Wonder Woman 1984
M, 151 minutes
Few will deny that Gal Gadot was right for the lead in the 2017 Wonder Woman movie, but with the release of Wonder Woman 1984, again directed by Patty Jenkins, I’m prepared to go further. Gadot as Wonder Woman – or Diana Prince, as she’s more commonly known – may be the single best piece of casting in a superhero role since Christopher Reeve first donned the cape and spandex of the Man of Steel.
A semi-immortal Amazon princess turned Washington-based anthropologist, Diana is almost as much of a resident alien as the extra-terrestrial Superman – and Gadot, like Reeve, is up to the challenge of conveying effortless mental and physical superiority without seeming unbearably smug.
Unlike Superman, Diana literally has her feet on the ground: flying is one of the few things she can’t do. But her gifts are almost as evident in her relaxed, confident way of walking through the world, which she observes in quick, alert glances that convey sincere appreciation as well as discreet amusement.
Gal Gadot in a scene from Wonder Woman 1984. Credit:AP
Diana’s self-sufficiency masks a degree of melancholy: even in the 1980s, she continues to mourn her boyfriend Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a casualty of the First World War. Not that she lacks for present-day admirers – among them Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) her anxiety-prone colleague at the Smithsonian.
Barbara’s interest in Diana can just about be read as platonic, but the early scenes between the two women give Wiig every chance to show off her knack for awkward flirting, a speciality since her days on Saturday Night Live.
The opening stretch of the film has a straightforward, high-spirited quality, not least in a shopping mall action sequence that gives the design team a chance to go to town with 1980s fashions.
Some of the brio fades as we get further into the plot, which rests on the rather elementary device of a magical stone that grants wishes. Diana wishes to have Steve back, Barbara wishes to be like Diana, and smarmy huckster Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) wishes his way towards his goal of world domination.
On this level the film resembles a laborious children’s fable about the danger of being too greedy, or relying on short cuts. Curiously, the moral could equally be understood as “abandon your dreams”: Diana may be a species of role model, but it seems that her genetically transmitted powers are not for the likes of Barbara, nor presumably for you or I.
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