Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman 1984 sees Diana as Washington DC’s sveltest singleton. Although it has been decades since her great love Steve died in a plane crash at the end of Wonder Woman (2017), Diana hasn’t moved on emotionally. She works at the Smithsonian Institute and dines by herself while her Wonder Woman avatar prevents small-time crimes. Having killed the god of war and saved the world from annihilation in the previous film, she is clearly ready for something bigger. She, and us, need to be very patient.
Before Diana (Gal Gadot) meets her nemesis Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal), she runs into the timid gemmologist Barbara (Kristen Wiig). A mysterious boon-granting object called the Dreamstone that has landed up at the Smithsonian miraculously brings back Steve (Chris Pine) as well as transforms Barbara into a more confident (but also nastier) person. The Dreamstone reaches Maxwell, a Donald Trump-like huckster who uses it to gather all the money and power he can get.
The neat balance between necessary exposition and fleet and spectacular action that made the first movie so enthralling is sorely missing in the sequel. Unevenly paced and filled with inconsequential moments that add little to the larger plot, Wonder Woman 1984 kicks into gear only in its final hour. Maxwell’s terrible powers threaten to bring the planet to the brink of destruction – always a welcome turn of events in a superhero movie.
This demagogue in a business suit isn’t quite the arch-enemy that Wonder Woman deserves. Despite a canny and entertaining performance by Pedro Pascal, Maxwell Lord is like his schemes – full of hot air and barely effective. Equally underwhelming is Barbara, who turns into Cheetah but has a roar worse than her bite.
The still-intact chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine rescues the portions of the 151-minute movie in which we wait for Wonder Woman and Maxwell Lord to finally confront each other. Steve is the one this time round with the sense of awe and wonder as he discovers the technological advances made since his time on Earth and rekindles his passion for Diana.
Beginning on a high note with an Olympics-like spectacle at Diana’s kingdom Themyscira, Wonder Woman 1984 slides into stasis and soars again when it remembers its purpose. Although Gal Gadot is as watchable as ever, her character barely progresses. Diana still appears to be stuck in the past, and the sequel too frequently takes us back in time to the wonders of the previous, and superior, movie.