In cinemas from December 26
Length: 151 minutes
Sequels to spectacularly successful superhero movies are often a bit of a mess. The sequel will frequently try to bite off more than it can chew, seeming to forget what made the first one such a hit.
Think of Iron Man 2 (2010), Kick-Ass 2 (2013) or Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), all of which were disappointing to varying degrees.
Other times, the sequel isn’t a bad mess per se, rather a fascinating one. The best example of this is Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992), a wonderfully camp, but overstuffed (and curiously Batman-light) adventure that contains not one skerrick of restraint and is goofily enjoyable for it.
Wonder Woman 1984 is, to put it bluntly, an absolute mess. But it’s somewhere between the letdown kind and the fascinating variety. So, let’s have a chat about it.
Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is living a quiet life in 1980s America. Still haunted by the memory of her much-missed lover, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), she mostly keeps to herself, only sporadically donning her heroic togs to save people and vanish quickly.
This all changes when the Smithsonian, where Diana works, receives a strange artifact that gives off an eerie aura and seems capable of granting wishes...
Before too long, Diana’s co-worker Barbara Ann Minerva (Kristen Wiig) goes from drab to fab, and Steve’s soul inhabits the body of a random human, giving Diana her most ardent wish. But are these dreams-come-true nightmares in disguise? And what does grinning, smarmy businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) have to do with the situation?
Wonder Woman 1984 ends up feeling like three films. There’s the one where Barbara goes from bland and forgettable office drone to fiercely fabulous glamazon, and then something else entirely.
There’s the one about Diana and Steve reuniting after decades apart, and Steve’s reaction to being the fish out of water in the 80s. Plus a bunch of smooching.
Oh, and there’s the one about Maxwell Lord attempting to become a living God, or something like it, as he tries to grant everyone on Earth’s wish.
Look, what we’re saying is: it’s a lot. The running time is a frankly ridiculous 151 minutes, and there are entire sections of the film that would have looked perfectly delightful on the editing room floor.
That’s not to say the movie isn’t fun, mind you. There’s some funny, and topical, commentary on 80s greed that works well. The chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine remains strong, even if it’s a bit of a stretch to believe she’s been pining for the bloke and alone since 1918.
But there’s something missing here, something not quite right, and some of it involves casting. Kristen Wiig, who is normally a wonderfully versatile actor, does well enough as the dorky Barbara but doesn’t quite have the dramatic chops to pull off her eventual metamorphosis. In scenes where she’s meant to be completely transformed, she just kinda looks like Kristen Wiig with slightly better hair and nicer clothes.
Pedro Pascal’s entire arc is a frequently baffling jumble, with his motivations seeming to change from one moment to the next, and a conclusion that just doesn’t feel satisfying or earned. It’s nice to see him without a Mandalorian helmet, mind you, but his part of the yarn doesn’t quite work.
Still, seeing Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman mode is undeniably stirring, and in the best scenes of the film you genuinely get the sense you’re watching a superhero being, you know, super. And heroic.
Sadly, at other times Wonder Woman 1984 can feel overstuffed, unconvincing and sanctimonious. Like Gal Gadot and her celebrity friends singing “Imagine” except much, much longer.
It’s an uneven journey, and a mess, but also fun and cheery, offering some uneven thrills for those in an undemanding mood.
However, if you’re expecting something of the calibre of the 2017 original? Sadly, that’s a wish that will remain unfulfilled.
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