“Diana, One day you will become all that you have dreamed of and more.”
Following several delays due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the highly anticipated DC superhero sequel Wonder Woman 1984 is finally swinging into UK cinemas and shortly onto HBO Max for American audiences. With her first outing as Wonder Woman dating back to 2016 in Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BVS), this will mark Gal Gadot’s fourth appearance as the superhero – and she truly becomes Diana in this instalment, wonderfully capturing the essence of classic DC superheroes.
Directed by Patty Jenkins, Wonder Woman 1984 centres on Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) as she spends her days working at the Natural History Museum in Washington, while moonlighting as a mysterious hero helping those in need
The prospect of a sequel is always daunting, but here Patty Jenkins has crafted a sincere and beautiful film filled with a powerful message of hope and humanity. There’s certainly a lot of emotional impact which packs a punch in key scenes, but Jenkins wonderfully balances this with fun and colourful 80s aspects. There’s romance, plenty of action set pieces and even comedy thrown into the mix, with certain scenes admirably evoking Donner’s classic Superman. I find the mythological elements of the Amazons fascinating, so really appreciated a further delve into Themyscira, along with a nice nod to the Gods via a certain plot device. However the pacing does feel a little uneven throughout, with a slow start establishing new characters. The runtime of two and a half hours also feels quite lengthy, particularly towards the final act.
Gal Gadot once again brings integrity, strength and a whole lot of heart to the role, whilst also showcasing an intriguing vulnerability we’ve yet to see from the character. There’s also a distinct loneliness to Diana which connects her with Dr Barabara Minerva, in an endearing friendship. Jenkins takes her on a truly emotional & beautiful arc, testing the limits of her humanity and resolve, culminating in one of the most moving superhero speeches I’ve seen. Chris Pine once again reprises his role as Steve Trevor, back as much more of a supporting character to Diana, helping her along her journey. Jenkins has cleverly crafted his return and due to the 80s setting, he brings some funny fish-out-of-water moments to the film. There really is a beautiful love between the two characters and in a few key scenes, you’ll be swept up in their romance.
Newcomers Kristen Wiig and Pedro Pascal prove an impressive supporting cast; I particularly appreciated Jenkins taking the time to explore their motivations and past, which lead them to the decisions they make. They genuinely feel like very well rounded and developed antagonists and not merely similar counterparts to their heroes. Wiig’s Dr Minerva is a little nerdy and clumsy, tripping over her own heels, while her work colleagues ignore or forget who she is – except for Diana. The heartbreaking thing is, she’s a genuinely caring human who’s hugely endearing and relatable, but becomes swept away and eventually corrupted by Maxwell Lord’s illusion. Wiig genuinely surprised me with her performance, particularly in the action sequences, she also impressively changes her presence on screen throughout her transformation. However she does become somewhat underused toward the final act, which is a shame, as I would have loved to have seen more of Cheetah in action.
Pedro Pascal also excels as the overly ambitious entrepreneur Maxwell Lord; this is definitely a different side of Pascal that I haven’t seen before and he seems to have a real blast with the Trump-esque role. What’s fascinating about the character is what he represents; Maxwell Lord has become swept up in the excess and desire of the “American Dream”, which was particularly accentuated in the 80’s. This time frame, also known as “the decade of greed”, is key to the character, his motivations and what drives him to become the antagonist of the tale. The corrupt businessman is essentially selling consumption and consumerism for his own gain, with his catchphrase “Life is good. But it can be better. And why shouldn’t it be?” Jenkins makes a timely link to current circumstances. Other notable performances include the returning youngster Lilly Aspell, who portrays a hugely talented but frustrated young Diana, along with the impressive Amazons. It’s fantastic to see so many highly gifted athletes and warriors portrayed on screen, with appropriate (and not over sexualised) costumes.
Beloved composer Hans Zimmer is on scoring duties for this sequel, and it’s as wonderful as ever, with a particularly romantic and soaring piece which will undoubtedly sweep you away. Wonder Woman’s hugely empowering and inspiring main theme returns, as do a number of flourishes from previous films such as BVS, which are cleverly woven throughout. The score perfectly compliments the beautiful cinematography, particularly in the huge spectacle as Steve and Diana fly through a colourful firework display, which will be perfect on an IMAX screen. There’s also plenty of enjoyable nods to the comic and Lynda Carter’s 70s television series which will delight fans, along with some new expansions to her powers and lore, particularly with the addition of the brilliant Golden Eagle armour. The extensive costume and design department did a fantastic job with the 80s clothes; Diana really did have a number of fabulous outfits, while Steve Trevor had some hilarious ‘fanny packs’ as part of his costumes. There were a couple of ropey visual effects in certain scenes, but overall I was impressed with the action sequences and Cheetah’s design.
As previously mentioned, there’s a heavy Donner Superman influence throughout, particularly with some sections of the score and the silly but fun mall sequence. Diana embodies a lot of similar principles and characteristics as Superman in this sequel, particularly with the inspirational and hopeful nature. Following this, I could genuinely see Patty Jenkins going on to direct a Supes film in the future.
Wonder Woman 1984 is a touching and sincere film filled with such a heartfelt message which we all need right now. Gadot truly encompasses Diana in a terrifically empowering arc, paired with beautiful visuals and a sweeping score from Zimmer. I can’t wait to see this on an IMAX screen!