Wonder Woman must be a hard character to write. In my many years of collecting comic books, I’ve never collected Wonder Woman on a monthly basis. As a kid, it’s because of the stigma of a collecting a comic book starring “a girl” (gasp!). As I got older though, I think my disinterest in collecting Wonder Woman is primarily founded on my disinterest in her as a character.
See, Wonder Woman was created by the same guy who created the lie detector machine (kind of funny, given Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth). He was also, among other things, a polygamist, with a wife an a live-in girlfriend. Apparently traits of both of these women made it into the character of Wonder Woman, an answer to the male-dominated landscape of comics back in the 1940s. As a proponent for women’s rights, Wonder Woman stood strong alongside the biggest heroes of the day with exceptional sales, good stories, and strong popularity.
Then an interesting thing happened. Wonder Woman became…uninteresting. At least to me growing up and, to a certain extent, even now.
That’s why it was so refreshing to me to see a new, modern take on the character that fully embraced all established versions without losing the essence of what made Wonder Woman special.
The new DC Animated Universe Wonder Woman movie is really a lot of fun.
More after the jump.
I love the idea of the character, a female member of DC’s Trinity with Batman and Superman alongside. However, Wonder Woman just…must be hard to write. See, when Batman gets a bad writer, or Superman does, sales hurt a little bit, but ultimately they survive. These are icons, after all. Yet Wonder Woman has been many things over the years – some writers have mader her essentially a female version of Superman, while others have played up the Greek mythology of her origin. Others have turned Wonder Woman into a political figure/super hero, an emissary of Themyscira to the world of man. Inconsistencies have crippled her character and, out of the trinity, she’s the only one with only ONE monthly comic (compared to about 4 or 5 each for Superman and Batman) and, even then, there have been times when no Wonder Woman comic has been on the stands.
Is it just that the character is that hard to write? If so, then why is it that this movie turned out to be so good? Especially considering that DC’s Animated Universe previous output has been…spotty, at best?
As Wonder Woman begins, we are in the middle of an ancient battle between the Amazons, led by Hippolyta, and the forces of Ares, God of War. The first thing you’ll notice is that, even compared to the previous PG-13 animated features from DC and Marvel, this film is pretty violent. We don’t get the kind of silly over-violence from the recent Hulk Vs., but this isn’t really that kind of film. Instead we see an epic battle full of slashing, cutting, hacking, and even a decapitation! Surprisingly dark and serious stuff, and a great start to the film.
Next, we get to the story of Diana, daughter of Hippolyta and not-quite yet Wonder Woman. After a pilot crash lands on the island of Themyscira, the only-woman population is up in arms. After all, Hippolyta has forbidden men from the island, as dealing with men can only lead to trouble. The pilot, Steve Trevor, proves himself trustworthy, and eventually Diana is chosen to return him back to the mainland. Problem is, Ares is back, so it becomes Diana’s responsibility to stop him as well.
The main issue I had with Wonder Woman is the same issue I have with all of these animated movies – budget contraints limit the film to, essentially, just over an hour. With just over an hour to tell a story involving TWO epic battles (including one at the Washington Mall in DC), a series of tests to prove Diana’s might, a love story, and a couple of well-choreographed fight scenes, you end up with not a lot of time to develop the actual story.
Still, the story, by Michael Jelenic and Gail Simone, does as much as it can in the time given. A LOT happens, and there’s no time for dilly-dallying. Not a single scene feels like padding, and nothing feels wasted. There is no drag time during the middle of the film, as is pretty often in most of these flicks. It moves along at a quick pace, and never gets boring.
The direction of Lauren Montgomery is heavily inspired by the visual style of Justice League Unlimited, which isn’t surprising given that the film is produced by Bruce Timm. Still, this film almost fits comfortably in that universe – the camera during the fight scenes moves the same, the character designs are similar, and even the character of Wonder Woman feels the same. Fans of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini Batman/Superman/Justice League era of animation will be extremely happy with the film.
The voice actors all put in an excellent job – Keri Russel is excellent as Wonder Woman (you know…I don’t think I’ve ever not liked her in anything), Nathan Fillion…well, he’s always excellent, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson, Virginia Madsen…this is all top notch talent and they all do fantastic in their roles. The voices sound familiar, but at no point do you ever lose the character in the actor, which I find I constantly do in those Dreamworks CG movies.
Definitely give Wonder Woman a try. If you don’t like comic books or animation, it’s probably not going to change your mind the way something like Wall-E would. But it’s not meant to – it’s a film for fans of the character, and for fans of comic books. Not recommended for the kiddies given the violence, but definitely recommended for everyone else.
Paul’s Awesomeness Score – 7 out of 10!
Buy Wonder Woman using the links below!