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Fly girl: Wonder Woman 1984

Stunning superhero flick is played out against a garish recreation of Ronnie Reagan’s America

18 December, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman 1984

WONDER WOMAN 1984
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Certificate: 12a
☆☆☆☆

WHAT a joy to be seated in the BFI Imax cinema in Waterloo, and watch the opening scenes of Wonder Woman 1984 unroll. Having gone from visiting cinemas four times a week to watching films at home since March, to be reminded in such blockbusterly epic fashion why big-screen experiences are still relevant was sheer joy.

It was helped by the fact the opening 10 minutes of this superhero flick is stunning: it features a race on the island of Themyscira, where Amazonian super-women live, and every vertigo-inducing trick is played for maximum effect.

Diana, aka WW, is still a little girl (Lilly Aspell) but good enough to compete against adults in the island’s annual games – an elongated version of It’s A Knockout for underdressed and over-legged Aphrodite-ian humans.

This inventive sequence holds a moral tale for the young WW to take on board and hold in good stead later.

Fast forward to 1984, and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) is working as a historian at the Smithsonian Institute when she isn’t donning sparkly underwear and boshing baddies about.

Sleazy oil salesman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), who runs a Ponzi scheme to hoik cash of gullible investors, has discovered a magic sculpture of hideous design. Lay one’s hands on this garish piece of New Age tat and whatever you wish for will come true.

Found in the lock-up of a crooked jewel dealer, the stone is taken by the FBI to the Smithsonian for examination, and the played-for-laughs baddie knows if he gets his hands on this, he can get up to all sorts of no good.

Barbara (Kristen Wiig) is the nerdish academic with a crush on Diana, who wishes she had WW’s power, while Diana wants nothing more than to be reunited with her long-dead boyfriend (Chris Pine), a pilot who died in a crash 75 years previously. You can see where this is going as the three central figures have dreams and access to hocus pocus to make them become reality.

The story, intentionally or not, mimics the ancient tale of King Midas, the Greek who wished everything he touched turned to gold – before realising that meant he could not eat, nor hug his daughter. The stone, Wonder Woman discovers, has mysteriously appeared through the ages when great civilisations have fallen – prompting her to suspect that its powers may not be harnessed for good.

This adventure is played out against a garish recreation of Ronnie Reagan’s America. There are only so many times you can hear jokes about how terrible fashion was in the 1980s without wanting to shove a bright yellow cashmere pullover down the writer’s throat, and while recognising how horrible aggressive sexist behaviour was at the time, we understand well enough after the 50th leer and letch.

That the film has a clever woman character thinking empowerment will come via morphing into a curve-revealing feline undermines the idea that much progress has been made.

Yet there is a warm heart at the centre of this tale, partly helped by the fun Gadot and Wiig bring to the roles, and the fact such a kitsch narrative is played deadly seriously by all involved.

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