by Dallas King
Gal Gadot returns as the DCEU’s ray of light in Wonder Woman 1984 only to discover that even though the times and fashions have changed, the world still needs her to save the day. Time after time...
WW84 has had so many delays and false starts in getting to the big screen, it feels so long since we were meant to originally see it that the Eighties fashions that feature so prominently might have come back around in style.
To be fair to it, after an early sequence in a shopping mall, the film is surprisingly restrained in its use of Eighties references. It does not rely on dropping movie references or on-the-nose song placements. The only part that is too in-your-face is Chris Pine’s bum bag… sorry, fanny pack.
It is also nicely contained as a standalone adventure, with very little reference to the expanded DC universe. This is possibly due to the fact that timeline-wise, the only thing potentially happening then would be Bruce Wayne seeing his parents gunned down in an alleyway for the millionth time.
In Kill Bill Vol. 2, Bill has a monologue about how Clark Kent was Superman’s alter ego, not the other way around. He was born Kal El, a superpowered being, and created a normal person to blend in to society. One would argue the same goes for Wonder Woman. Diana is an Amazonian Princess from Themyscira. Diana Prince is the alter ego she created to hide her true self from the world.
The film spends the majority of its runtime in the presence of Diana Prince with only a few moments of showcasing Wonder Woman’s true potential… by that one means moments accompanied by Hans Zimmer’s inspiring electric cello theme. Even though no one still refers her to by that moniker.
Sure she saves the day now and then, thwarting mall robberies or fighting bad guys in a Raiders Of The Lost Ark-inspired truck chase in Cairo. The biggest battle she faces, however, is the one in her own heart as she struggles to move on from her relationship with Steve Trevor.
The trailers have made no secret of Trevor’s return so its not a spoiler. After all, the superhero genre is renowned for the notion that “no one’s ever really gone” in terms of character deaths. The Deus Ex Machina that brings Steve back into the the picture. It is a doozy even by comic book standards.
It is easy to scoff at the method and reasoning behind his return but any minor grumblings fall by the wayside in the face of Chris Pine’s performance. His earnest, childlike wonderment at everything the 80s has to offer is a joy to behold.
The palpable chemistry between Pine and Gadot is still there which allows her to process her feelings of love and loss; to work through her past and embrace the truth. That the world needs her to be Diana the Princess, not Diana Prince.
In the first film, Wonder Woman took on the Nazis. Her main foe 40 years on? Capitalism and Donald Trump in all but name.
Max Lord is an oil baron. Perhaps Snake Oil Baron is more accurate. He is a television personality selling his idea that “Life is good… but it could be better”. His office reception is made or marble and gold but it is all a facade. All bravado and bluster but underneath he is broke. Sound familiar?
When Lord gets his hands on the “dream stone”, he embodies its power and is able to grant wishes like a superhero, family-friendly version of nineties horror film Wishmaster.
Pascal is clearly having a ball playing the bad guy yet one wonders if his universal belovedness as The Mandalorian outside of the film makes it difficult to truly root against him.
Kristen Wiig’s slow build transformation from ditzy, blonde scientist to jealous best friend to villain is more effective. However the arc is let down in the third act due to some ropey CGI seemingly borrowed from Cats.
Patty Jenkins once again proves an strong marshall for Wonder Woman. She understands the character and the plotline that flows through the story comes back full circle to the prologue set in Themyscira.
Comic book sequels are often better than the original e.g Superman II, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight. Despite being freed from the shackles of character introduction and world-building problem, she fails to avoid the pitfalls that many other superhero and DC films fall into. The tone is lighter than the rest of the DCEU however it also has the expanded runtime that feels completely unnecessary, lacks a truly iconic villain and it doesn’t have a moment that can match the original’s No Man’s Land sequence.
Wonder Woman 1984 delivers on the big screen experience (if you are lucky enough to be able to see it that way). However if caught in the lasso of truth, it fails to inspire the same sense of wonder.
Wonder Woman 84 is out in select cinemas now.