latest animated film Wonder Woman is hands down the
best treatment the character has ever had outside of comics.
Granted, that's not a huge stretch to say. First, there's
not a lot to compare with, especially in light of how often
Superman and Batman have bopped around in media. And though
fun, the Lynda Carter TV series doesn't quite hold up as
well as Lynda Carter has.
But I'll take
it a step further. This is also the best of the DC Universe
films so far, the first one that feels like with a couple
of minor tweaks, it could easily have been a theatrical
release. If Warner Brothers ever gets a live-action movie
off the ground, it will have to borrow from the story set
out by Gail Simone and Michael Jelenic, because this one
already has everything you could want in a Wonder Woman
adventure. It also subtly and effectively underscores that
Princess Diana's superhero career has a much different motivation
than almost every other superhero hitting the big screen.
If the story
has a weakness, it lies in a bit of a glossing over of Amazon
technology. When Wonder Woman lands in Washington, D.C.
in her invisible jet, it does seem to come out of nowhere.
Chalk that up to the slightly strict running time imposed
by the budget on these animated projects. I'll believe somewhere
in the storyboard stage was an explanation when everything
else the Amazons have is strictly in keeping with their
ancient Grecian origins.
In fact, the
movie does a bang-up job of laying out that background in
the first five minutes. Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen)
and the Amazons cut across the screen in fierce battle with
the forces of Ares (Alfred Molina - surprisingly and effectively
subtle). It's savage animation, more violent than anything
these projects have done before. When Hippolyta jumps on
a harpy's back with her sword drawn, it took me a moment
to register that yes, she'd just beheaded her opponent.
Owing some debt
to character design and graphic sequences found in more
adult anime, Wonder Woman still feels Western, and
a true step forward in making animation just another medium
for solid action films. Odd to think that director Lauren
Montgomery had earlier been assigned to a quieter third
on Superman: Doomsday, because she covers the violence
as skillfully as she does the characterization.
reason this is the best Wonder Woman adaptation ever done.
Every character really stands out, in ways that aren't always
expected. Voicing Wonder Woman, Keri Russell plays Diana's
naivete without coming off as silly or child-like. There's
a hard edge to the Princess that never quite disappears,
even as she's trying to warm up to Steve Trevor.
For the first
time in, well, ever outside of comics, Trevor feels like
a character we might follow in his own right. Nathan Fillion
gives him the usual cocksure delivery, and at first, his
calling Diana "an angel" seems like a pick-up line, one
he's delivered a hundred times before. But it's believable
to track his realization that she really is special, and
if they're not exactly deeply in love by the end of the
film, it's clear that that will happen.
Of course, that
golden lasso of truth helps to get him in touch with his
Even the score gives this movie a unique identity. Composed
by Christopher Drake, the music has appropriately heroic
moments, soaring where it needs to soar. It also, however,
doesn't feel like a retread of Superman or Batman
scores, plunking out its own territory.
The extras seem
almost beside the point, and it's hard to say whether or
not going for the full two-disc special edition would make
a difference. Both discs include background documentaries,
which cover aspects of Wonder Woman's evolution - one in
comics ("A Subversive Dream") and one as the culmination
of ancient myth ("Daughter of Myth").
Every one of
these background documentaries has been interesting for
those who care about history. Admittedly, though, "A Subversive
Dream" elides over some of the more salacious parts of creator
William Moulton Marston's psychological ideas about women.
This may be PG-13, but there's still a bit of a family audience
to keep enthralled.
there's a look at the next DVD, Green Lantern: First
Flight, that's included in both single and double disc
editions. Montgomery appears to be directing that one, too,
which seems to be a pretty sound choice.
I'll admit that
I haven't watched this film with its commentary, but that,
too, is a feature on both, and I probably will get around
to it eventually. It just speaks so well for itself that
right now didn't seem urgent. I just want to watch the movie