Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins.
There’s been much said about the fact that 2020 is the first year since 2009 that there hasn’t been an Marvel Comics Universe film released, much less has been said about how we did get two from the DC Extended Universe. Birds of Prey was a welcome splash of neon fun at the beginning of the year, but more exciting is the follow up 2017 mega-hit Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman 1984 picks up in 1984, after a brief Olympic games-style prologue back on Thymescira. Diana Prince is working at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, living a life reduced to little but her daily work and occasionally a bout of super-heroics.
From the off, Jenkins is more in control this time around; she co-writes the screenplay, directs and produces, and generally, the film has much more confidence than 2017 did. The big clothes and hair of the 80s nicely underline the film’s themes of excess and greed, and the corrosive power of being selfish as opposed to what really matters. Jenkins’ action is much more assured this time around, and much more fun too; she’s able to bring character to the fights and crashes, and has a much better handle on the special effects which were at times the downfall of the first film.
Gal Gadot, now on her fourth run around as Diana, is also infinitely more confident. Not sidelined like the Batman vs Superman and Justice League outings, and more in control of her character than before, and Diana’s hopeful optimism is nicely underpinned by a line of melancholy. People have often criticised Gadot’s acting — perhaps made harder by the fact she is talking in a language that isn’t her mother tongue — but it’s hard not to delight when she winks, smiles and unleashes her emotions into a fully-fledged admission of love.
Pine is as charming as he was the first time around, easily able to just sell the cool charm of the somehow resurrected Steve Trevor. In the new characters, Kristen Wiig flexes her well-worn comedy chops as Barbara, playing the awkward type that she arguable showed best in Ghostbusters, and Pedro Pascal as the Jordan Belfort-like Maxwell Lord is perfectly pitched, he plays a good villain but is also able to play up that he is a product of his era, in the “greed is good” aspect of the story, and his channelling of 90s Jim Carrey mixed with Nicolas Cage is a camp OTT but particularly fun performance.
Jenkins is also much more sturdy when it comes to pacing. At two and a half hours, it’s not a short film, but it never feels like it’s dragging, because it has levity, darkness and moves along at a pace. If Zack Snyder can make a four hour Justice League movie why can’t Jenkins have some fun? And it is fun. The production design and costumes are exaggerated in the right kind of comic book way and it addresses the 80s setting much better than other comic book movies set in the 80s have. Moreover, the score by Hans Zimmer is both playful and epic in equal measure.
If there’s a significant criticism it’s that the ending feels a little rushed, after the anarchy of the final act, the closing scenes could have done with a little more in resolving the narrative.
With all that said, this is a big bold and confident follow up that once again shows that when confidence is left in the hands of the creatives, the DCEU can rival the MCU in pure popcorn entertainment. It’s a wonder.