There may be spoilers ahead.
No wonder Warner Brothers took the first opportunity to dump this bloated mess onto HBO Max. It’s two hours of heavy-handed satire/message and 30 minutes of action. The date of the title is bit of a misnomer, so don’t look too hard for any George Orwellian influence (or even any old hit singles). And the jokes about Steve (Chris Pine) being in a state of awe about turning up 70 years into his future are mostly weak – how many times can you squeeze a laugh out the fact that an elevator moves for goodness sake?
Which is a shame because it starts very well indeed with a young Diana (Scottish actress Lilly Aspell) taking part in a Games against much older rivals. The competition itself is very imaginative and there is a surprise come-uppance for the young lass. And the transition of the ultimate Wimp Woman the nerdy needy Barbara (Kitsten Wiig) into super-predator The Cheetah is a joy to behold as she lifts jaw-dropping weights, discovers her inner slinky sexy self, and literally kicks the ass of a sleazy scumbag. Gal Gadot’s sardonic Wonder Woman has not lost any of that character’s freshness.
The story is set, for no apparent reason, seven decades on from the superhero’s previous incursion with Wonder Woman quick off the mark to rescue a woman from being knocked down and foil a robbery, played in part for comedy. Wiig and Gadot are by far the best part of the picture, linked by a desire for something beyond their existing realities and by the contrast in how they use their super powers. Had their initial friendship turning sour provided the film’s entire focus then the result would have been far more enjoyable, Wiig’s evolution into uber-villain commanding the screen, and the ultimate battle royal worth the wait.
But it’s as if Big (1988) sneaked in, the old make-a-wish idea, but this time when wishes come true they do so at a price, as Diana, pining for the return of Steve, soon realizes. Oil prospector-cum-conman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) runs Wish Fulfilment Central (and Over-Acting Central as a sideline) after discovering an ancient artefact. And that leads to a mountain of guff. No global political issue seems outside this movie’s remit as we dash between the Middle East and Russia and a remake of War Games (1983).
There’s an unhealthy obsession with chucking children into the action with the sole intent of heightening tension (especially in one sequence when kids with acres of desert to play in insist on playing on the road!) And there’s a predilection for instant solutions – Wonder Woman suddenly remembers she can make things invisible, and the golden wings she finally dons come with a quickly-inserted legendary backstory.
The element of Wonder Woman turning more human through the loss of her powers, and the human consequence of regaining those powers, would have been enough to anchor the story without the need for an endless lecture. The action sequences are top-notch – there’s a sensational sequence in the desert – but overall this feels like a movie Meghan and Harry would make.
Ironically, this $200 million picture – whose sole function is to make gazillions – informs us that greed is bad. Even more bizzarely, I guess in the interest of future sequels, nothing – not even love – can interfere with Wonder Woman’s super powers.
In cinemas now (if you can find one open, that is) and on HBO Max on Dec 25.