WONDER WOMAN (2009)
The fourth DC Universe animated original movie features Wonder Woman, but it’s a wonder it got made with how many bad choices the creative team made.
The film opens during a 300-influenced battle sequence between the Amazons and the forces of Ares, the God of War (Alfred Molina). It is poorly presented as director Lauren Montgomery chose to create the illusion of action scenes from a live-action movie by simulating the perspective of a shaky camera. The Amazons win and Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen) is about to kill Ares when his father Zeus demands she stop, although it’s rather hypocritical considering all the deaths has Ares has just caused.
Ares' mother, the goddess Hera, offers a compromise. She binds Ares with gauntlets that suppress his powers and render him mortal, so the Amazons can keep him prisoner. She also offers the Amazons the island Themyscira where they can live hidden from the world of Man, although why man is considered an issue isn’t clear since it was a god and his monsters that caused so much turmoil. Also, part of the deal is the Amazons won’t be affected by the ravages of time and Hippolyta will be granted a child, not through “unholy union,” but created out of clay. We jump ahead and Diana (Keri Russell) is young woman, so she time appears to be affecting her.
Fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) is shot down and lands on Themyscira. For some odd reason, he has been given the maturity of a teenager. The ogling of naked Amazons bathing when he first discovers other people is understandable, but when Hippolyta has him under the spell of the golden lasso and asks what he may be thinking, his response of “your daughter has a nice rack” had me question if Howard Stern was playing the part.
Hippolyta decides Trevor must be returned to the outside world. A contest is devised and because her mother won’t let her participate, Diana enters anonymously, a literary device that signals she will win. As the contest unfolds, Ares escapes. Diana takes Steve back, and he offers to help search for Ares. Naturally, being the sleazy fighter pilot, he takes her out to get her drunk unaware of the stamina of an Amazon. When he tries to kiss her, he fails miserably.
Diana and Steve track Ares to the gates of the underworld. She is wounded in battle, and Steve takes her to get medical attention. Ares seeks out his Uncle Hades (Oliver Platt) who releases his bands. For some reason, Ares and his minions decide to attack D.C., which brings out the army. They battle amongst the landmarks. Diana and Steve join the fray, and just when it doesn’t look good, the Amazonian cavalry shows up at the last minute, by boat of all things.
With so many quality superhero projects of late, it’s unfortunate that Wonder Woman is given such poor treatment here. She’s an iconic character who deserves better than to be stuck in Michael Jelenic’s cringe-inducing screenplay that in essence is a bad romantic comedy with dialogue to match. Olympus forbid, a female hero could be strong and smart and wouldn’t need to be saved by a man. Plus, it is unbelievable that she and Steve would kiss in the end.
The art is not much to look at. The character design is poor. Diana’s hair is overly thick and takes unnatural turns. When she is in profile, her face looks unnatural. Artemis is also oddly drawn with an over-exposed and over-extended lower torso, reflecting things about the art department I didn’t need to know.
The special features on disc one include an audio commentary track in which DC Comics' Gregory Noveck, writer Jelinac, producer Bruce Timm (who I expected so much more from considering his track record), and director Montgomery talk about the film’s creation. They come off slightly phony by begrudgingly acknowledging Zack Snyder’s influence on the prologue. Since they are unaware of the movie’s flaws, I couldn’t listen too long.
There are a series of commercials masquerading as features: the previously released Justice League: New Frontier; Batman: Gotham Knight, which claims to be a sneak peek; this Wonder Woman project; and the upcoming “Green Lantern.” The latter provides a brief history of the character, sketches of the artwork, and a reveal of the voice actors. Since the creators are the same team responsible for this Amazonian mess, it doesn’t bolster any confidence.
Disc two offers two engaging documentaries that are well worth watching. “Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream” is very informative. It looks at WW creator William Moulton Marston and the themes he dealt with of sexuality and female empowerment. It also covers Dr. Fredric Wertham’s “Seduction of the Innocent” and Denny O’Neil’s takeover of character. “Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth” includes many of the same interview participants in settings, so I don’t know if it was part of large documentary or they just shot everything at once and pieced them together in post.
There is also Timm’s Top Picks which feature two episodes of Justice League Unlimited: “To Another Shore,” which was already released as part of the New Frontier set, and “Hawk and Dove”
Fans of Wonder Woman should do themselves a favor and only watch the documentaries.