In "Wonder Woman 1984" Gal Gadot’s superhero antics are still a wonder to behold
Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro Pascal, Lilly Aspell, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen. Written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham. Directed by Patty Jenkins. Available at the Cineplex Store and other participating digital retailers beginning Dec. 25. 151 minutes. PG
“Be careful what you wish for” could be both a plot synopsis and snappy critical assessment for “Wonder Woman 1984,” the much-delayed sequel to “Wonder Woman,” the hit superhero origin story of three years ago.
Gal Gadot is back in the dual role of the title Amazon warrior and her fashionable alter-ego, Diana Prince, who works incognito as a curator of ancient artifacts at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
She’s again directed with verve, style and humour by Patty Jenkins, who also co-writes (with Geoff Johns and Dave Callaham).
The story this time resembles an Indiana Jones adventure, with Wonder Woman’s golden “Lasso of Truth” acting more like Indy’s bullwhip.
And one of the best action set pieces is a straight steal from the desert highway chase of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” — although the golden metal suit Wonder Woman sports on the poster and in the film is an homage to the sexy sci-fi robot of Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.”
Via flashback, Jenkins and company return us to paradise island Themyscira for a thrilling Amazon Games prologue with Lilly Aspell again playing the young Diana/Wonder Woman. There are also cameos from her commanding mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and ferocious aunt Antiope (Robin Wright).
Also returning to the saga (no spoiler, it’s in the trailer) is the gnarly Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Diana/Wonder Woman’s fly boy love interest, who supplies fish-out-of-water yuks as he discovers jet planes and Pop Tarts.
The romantic reunion requires much explaining and many narrative contortions because “Wonder Woman 1984” is mainly set, as the title helpfully indicates and the plot amusingly skewers, in the year of bad fashion, breakdancing, synth music and sexist TV workout routines.
That’s 66 years after the events of “Wonder Woman,” which was mainly set during the First World War, when warmongering Germans and a pompous elder god named Ares were threatening humanity.
To get Steve from 1918 to 1984 without having him look like a fossilized centenarian requires a supernatural assist from this film’s MacGuffin, a rocky artifact that resembles the sludgy icicles that drip from car mufflers in winter. Holders of this dubious prize merely have to wish for something and it shall happen, no matter how big or small the desire is.
This naturally attracts the interest of this film’s central villain, megalomaniac oil baron Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), who looks and acts like the 1980s version of Donald Trump and whose motto is “Life is good, but it can be better … All you need is to want it.”
Lord gets competition for his world-conquering ambitions from Dr. Barbara Minerva, a fellow curator of Diana’s at the Smithsonian. Minerva, played by an oddly cast Kristen Wiig — original choice Emma Stone would have been better — yearns to get out of her dowdy duds and into the cheesy catsuit of supervillain Cheetah. Where’s that make-a-wish rocksicle?
This is a lot to pack into a single movie, which explains the somewhat wearisome 151-minute runtime.
Lord’s Trumpian posturing, so good as to almost be distracting, begins to wear out its welcome long before the inevitable third-act fireworks.
He seems strangely even more of an anachronism than fly boy Steve, because “Wonder Woman 1984” was supposed to come out as long as a year ago, pre-pandemic and when Trump was still feared as U.S. president, instead of the lame-duck electoral loser he’s lately become.
It remains to be seen how this film holds up in years to come, although it will easily outlast the wretched “Justice League,” the ensemble superhero DC Comics disaster from the same year as “Wonder Woman.”
Gadot retains her abundant charm as the fearless Wonder Woman — and her icy cool Diana agreeably melts into a more simpatico figure, a woman of great strength and bravery who also has to cope with physical pain and the emotional toll of love.
There may be a lot of padding in “Wonder Woman 1984,” but there’s also a lot to enjoy. Gadot’s character isn’t getting older, she’s evolving, and that’s worth watching.
(This review was originally published in the Toronto Star.)