‘Wonder Woman 1984’ review: a smart and stylish superhero sequel with lots of heart

Vulnerable and very human, Gal Gadot's lead role is what makes this sequel really special

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    When Wonder Woman came out in 2017 it was something of a game-changer. With director Patty Jenkins at the helm, it was the first superhero film with both a female protagonist and director, and smashed both the glass-ceiling and box-office records. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince, a charming and kick-ass Amazon warrior who becomes superhero Wonder Woman, was a welcome change of tune in the saturated superhero market; and was arguably DC’s best release since The Dark Knight.

    Returning to Diana Prince’s world for Wonder Woman 1984 doesn’t exactly pick up where we left off, which helped bolster Jenkins intent to make a film that wasn’t just a sequel and could standalone. In the second film it’s now 1984, almost 70 years on from the events of Wonder Woman, which took place at the end of World War I. Diana is working in cultural anthropology and archaeology at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., and is heartbreakingly lonely. Her stylish apartment is filled with photos of old friends who’ve now passed – including pilot beau Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) who died at the end of Wonder Woman – you see her going to restaurants alone, and staring longingly at the sky as planes fly overhead.

    When a mysterious stone artefact is brought into the Smithsonian, she befriends awkward archaeologist Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristin Wiig) to try and work out what it is, the two both sceptical about its rumoured magical abilities that say it’ll give the holder with whatever they wish for. But Diana’s opinions change when her long-dead boyfriend Steve Trevor appears. Meanwhile slippery, failing businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) is determined to get his paws on the object, so he can get the power he believes he deserves.

    Wonder Woman 1984 is utterly charming. Its neon-bright ‘80s visuals and retro soundtrack are brilliant fun – especially when seen through Steve’s, who was last alive in 1918, awe-struck eyes (Steve trying on fad fashion “parachute pants” is a true delight). New cast additions are welcome additions: Pedro Pascal plays the megalomaniac Maxwell Lord with shiver-inducing intensity, imbuing the tyrannical entrepreneur’s unravelling stability with a chaotic energy. While Kristin Wiig’s gradual transformation and downward spiral into become the superhuman Cheetah is filled with empathy.

    But Gal Gadot, the film’s beating, breaking heart is what makes it really special. Despite the fact that Diana Prince could throw a truck without breaking a sweat, Wonder Woman 1984 shows her as very human hero. She’s vulnerable, lost and at times self-interested, showing an exposed side you rarely see in superhero flicks; and throughout it all her belief that humanity is intrinsically good and her need to help others prevails. It’s warm, uplifting and more than anything, filled with a comforting sense of hope, much needed in these unsettling times. And it does all this without scrimping on kick-ass action sequences, which are pure euphoria.

    It’s a smart and stylish sequel that’s endlessly entertaining; but more than that, in the dumpster fire of 2020, Wonder Woman 1984 is a two hours of hope filled escapism – something all of us could do with right now.

    Details

    • Director: Patty Jenkins
    • Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal
    • Release date: December 16 in the UK, December 25 in the U.S (Warner Bros. and HBO Max)
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