And so Wonder Woman 1984. Last time we saw Gal Gadot’s lasso-swinging Amazon she was helping to win the First World War, and now, nearly 70 years on, here she is again in the era of Armani suits and “greed is good” and in a year most closely associated with George Orwell.
This is a big, heavy, beast of a film that’s too long, too slow, too dull, and if that is a political message about democracy that writer/director Patty Jenkins is trying to sneak in there, someone should really have told her not to.
Gal Gadot remains a wondrous Wonder Woman, though, a flawless paragon of superherodom, and the story gets off to a decent start at the Smithsonian Museum where Diana (Wonder Woman isn’t her real name) meets and befriends timid coworker Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), before being introduced to TV’s smarmy “oil guy” Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal).
Barbara is a decent human being and so, beneath the showbiz slick, is Maxwell Lord. We know that about him because he’s a single dad who obviously loves his adopted son, though his business commitments have led him to neglect the child. Big aah.
So when both Barbara and Max start going to the dark side after being granted their most fervent wish by something called the Dreamstone – it looks like a Cubist re-imagining of one of those rabbit vibrators – it feels inappropriate to hiss at the bad guys because neither Barbara nor Max is really, deep down, a bad guy.
The Dreamstone also grants Diana’s wish, and suddenly Chris Pine’s Steve Trevor – her love interest from the first film – is back in her life.
Two observations about Pine. First, he’s got the look of a man who’s been sitting in his pants for months hitting the bottle until his agent intervened and got him dried out and slimmed down for the film – perhaps in the Betty Ford Center (how’s that for a nice 1980s reference?). Second, Pine is still stuck in Shatner Delivery Mode, as he was in the first film, which still amuses me (and wouldn’t a horror film about Pine trying to exorcise William Shatner be a great thing?)
Back to this movie, the scenes between Pine and Gadot are probably the best bits of the film. First World War Steve being surprised by 1980s USA – breakdancers! escalators! cheese in a can! And then there’s a nice montage sequence in which Steve gets to try on various 1980s fashions. The Miami Vice look. The designer tracksuit. The preppy look. All funny, all fairly unnecessary.
And back to the baddies. Barbara eventually turns into supervillain Cheetah, to the point where she’s wearing a costume of animal hair. Max Lord, meanwhile, seems to be turning into Donald Trump, in what must surely be the film’s most horrible mis-step. By the time this TV huckster with a smoke-and-mirrors business empire is haranguing the nation from a White House lectern, subtlety has long ago left the building.
But never mind the blunderbuss aimed at Trump, what is Jenkins’s actual political message? That decent people (Barbara certainly is, Max is a bit more mixed) should be careful what they wish for? Keep things the way they were? Vote Biden?
Perhaps I’m pulling things out of the air but that’s what tends to start happening when, with an hour to go, your mind is saying “Well, there’s nothing to see here so what else is going on?”
Good fights etc? Decent SFX? Yes, all that, and Jenkins remains a great director of action sequences, of snappy comedy and of nuanced human psychological interaction. Her cast (Gadot, Pine, Wiig, Pascal) are actually all on great form too. It’s the writing in Wonder Woman 1984 that lets it down. Jenkins did that too.
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© Steve Morrissey 2021