Wonder Woman (US - BD)
Marcus crash lands on Themyscira and spends some time with the Amazonians
After defeating the God of War, Ares (Alfred Molina), Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen) and her Amazon warriors were granted a life of solitude from man's world on the mystical island of Themyscira. There, Hippolyta forged herself a child from clay and she grew up to be Princess Diana, or to us mere mortals, Wonder Woman (Keri Russell). Themyscira has remained pure ever since, keeping Ares imprisoned and its female warriors strong, but now the island has an unexpected visitor—a downed pilot by the name of Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion).
I never used to like Wonder Woman too much. I had a fading memory of the seventies TV show and there was a period in the 1990s when I casually collected her comics but in general I didn’t really get her nor did I understand her significance in the larger DC Universe. That was until the Justice League Animated Series (later to become Justice League Unlimited). I fell for Wonder Woman in spades. How she was represented in that show made her just as important as Superman and Batman—a genuine third point of view on what should happen and not merely the token female as many a super-heroine can come off as in a super group.
This is the latest direct-to-video animated project under the DC Universe banner and once again this next stage in the Bruce Timm evolution of animated DC characters is one to sit back and enjoy with a sense that it’s being done right. Being the first project to really get into the origins of a character ( Doomsday was an event, New Frontier was a story arc, and Gotham Knight was a series of short stories) Wonder Woman really is a character that deserves this amount of time dedicated to her.
Design wise I love what they've done with Wonder Woman here. She's less doll-like than she was in some of the Justice League designs (not that I have a problem with that look either) and has a very strong look about her without coming across too tough looking. It's Wonder Woman looking pretty spot on, though I have to mention that my two little girls were quite vocal in their unhappiness that she didn't come with her star earrings in this feature. Girls love those star earrings.
The first thing that strikes you is just how PG-13 this is. There are decapitations a plenty, some of the usual fantastically effective DC Universe fights with a little extra brutality and even the odd hint of sexuality (well, within the restraints of a PG-13 movie anyway). The set up for Diana doesn’t veer too far from the original origin, yet manages to fit into the modern way of doing things and the story really makes use of the movie runtime by countering the many fight scenes with some nice human moments between Wonder Woman and her new cocky pilot friend Steve.
As you’d probably expect, the story leads up to another war with Ares, who looks a lot like a Fist of the North Star character and Molina sounds like a nasty He-Man in his voice work (seriously he sounds so much like him). The action really ramps up as a huge battle ensues in Washington and the scale of the finale is epic in both action and emotion with many of the Amazonian warriors going through a lot more than just hand to hand combat.
Wonder Woman proves without a doubt that she can sustain a feature length dedicated to her and adds even more weight to the argument that a live action adventure is needed to make this character's importance wider than just the built in comic book fan base. All we need now is a story at least as strong this one, a director that can sell the premise of a strong female character who runs around in a gold, red and blue swimming costume kicking bad guy ass and for someone at Warner Bros. to give Angelina Jolie a contract to sign.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I love 2D animation in HD. Everything just looks so clean, every colour glows, every piece of the hand drawn animation is captured fantastically and the step up from small screen work in the Justice League TV show to this 'more room to breathe' project, shines off of the screen.
This really has moments that show off just how good 2D animation can look and some of its more epic shots are some of the best work the DCU has provided so far. 2D on Blu-ray is such a delight to watch and the SD screen caps used here don't represent just how good the HD image looks.
Much of the audio lives in the front speakers. The sound design rarely even uses the rears beyond the odd jet fly by or spear throw. Saying that, everything in the front is clear and consistent and is quite dynamic considering its limitations.
Generally this all works well with the good use of bass making the overall mix sound better than it probably is. This isn’t a high end action movie, despite the visuals on the screen out-doing most of what’s on offer in the live action field and while the 5.1 system isn’t used to full effect, it’s not really missed either.
Well first up we get a solid commentary from Gregory Noveck, Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery and Michael Jelenic. As per usual this is mostly headed by Bruce Timm, giving his insight into the animation, the history of the character and what works and what doesn't. Director Lauren Montgomery talks plenty about the tricks she used to make this as grand and epic as she could.
'Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream' (00:25:35) is a nice look at the history of the character and her evolving role of being a symbol of female strength in a male dominated medium and how she's become such an icon in everyday life. This is complimented with 'Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth' (00:25:28) which looks at the mythological backgrounds to the Wonder Woman character. While both of these documentaries were good, I would have liked a bit more on the history of the comic book stories and the evolution of her design under different artists.
'A First Look At The Animated Feature Film Green Lantern' (00:10:12) shows us a flew glimpses at the next DCU release. There's not much in the way of final product but plenty of sketch work and a real sense that this will be spending plenty of time in space rather than on earth. Oh and it's Hal Jordan Green Lantern, so count me in as excited.
Also there’re some previews of Justice League: The New Frontier (00:10:45), Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess (00:10:26) and Batman: Gotham Knight (00:10:11). These are all from previous releases and nothing new is included.
The 'Bruce Timm Picks' for this release are the Wonder Woman centric Justice League episodes, 'Paradise Lost' Parts 1 & 2, 'To Another Shore' and 'Hawk and Dove' (all running at around twenty two minutes). Even though I have all of these episodes on previous releases, it's still a joy to watch them back again and they just remind me that I really must do a big Justice League re-watch soon.
Wonder Woman continues to be a character that I love seeing on screen. The mix of noble warrior and let’s face it, hot chick kicking ass, is one that I’ve grown to love within the DC universe (and beyond).
The DC Universe feature length animated projects continue to go from strength to strength and I’d probably have to put this one at the top of the list. It’s fun, action packed, full of character and looks bloody great on Blu-ray.
Now all I have to do is wait patiently for Green Lantern in a few months and hope that somewhere down the line Bruce Timm announces a big, feature length, Justice League project to warm my fanboy heart.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release. Thanks to Andy for the screen caps.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 3rd March 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, French
Extras: 2x Documentaries, Commentary, 4X Justice League Cartoons, Exclusive look at Green Lantern Animated Movie, Peaks at Justive League New Frontier, Wonder Woman, Batman Gotham Knight, Digital Copy.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Cast: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina
Genre: Action and Animation
Length: 73 minutes
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