2020 is the year the world would like to forget, so the chance to escape into the eighties for a couple of hours with Wonder Woman 1984 is a tempting distraction – even if it does mean stepping back into the cinema…
While American fans of DC Comics’ flagship female superhero will have to wait until Christmas Day to watch the sequel, for those of us in the UK not in Tier 3 restrictions (bad luck London), we can watch it from Wednesday 16 December.
It’s the first blockbuster to be released on the big screen since Christopher Nolan’s time-bending sci-fi hit Tenet back in August and it’s not often we beat the US to the punch, so hopes are high.
Directed by Patty Jenkins, and with Gal Gadot reprising the lead role of Diana Prince, both women will be hoping the sequel repeats the success of the first movie.
It’s been three years since Wonder Woman’s first modern outing, which was met with both popular and critical acclaim, kickstarting a discussion about the representation of female action heroes and taking over $820m (£610m) at the box office.
So, what can fans of the franchise expect, and is it worth donning your mask and packing your hand gel for a rare trip out of the house (if COVID-19 rules allow)?
***Warning – this review, while not giving away any major plot points, does contain mild spoilers for Wonder Woman 1984. You have been warned***
Do we go back to Themyscira?
Yes, in fact we spend the first part of the movie re-visiting Wonder Woman’s childhood years on her home island. The flashback means we get to see briefly see Antiope again (played by Robin Wright), despite her demise in the first film.
It’s also a chance to enjoy Scottish actress Lilly Aspell’s impressive performance as young Diana, pitting her early talents against Amazonian warriors in a gladiatorial arena, and learning the key lesson that integrity is more important than greatness (it’s a moral we will be reminded of again at end of the film).
While much of the rest of the plot is New York bound, we also get to enjoy a flying visit to Cairo, Egypt for a little high-speed action later on in the movie.
Is Steve Trevor back and how?
The hero pilot, played by Chris Pine, sadly met his maker at the end of the first film. But that’s not going to stop him appearing in the sequel.
His name is third on the opening credits and you can’t miss him in the trailer, so this is a twist that fans will be expecting.
While we don’t need to delve into the exact science of how (there’s mention of a storm helping his passage, and as fans of Back To The Future will know time can sometimes short circuit due to unusual weather phenomena), fans of the franchise will be pleased to know the old Pine/Gadot chemistry is back too.
Trevor’s slightly otherworldly re-appearance also means the film doesn’t have to worry about his lack of aging since 1918. If he was around 35 in the first film, that would now make him 101, and as Wonder Woman herself doesn’t age, the gap wouldn’t have been ideal for a rekindling of romance.
Additionally, his return allows for a nice role-reversal from the 2017 film in which a wide-eyed Wonder Woman is shown the ways of the human world by Trevor. Now it’s his turn to be introduced to 20th century inventions – including Pop Tarts, exercise bikes, and space travel.
Why the 1980s?
After the bleak trenches of World War One in the first film, the bright colours, loud fashion and iconic music of the eighties is an absolute treat.
As one would hope, the screen spills over with tight perms, parachute pants, legwarmers, breakdancing and Walkman stereos.
Costumes comply to the 1980s dress code of shoulder pads, Lycra and neon flashing, but somehow Diana Prince manages to tread the path between era-appropriate and elegantly modern.
There’s also a wonderful 80s Pine fashion montage (spoiler, it includes a bum bag) which is worth watching the film for alone.
Thanks to the era, there’s also a generous helping of “greed is good” ethos and plenty of casual sexism to get your teeth into too.
Who are the bad guys?
In the first film Wonder Woman had to contend with Ares, Ludendorff and Dr Maru, but now she has two brand new foes. And boy are they a treat.
Played by Pedro Pascal, Max Lord is an oil tycoon and TV personality channelling a young Donald Trump to perfection (early business ventures go awry, and he builds a giant wall – but such similarities could be purely co-incidental).
The cocky entrepreneur – who heads up his own company Black Gold – boasts of an America with “no taxes, no rule of law and no limits”.
His business approach embodies the 1980s’ love of money and power to perfection – and even better than that, Lord promises you don’t even need to work hard to get it, “you just need to want it”.
He’s possibly the best supervillain since Gene Hackman’s Lex Luther in the classic 1978 Superman, playing opposite the ultimate hero Christopher Reeve.
And of course – there’s a new female supervillain too – Barbara Minerva/Cheetah played by Kristen Wiig.
An geologist, with Indiana Jones-style artefacts at her fingertips, she starts off lacking in confidence, but as soon as she ditches her glasses, learns to walk in heels and discovers animal print she becomes a force to be reckoned with.
Upgrading to her animal/human hybrid alter ego the Cheetah later in the film, Wonder Woman’s friend-turned-foe becomes “an apex predator”, making way for girl on girl fights across land, air and water.
Aside from the gloriously OTT nature of this pair of villains, we also get to see their human side, hinting at how they became so evil.
Lord is bullied and powerless as a child, and later as a businessman we see him belittled in front of his own son.
Minerva is a woman overlooked and undervalued, until she embraces her dark side, and steps out of the shadows.
However, it’s made clear that power without empathy is a dangerous tool. As in the first film we’re also reminded that everyone – however morally corrupt – also has the potential for redemption.
Any new weapons?
Our old friend the Lasso Of Truth makes a return (and we discover it has an additional power too).
Wonder Woman learns the new trick of harnessing invisibility, and also slips into a shiny new superpower imbued costume – the impenetrable golden armour of an ancient Amazon warrior. It’s the first time audiences will see Wonder Woman in a different hero ensemble.
But the must-have weapon in this movie is the Dream Stone – a kind of Philosopher’s Stone from the land of the gods which “grants your deepest wish but takes your most valuable possession”.
Initially thought to be just a chunk of Citrine, the plot of the entire film hangs upon its power.
On a slightly more philosophical note, it warms your heart to be reminded that the power of truth, love and hope – when used in the right way – can trump the traditional superhero weapons hands down.
So, is it all about women power?
Sort of. The film embraces the “if you see it you can be it” mantra.
Wonder Woman herself is the “mysterious female saviour” holding the bad guys to account and shaking them by their ankles as their small change falls from their pockets.
Minerva too – and note she’s a Dr not a Ms – can out lift the muscle men in the gym and track down a late-night attacker to teach him some hard lessons in respect.
However, our “strong, sexy, cool and special” Wonder Woman still wears a basque and thigh-high boots to go into battle, and both women wear heels throughout the majority of the film.
Additionally, even after saving the world, Wonder Woman’s eye liner is still on point. So all in all, not the strongest feminist message.
Will there be a Wonder Woman 3?
Patty Jenkins has previously said she has ideas for a third film, set in the modern day, and would love to work with Gal Gadot again. However, COVID-19 may have put any plans for a third instalment on hold for the time being.
One thing’s for sure, with a list of enemies as long as her arm (including Veronica Cale, Doctor Psycho and Circe), there will always be scope for Wonder Woman sequels, as long as the audience appetite is there.
Thanks to this action-packed second instalment – an antidote to a truly awful year – it’s safe to assume that it won’t be too long before Wonder Woman is back our screens again, doing her bit to save the world.
Wonder Woman 1984 is released in UK cinemas (those not in Tier 3) on Wednesday 16 December. The age rating is PG-13.
Source : Sky News