Wonder Woman 1984 (4 stars)

Wonder Woman 1984

Director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot reunite for a slick sequel

We could all use a little saving right now, so thank heavens for Wonder Woman and, indeed, for Warner Bros – the studio that released Tenet back in August into this most challenging of cinemagoing landscapes, and are heroically back for more. Patty Jenkins returns to the helm following the wildly successful first film, cracking the whip on a slick sequel which trades the horrors of war for the horrors of… the 80s.

It's in this greed-fuelled, gotta-have-it era that we find Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who is working at the Smithsonian, whilst doing some indiscreet superheroing on the side. After the opening childhood flashback, which gives the estimable Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright some screen-time as Diana's mother and aunt, we're reunited with the adult Diana in full Wonder Woman garb, swinging round a mall by her trusty Lasso of Truth, as she pursues a gang of mulleted, permed and moustachioed crooks who endanger a young girl's life.

She's soon befriending a nervous and geeky new colleague, Barbara (Kristen Wiig), with the pair pondering a mysterious and potentially powerful artefact, dubbed the 'Dreamstone'. Meanwhile, Pedro Pascal's Max Lord is in pursuit of the stone himself; he's the smarmy CEO of a struggling oil company and is looking to boost its fortunes.

Playing Diana, Gadot's radiance, integrity and ensembles light up the screen. Jenkins frames the former model less lasciviously than a male director might, coming across as more awestruck by the character's femininity and prowess – and it's notable that Wonder Woman takes her powers up a couple of notches here. The director coaxes another charming performance from her star, who is also very able in the fight scenes. It's a role that could easily seem aloof – as Diana lives out her lonely existence, whilst looking impossibly lovely – but Gadot always exudes warmth and compassion.

The scenes with Diana and Chris Pine's Steve Trevor, whose return has been widely trailed, are full of romance and gentle humour. If Diana was seeing mankind through alien eyes last time round, it's sweet that it's now Steve who is wowed by, what seems to him, a thrillingly futuristic world. As that suggests, it hits some of the first movie's beats and there's a general air of familiarity to a story that has undoubtedly been culled from similar films, but in its confident, frequently exciting execution it manages to dazzle nonetheless; the two and a half hours absolutely whizz by.

Perhaps most impressive is the impact of its villains. Pascal gives megalomaniac Max bags of dastardly oomph, while Wiig is an inspired choice as the attention-seeking Barbara – later morphing into Cheetah – whose outfits get steadily trashier, and more fantastic. There's an effectively incorporated MeToo-style sideline, with the film depicting the constant, low-level sexual harassment that Diana and eventually Barbara experience for daring to be glamorous but, for the most part, Jenkins creates an absorbing, empowering fantasy world where you're happy to suspend your disbelief – a few preposterous costume changes aside.

Boasting heart, punch and fabulousness in spades, Wonder Woman 1984 is a deserving vehicle for its iconic heroine, while there's a touching message about togetherness that everyone needs to hear.

Available to watch in cinemas from Wed 16 Dec.

Wonder Woman 1984

  • 4 stars
  • 2020
  • US
  • 2h 31min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Patty Jenkins
  • Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen
  • UK release: 16 December 2020

Superhero sequel.