A feminist icon who also steps out in a red, white, and blue bustier/one-piece, Wonder Woman straddles glamour and empowerment. Like Barbie, she has accessories (indestructible bracelets, magic lasso, invisible plane, and boyfriend Steve Trevor: a cross between Ken and G.I. Joe), but she's also the independent child of Greek mythology, an ass-kicking Athena blending beauty and brawn. In short, it's good to have Wonder Woman back. As a long-aborning Wonder Woman live-action feature continues to simmer on the back-burner, the DCU Animated Film series unleashes our favorite Amazon in her own direct-to-video feature, aptly titled Wonder Woman.
As per the DCU-feature model of late, Wonder Woman is a standalone venture, so writer Michael Jelenic (and Gail Simone, who gets co-story credit) return to the character's origin, based in the Greco-Roman myths of the ancient world. The spectacular opening sequence pits Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen), Queen of the Amazons, versus Ares (Alfred Molina), the god of war. The upshot of the battle, refereed by Zeus (David McCallum) and Hera (Marg Helgenberger), is that the Amazons are granted their own hidden island paradise, Themyscira, where they can live forever young and unbothered by the warlike ways of man. But not all of the Amazons get with that program: precocious Alexa (Tara Strong) argues to venture back into the world of man, and Hippolyta's daughter Diana (yes, technically, she's Princess Diana) even fights for that opportunity, disguised Robin Hood-style in a series of Olympian tests of prowess.
Part of the impetus to move beyond the borders of Themyscira comes from Col. Steve "Zipper" Trevor (Nathan Fillion) of the USAF, whose fighter plane crashes to ground in Amazonian territory. He immediately strikes up screwball-comic banter with Diana (Keri Russell), who ultimately volunteers to escort him home to America. Hippolyta, the ultimate in protective mothers, insists, "We can never reunite with the outside world. It is better if you can accept the nature of man as it is: wicked, disloyal, and above all, untrustworthy." Still, she lets Diana go on the mission with "the kind of guy mothers warn their daughter about."
Since this an animated feature, priority one is action-packing, and indeed there's a villainous threat from escapee Ares and his partner-in-crime Hades (Oliver Platt). Producer Bruce Timm and director Lauren Montgomery don't hold back on the epic scale, especially in a climax set at the heart of our government (Washington D.C.'s National Mall) and involving an army of demonic zombie warriors. Jelenic proves just as interested, though, in the gendered comic potential of the contentious Diana-Steve romance, which spins off from films like The Lady Eve and Ninotchka. Though starchy, Diana's point-of-view satirizes our not-yet-post-feminist society: "Remarkable. The advanced brainwashing that has been perpetuated upon the females of your culture. Raised from birth to believe they're not strong enough to compete with the boys and then, as adults, taught to trade on their very femininity." Soon, she's wielding a high-heeled shoe as a weapon against a monstrous male foe in a showdown Gloria Steinem would love.
Wonder Woman is on the par with the usual high quality of the DCU features, with the advantage this time of not having to honor the demands of adapting a specific source adventure within the limits of a 75-minute timeframe. The voice talent—under the direction of Andrea Romano—delivers, with Fillion especially silver-tongued as Trevor. Among the supporting cast are Artemis (Rosario Dawson), Persephone (Vicky Lewis) and Air Force officer Etta Candy (Julianne Grossman), like Trevor a long-running Wonder Woman character. A finale cameo by a favorite from the Wonder Woman rogues' gallery puts just the right button on a fast-paced feature sure to satisfy fans and win a generation of new ones.
Warner Premiere brings Wonder Woman to Blu-ray in a shiny, razor-sharp, brilliantly colorful transfer that showcases the latest in DCU Animation. Blacks are deep, detail is excellent, and the image is free of any distracting digital artifacting. The sound options are also plenty impressive, with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround mix dynamically leading the way, and a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix also on hand.
The battery of bonus features will come as no surprise to DC fans. First up is a friendly, relaxed commentary by DC Senior Vice President for Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery and writer Michael Jelenic. The team discuss the story development, design and execution of the film, including the various factors at play in bringing such a storied character back to square one.
The featurette "Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream" (25:35, SD) tells the story of Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston and the legacy of the character. Participants include Our Gods Wear Spandex author Christopher Knowles, comic-book historian Michael Uslan, comic book enthusiast Andy Mangels, former DC Comics editor & writer Dennis O'Neil, Noveck, Once and Future Myths author Phil Cousineau, historian & The Great American Superheroines author Trina Robbins, Playboy magazine founder & editor-in-chief Hugh M. Hefner, DC Senior Vice President/Executive Editor Dan DiDio, Ink Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors author Jennifer K. Stuller, and story consultant & The Writer's Journey author Christopher Vogler.
"Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth" (25:38, SD) is a terrific look at the character's cultural significance and roots in mythology reaching back into ancient texts. Offering comments are Knowles, O'Neil, Don't Know Much About Mythology author Kenneth C. Davis, Vogler, UCLA professor of Comparative Literature, Classics and Women's Studies Katherine King, Mangels, The Getty Villa museum educator Eidelriz Senga, Stuller, Cousineau, Uslan, Robbins, and Noveck.
"A First Look at the Animated Feature Film Green Lantern" (10:12, SD) whets the appetite for the next DC Universe Animated Movie, due in summer 2009. DiDio, Timm, Noveck, O'Neil, writer Alan Burnett, casting and voice director Andrea Romano, director Lauren Montgomery, and cast members Christopher Meloni, Victor Garber, Michael Madsen, and Tricia Helfer deliver a brief history of the character and introduce themselves as the talent behind this upcoming origin story.
"From Graphic Novel to Original Animated Movie--Justice League: The New Frontier" (10:45, SD) recycles the first look at a previous DCU feature. Interviewees include DC Comics President & Publisher Paul Levitz, executive producer Sander Schwartz, writer/artist Darwyn Cooke, DC Comics editorial art director & editor Mark Chiarello, producer Mike Goguen, DiDio, Noveck, director David Bullock, Timm, screenwriter Stan Berkowitz, Romano, Kyle MacLachlan, Lucy Lawless, and David Boreanaz.
Also once a "first look," "Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess" (10:26) gives a brief history of the character, glimpses of storyboards edited in rough animatic form, and comments from DC president/publisher Paul Levitz, DC Senior VP/executive editor Dan DiDio, Noveck, producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery, writer Michael Jelenic, and the impressive voice cast: Keri Russell (Wonder Woman), Nathan Fillion (Steve Trevor), Virginia Madsen (Hippolyta), Alfred Molina (Ares), and Rosario Dawson (Artemis).
"Batman: Gotham Knight--An Anime Evolution" (10:11) is yet another sneak peek recycled, with DiDio, Levitz, Noveck, writer Josh Olson, Timm, and celebrated Batman writer Dennis O'Neil commenting on the concept, illustrated with design work and finished clips seen mostly in montage fashion.
Lastly, Bruce Timm's Top Picks include three Wonder Woman-centric Justice League episodes and one Justice League Unlimited episode: "Paradise Lost--Part 1," "Paradise Lost--Part 2," "To Another Shore" and "Hawk and Dove." All are presented in standard definition, with a "Play All" option.
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