Thursday, March 19, 2009

DVD Review: Wonder Woman

The live-action Wonder Woman film has been in development hell for years, and it doesn't look like it's getting out anytime soon. So in the meantime, animation god Bruce Timm is kind enough to bless us with this direct-to-DVD animated feature, simply titled Wonder Woman. The plot is pretty much your standard superhero origin story: Diana (Keri Russell) is the daughter of Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen), queen of the Amazons, a race of immortal Greek warrior women hidden on the mystic island of Themiscyra (no, there's no lesbian sex here guys, sorry). One day an American fighter pilot named Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) crash lands on the island. The Amazons decide to chose their finest warrior through combat, who would escort Steve Trevor back to "Man's World", wearing the colors of the American flag (learned from Trevor's uniform patch) as a sign of friendship (look, it was that way in the comics, OK, just go with it). Unfortunately Ares (Alfred Molina), god of war and mortal enemy of the Amazons, chooses now of all times to break out of his prison on Themyscira. And if you don't have a good idea where the story goes from there, you've obviously been isolated on a mystic island your whole life.

The Pros: Memorize these words. Practice them in front of the mirror every night before bed. Make it your motto:! Just giving us Batman: The Animated Series would have been enough, but this guy also saw fit to grant us Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Justice League. If I hadn't had Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero to crawl back to during the Joel Schumacher years, also known as the Dark Ages, I would have gone bat-crap insane. Not to mention he gave us the only good Superman film ever made, namely Superman: Doomsday (sorry guys, but the Christopher Reeve films sucked; ALL of them). So obviously, there's a lot to expect from this film. And does it deliver? Well, of course it delivers! Come on, when has Bruce Timm ever made anything bad? (Superman: Brainiac Attacks doesn't count! He wasn't involved with that one!)

The first thing that struck me about this film is that it wasn't a simple superhero action romp. It is better described as romantic comedy/fantasy war epic. The interaction between Wonder Woman & Steve Trevor is both hilarious and sweet, and it really makes the film. If there was ever a superhero film for girls, this is the one. But that's not to say the guys can't enjoy it too. Believe me there is plenty of Lord of the Rings-style battles and Clash of the Titans-style monster fights. The film has a great cast including Nathan Fillion, Rosario Dawson, and Alfred Molina. Keri Russell did an acceptable as Wonder Woman, though a part of me still missed Susan Eisenberg. Though honestly it's unfair to compare them, because the two have completely different interpretations of the character. In the Justice League series, Eisenberg played the character as somewhat meek an inexperienced, while Russell's Wonder Woman is more brash & forceful.

The Cons: Two words: the length. I'm not saying 75 minutes isn't a common running time with direct-to-DVD features, but this particular story desperately needed more screen time. They barely have time to finish the origin part of a plot before they have to jump right into the climax, and the whole thing just feels rushed.

The End: Wonder Woman has always been a tragically misunderstood character. In almost literally every appearance of the character onscreen and in comics she's been sexualized. There's never enough emphasis on her character, she's always just the hot warrior princess. And as usual, Bruce Timm seems to be the only one who knows how to treat these characters right. He was the only one that knew it was pronounced "Lex LuthOr" not "Lex LuthEr", or "Mix-yiz-spit-lick" not "Mix-el-plick". He was the first to portray Mr. Freeze and the Riddler as interesting original characters. And now he once again gives Wonder Woman the respect she deserves. And at the same time he actually makes a socially relevant statement about the male/female dynamic that not enough people are saying. For a comic book fan, this is obviously a must.

Overall, I give Wonder Woman a Silver Anarchy Coin.

Click here to visit the official website for Wonder Woman.

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