Wonder Woman 1984
M, 4 stars
Cut brilliantly to the electronic drum beat of New Order's Blue Monday, the trailer for WW84 is a fantastic mix of music and stunning image, with a handful of the feature's better comic scenes. It has been on cinema screens since last Christmas, and I've been its biggest fan since.
In fact, as Wonder Woman 1984's cinema release got pushed back a handful of times through the year by COVID lockdowns and a terrified film industry, rewatching that trailer just continued to build my sense of expectation both for the film and for the time when cinemas might fill again.
Is it even possible for a film to be as comic book perfect and funny as I built WW84 up in my head to be over the year?
I can say that the answer is both yes and no. There are moments of Patty Jenkins' superhero sequel that are perfect, much of it is clever and fun, but its final moments feel like the screenwriters let their idea get away from them and they just emptied the kitchen junk drawer right into the plot.
In an extremely extended early scene set in Wonder Woman's childhood on the mythical island of Themyscria, a young Diana (here played by Lilly Aspel) learns a valuable lesson at the hands of her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright, and I'm just pausing my synopsis here to say the cut of her character's leather kilt is a sapphic dream).
Flashback over, we again meet Diana Prince (Gal Godot). It is almost seven decades since she lost boyfriend Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) and the ageless Amazon spends her time working as an anthropologist at Washington's Smithsonian and throwing on her superhero togs to right wrongs and stop crimes, as in another extremely fun extended scene where she foils the heist of an antiquities black market run out of a shopping local mall pawn shop.
While Diana has no interest in meeting another man, she does make a new friend at work in the self-deprecating and sweetly awkward Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig). Barbara is asked to consult for the FBI in identifying one of the antiquities Wonder Woman earlier recovered. Transcribing the Latin around the ancient crystal, Diana suspects it may be a link to some ancient and unfriendly gods.
Anyone who saw the trailer might have wondered how Chris Pine's character, whose self-sacrifice at the end of the 2017 film helped end World War I, can come back. Folk old enough, like me, to remember the 1970s television series might have thought the answer might be Pine playing his character's own grandson just like the Lynda Carter Diana dated. I won't completely spoil it, but the Deus Ex Machina that allows it also involves Pedro Pascal's oil baron Ponzi-scheme billionaire bad guy, somehow, as well as that childhood lesson - that an unearned victory is no victory at all.
The 1984 setting allows costumer Lindy Hemming and the set designers to run rampant. More 1984 than a Cosby sweater or a Ken Done coaster, there is a fun Pretty Woman-style fashion montage where Chris Pine's Steve shows off a series of "looks" for Diana, including thin leather belts, high-waisted pants, parachute material and rolled-up sleeves.
The 1984 setting also allows for the film's later plot, with the world's superpowers escalating stare-down of their nuclear arsenals giving Diana some real stakes to contend with.
The historical setting provides constant visual gags throughout, and some unexpectedly poignant moments. As Diana and Steve walk through the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum - and we're supposed to be enjoying Chris Pine's reactions to everything as his character died 65 years earlier and missed the evolution of technology from passenger aircraft through to space flight - an astronaut hands him a flyer. It's been nine months since it was safe to take a piece of paper from a stranger without running to the bathroom to wash your hands for two minutes and that made me nostalgic to watch.
Pine is charming and watchable. Saturday Night Live breakout star Kristen Wiig parlays her physical comedy into an enjoyable sidekick-come-supervillain in Barbara. The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal, feels initially wooden but warms into his Trumpian egomaniacal cad Maxwell Lord.
This film, as its predecessor, is so enjoyable because of the natural presence and warmth of Israeli actress Gal Godot. Just so winsome, in the film's early moments we enjoy a handful of interactions with Wonder Woman and some young girls representing the millions that will be inspired by seeing a woman just so - wonderful. It's not just her butt-kicking. It's her empathy. It's her fierce intellect.
In her screenplay and in her direction, both Patty Jenkins and Diana have no time for the male gaze and the creepy sense of male entitlement, but while Diana still empathises with all humans, as Barbara explores her dark side, her #MeToo fightback of a male aggressor leans more towards Aileen Wuornos.
The film has one of those after-the-credits-have-started moments, so don't be fooled and run for the car park early.