Even worse, director/co-writer Patty Jenkins tries to make you sympathise with an aerobatic, beautiful, intelligent warrior princess/archaeologist who wears glorious dresses. She also has a glowing whip that can wrap around lightning – you can’t forget that. But the one thing Diana/Wonder Woman doesn’t have is Steve (Chris Pine), her hunky lost love who died as a pilot during World War I (that's another thing: she never ages).
Kristen Wiig is adorably awkward as Barbara. Photo: Warner Bros./DC Comics/Clay Enos
Working alongside Diana at a museum in Washington DC is Barbara: a geeky disaster played by Kristen Wiig. No one ever notices her, and she wishes she had Diana's strength, beauty and adoration. If there’s anyone to root for, it’s Barbara – especially with Wiig’s adorably awkward performance.
And then there’s the opportunistic capitalist, typical in 80s movies or movies set in the 80s. The annoyingly named Max Strong (Pedro Pascal) is the CEO of an oil-mining company, Black Gold, which is about to go under. He's all thumbs and smiles.
Luckily for all of them, a magical stone is discovered that’ll make all those wishes come true. Diana gets Steve back. Barbara becomes strong and (more) attractive. And Max’s failing business strikes gold. But guess what? The wishes aren’t always for the best. Thankfully, the cliché isn’t exacerbated by someone saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for’.
Yay, Steve (Chris Pine) is back... sort of. Photo: Warner Bros./DC Comics/Clay Enos
It’s a Disney Channel premise wrapped in the worn world of 80s capitalism. The film itself capitalises on the present cultural nostalgia for that time, ignited by Stranger Things. There are those massive shopping malls, where Wonder Woman, suited and booted, makes her entrance and catches a few dumb thieves. There are fuzzy televisions, too, and arcades and spacey aerobics classes. This is the 80s, after all!
Some of this tickles when the resurrected Steve walks around, amazed by everything from escalators to public bins. But Pine and Gadot's fizzling chemistry has a lot to do with that, even if the romance is flattened by Steve being in a different man's body (yes, it's confusing).
Max spouts toddler-level positive preaching on his TV adverts, ‘Life is good, but it can be better!’ Once he gets hold of the Dreamstone, he becomes a sort of Wall Street genie. He's weak as a villain, and inspires no fear.
Pedro Pascal stars as the opportunistic capitalist Max Strong. Photo: Warner Bros./DC Comics
And with all of this, writers Patty Jenkins, Dave Callahan and Geoff Johns barely proceed with their opening theme, stated only at the start and the end. The action-packed and largely superfluous prologue sees Diana competing with her fellow Amazonians in an opulent, mythological triathlon. Afterwards, Diana is taught over and over and over that ‘No true hero is born from lies’, that she ‘needs courage to face the truth’, and that ‘truth is all there is’. Okay, okay, we get it.
The writers fumble in their efforts to connect truth and lies with the film’s wishful story, summarising that people’s wishes aren’t what they want, actually. This critic was willing to go along with it, given the current crisis and absence of new superhero movies; it’s nice at times to sit back and experience a purely unthinking spectacle. But Wonder Woman 1984 turns into a tiring, expensive escape.
Wonder Woman 1984 is available on digital platforms from Wednesday 13 January.
|Wonder Woman 1984 review
16 Dec 20 – 16 Dec 21, IN CINEMAS
13 Jan 21 – 13 Jan 22, ON DIGITAL
|£determined by cinemas
|Click here for more information