition and moral bankruptcy. He’s fab, but we’d still have preferred less him and more Kristen. The same with Chris Pine who, in light of recent four Chrises conversations, is a rather flat, pedestrian presence as Diana’s resurrected love interest. 

Lilly Aspell as the young Diana (Picture: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved/Clay Enos/™ & © DC Comics)

Something close to perfection, however, is achieved in the lengthy opening sequence, featuring an infant Diana completing an obstacle course on the all-woman island paradise of Themyscira. With powerful cameos from Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen, it’s like an astonishing short film.

Or, perhaps, the first episode of a series, because WW1984 is at times so overloaded with imagery, ideas – and undeniably impressive action sequences – you can’t help but reach for the pause button. On the whole it’s once again wondrous, though – and worth waiting for a little longer if, due to Covid-19 restrictions, you can’t immediately see it in your local cinema.


Wonder Woman 1984 is out tomorrow, 16 December 2020.

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