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Wonder Woman (The DVD Movie)
March 2, 2009

Well, that was disappointing. I knew that watching Wonder Woman’s origin story made into an animated film would have some overly familiar bits, but I didn’t expect to be so put off by the attempts to make it new and modern.

Wonder Woman cover
Wonder Woman
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The movie starts with Hippolyta and Ares fighting. As someone who’s not particularly interested in Greek/Roman mythology, I was bored waiting for the title woman in the costume to show up. Instead, we got battle, clay baby, Amazon bickering, and then cut to the fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion). It’s a problem stemming from the source material that it takes a good while to get to her most famous imagery.

I also had an issue, having seen so much promotion for this movie centered on the voice talent, relating to the characters. When Artemis jumped into battle, I heard Rosario Dawson (and then wondered why the character was so pale-skinned).

Art Style

The look for the character used for this movie gets away from the sex-kitten wasp-waist style used in the Dini/Timm Justice League, thankfully, but it doesn’t follow the current good-girl art style of the comics, either. It’s almost more influenced by Don Heck or Ross Andru & Mike Esposito, with an angular style that some may criticize for not looking feminine enough. Her hair, for example, is here just long and simple, a shape that’s easier to animate. Thinking back to some of the classic Wonder Woman comic covers, you’ll notice artists like Brian Bolland, Terry Dodson, and Adam Hughes draw big, unbelievable flowing hair. This film uses a more realistic, less of a “fantasy woman” approach. Some won’t like that; it’s unfamiliar, and it does take some getting used to, but ultimately, I appreciated seeing it.

The contest takes place as expected, with Diana (Keri Russell) masked behind a “combat helmet”, which also makes her unrecognizable to the viewer. In another note, the lips on everyone are weird. They’re large and distracting. The full outlines look particularly odd on the men, while the women look like they have a very well-stocked Max Factor supplier nearby (since everyone has a different shade).

Fanboy Trevor and Gender Politics

Steve Trevor’s first view of the Amazon’s island was like some softcore fantasy: he spies random women bathing in a pool with a waterfall and splashing, hee hee, each other. I didn’t mind it too much, because that’s the kind of nudge-nudge approach many people think about when you say “island of women only”. But that’s not the only insinuation in the film, which may explain the “some suggestive material” aspect of the rating, and they got tiring. I expected better behavior from an Army officer in a foreign kingdom, and remarks like “Chastity Belt Island” are borderline offensive, not smart or witty.

And that’s the problem with writing Trevor as some kind of fan/frat boy — it’s not entertaining, and it’s off-putting to some of the potential audience. More to the point, it’s clichéd. For example, Trevor tries to get Diana drunk. That he succumbs and she doesn’t is predictable, the staple of a number of movies.

This is a Wonder Woman for boys. She’s a wise-cracking hero, and there’s an awful lot of fighting. When she suits up for the first time, there’s a boob shot where she reaches into her cleavage to adjust her bustier. There are even zombies!

The script tries to take on gender politics — Wonder Woman, for example, helps a little girl left out of playing pirates because she was female by teaching her how to fight — but ignores such neon signs as explaining the star-spangled bathing suit. Its colors are justified, but not its cut. Then there’s Etta Candy, here a flirtatious blonde who looks like the generic well-built woman. Not having a version more faithful to the comics is a huge loss. I miss both her look (overweight, a pleasant change from the standard comic body) and her character, as a woman who can hold her own through skill.

The script is the movie’s biggest flaw. It goes for the cheap wisecrack wherever it can, which led to me wondering where an Amazon learns the phrase ‘pathetic lightweight’ in reference to alcohol and “why do the Amazons not know the word ‘crap’ but understand that ‘rack’ means breasts?” Diana can either be a fish out of water (not understanding an attempted mugging at first) or able to keep up with Trevor’s slang, but not both.

It’s Boring

Overall, I had a hard time battling apathy. I’ve seen Wonder Woman’s origin many times before, and I’m not interested enough in animation to be interested in seeing it again just because it’s now a cartoon. I was willing to turn it off a half-hour in, but I sat through it, only to see the battle with Ares work out just as expected. I also thought the animation should have been better, by which I mean more professional and less jerky.

As others have noted, there is a lot of violence in the movie, with battles among mythological warriors, various creatures, and the Amazons. It deserves its PG-13 rating. See the trailer at the official website.

Disc One Special Features

  • An audio commentary with Bruce Timm, Gregory Noveck (DC rep), Michael Jelenic (screenwriter), and Lauren Montgomery (director). This is full of cringe-worthy statements, like the concept that you can distort male features but too many lines make women look ugly, so it’s much harder to create distinguishable female characters when you have more than a couple of them.
  • A sneak peek featurette about the upcoming Green Lantern animated film
  • A featurette on the making of Justice League: The New Frontier
  • The promotional Wonder Woman piece that was included on the Watchmen Motion Comic
  • The same kind of thing for Batman: Gotham Knight.

I’m wondering now if they did one for Superman: Doomsday. If they didn’t, then this is a pretty nice collection of background on all the DC animated films so far.

Disc Two Special Features

The second disc in the two-disc edition contains two documentaries and two Justice League episodes: “To Another Shore” (the one with the Viking Prince sequence based on Joe Kubert artwork) and “Hawk and Dove”.

“A Subversive Dream” (15-20 minutes or so, I lost track) gives the history of Wonder Woman and discusses William Moulton Marston, his wife Elizabeth, and in the context of the limitations placed on women in the 1940s. Among the many authors and talking heads are Denny O’Neil (who wrote the series in the 60s, during the white jumpsuit/I Ching period), DC representatives Gregory Noveck and Dan Didio, Michael Uslan, and of course, Andy Mangels, noted Wonder Woman fan, and Trina Robbins, “comics her-storian”.

The Marstons’ partner Olive Byrne is mentioned in passing only twice, her role relegated to “assistant” to them both. And the predominance of ropes and chains in the comic is attributed to Marston wanting to express his ideas of social control visually. Only O’Neil even hints at the sexual bondage aspects. After all, this is only a PG-13 DVD.

Hugh Hefner says Marston’s wife was responsible for creating the idea of the character. Christopher Knowles, another writer of a book about comics, says his wife was responsible for the observation that measuring blood pressure could detect lies, which led to the invention of the polygraph. Hefner later says that the world would be a better place if it was run by women, as Marston postulated, and is the only one to talk about “repression”. Hefner provides the most interesting comments in the piece, which surprised me immensely.

I very much appreciated that the captions identified the speakers more than once. That is, even if someone is labeled on-screen at their first appearance, when they return later on, they’re identified again. But when watching this doc, it really stands out when someone like Noveck uses the word “kid” when he really means “boy”.

“Daughter of Myth”, the second featurette (25 minutes), focuses on the character’s origin, mythology, and the idea of Paradise Island. Usually, they talk about classic comic book stories in these kinds of features, but that material is missing, another disappointment.

Similar Posts: Wonder Woman Animated Movie Date Announced § Dredd Comes to DVD With Retrospective Featurette § Wonder Woman Cartoon Movie Coming? § Adele Blanc-Sec Movie Announced for Blu-ray and DVD § Superman/Batman: Public Enemies New to DVD in September

27 Responses  
Green Lantern: First Flight Announced as Next DC Animated DVD » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] After watching the sneak peek on the Wonder Woman DVD, the Sinestro voice casting doesn’t work for me at all. Victor Garber says “Lawyer [...]

 
Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] only extra on the disc is an extensive Wonder Woman sneak peek mini-featurette, featuring leaping comic books and quotes from the voice cast and DC [...]

 
Joan writes:  

Aw, that’s so disappointing. I’ve been looking forward to this movie for months, and the clips I’d seen looked promising, even with my doubts about some of the casting. What a shame. It’s still at the top of my Netflix queue, but now I’m glad I didn’t buy it sight unseen.

 
Johanna writes:  

You know, you might like it, especially if you enjoy the medium of animation more than I do. Lots of other people have.

 
Adam Arnold writes:  

I kind of enjoyed it at times, but felt that the plot skipped a bit in the middle. I mean, they were in New York and then jumped on a plane and flew to the middle east and then it’s on to Washington for a bunch of scenes right out of Amazons Attack. It started good, but just couldn’t stay good. Heck, the most interesting part of the entire film, for me, was the very end where we get to see Wonder Woman vs. Cheetah.

 
Johanna writes:  

Oh, yeah. I wish they would have gone ahead and made the next movie instead of this one.

 
Brian Saner Lamken writes:  

I was really looking forward to this — maybe even watching it with my nieces, until the promos on the (mostly unappealing) Batman: Gotham Knight DVD and the bloody swords tipped me off that it wouldn’t be appropriate for them. Why not make the first solo Wonder Woman animated project ever more accessible to all ages? At least we still have the Challenge of the Superfriends episode retelling her origin (with Cheetah, and set in 1941, no less) and some great HarperFestival books illustrated by Ben Caldwell, emphasizing non-violent aspects of the superheroic ideal, with Diana in much more appropriate but still action-ready blouse and skirt.

 
James Schee writes:  

I bought the 1 disc version of this since none of the movie chains in my area seemed to even have the movie.

It wasn’t downright terrible, but it could have been so much more.

I think for the most part it was just a movie that couldn’t get out of its own way. Every time I started feeling like the story was getting going, the characters would either say or do something blatantly idiotic and knock me out of the story.

Of course it was still a ton better than what looks like a train wreck in the making on that GL movie. Too bad whomever is doing these movies is more into name actors, than true voice talents like those that made DC’s animated series going back to Batman:TAS the best ever.

I was annoyed that the digital copy was PC friendly only. When the ITunes ones so easily works on cross platforms.

 
Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » Hey critics, did any of you see the new Wonder Woman DVD? How was it? writes:  

[...] “Well, that was disappointing” –Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading [...]

 
Evie writes:  

Johanna, I usually agree quite fully with your evaluations, but I have to say I had SUCH a different reaction to this film. Even though it wasn’t perfect, I was extremely satisfied–and I went into it with a lot of reservations. I also adore animation, and the mythology bit, so that could be a big part of it. Anyway, I would say to Joan above that if you are really looking forward to it because of those elements, you will probably like it.

 
Johanna writes:  

Oh, yeah, that’s entirely possible. I was surprised to see it get mostly positive reviews, actually — it seems I’m in the minority.

 
Joan writes:  

Evie- I’m still planning to see it eventually, but it’s listed as “Very Long Wait” on my NF queue, so who knows when. But I know from being a long-time reader of Johanna’s site that my taste coincides with hers more often than not, so I’m trying to lower my expectations some, just in case. I can always be pleasantly surprised, right?

 
Matthew writes:  

I agree with pretty much everything you said. Steve Trevor wasn’t likable at all and seemed to contradict himself in his characterization.

I’m not usually offended by movies, but this was pretty close. The stereotypes were flying and neither the Amazons nor Mankind had a very good portrayal. They were all so two-dimensional.

And the idiotic dialogue! There were too many clunkers to keep track.

 
Ed Sizemore writes:  

Johanna, Got to see this last night. I actually liked the animation style and the story line. Although, I will point the Ares design is a complete steal from the Ninja Scroll anime. I looked exactly like one of the villians.

I love Greek mythology, so the beginning was a big treat for me. My problem with this aspect of the story was the fact that a common sword had the ability to behead a god. The Olympian gods are made of sterner stuff than that.

The characterization of Steve Trevor didn’t bother me. As an ex-military guy who knew fighter pilots he came across as believable. I’m not saying all fighter jocks are like that, but I’ve met a few who are. I grew up on Marine air bases and I can tell you that planes don’t move like that. Someone should have spent a couple hours of research to make the dog fights more realistic. Also, you can’t vertically land a plane without vertical thrusters. The Invisible Jet is missing some much needed equipment.

I agree this is a very violent story and given how DC animation usually panders to kids that was shocking. The warning about violence and suggestive humor needs to be more prominent.

I thought the gender politics were heavy handed. I would have loved to see a redesign of her suit so that it looked more like Amazon armor.

But even with these flaws I still had a good time.

 
Johanna writes:  

Glad you enjoyed it! I like Joan’s suggestion, to approach it with lowered expectations and enjoy it on that level.

 
Jennifer K. Stuller writes:  

Johanna,

I had the honor of being interviewed for the special features documentaries and wanted to let you know that I talked at length with the interviewers about Holloway, Byrne, the polyamorous nature of their relationship with Marston, and how the two women harmoniously supported each other and their children well into old age. I also discussed how they were intellectuals themselves.

We also talked about bondage, submission, sexuality, sex, kink, eroticism, Marston’s psychological theories, quasi-feminism and essentialism, and so on . . . but I think the documentary makers’ hands were tied (pardon the pun) when it came to how much of those subjects they include on the disc. (If you look behind my left shoulder in the footage you can see the nude bust of a woman that not only had to be turned about face but draped as well.) My guess is, you can get away with Hef talking about sex and sexual politics because audiences expect it.

And I still can’t believe I’m in a documentary, let alone one with Hugh Hefner – What a trip!

I’m sure Trina talked about these issues as well, and it’s too bad they weren’t included. But I’m fairly certain it was a censorship issue on the part of Warner rather than a lack of interest or effort by the interviewers/ees and just wanted to let you know that the intent to provide that information was definitely there!

Best,
Jen

Jennifer K. Stuller
jkstuller@ink-stainedamazon.com
http://www.ink-stainedamazon.com/

 
Johanna writes:  

Thanks for sharing that perspective! I’m not at all surprised … it just sums up the American attitude. Big PG-13 sticker on the front of the DVD for violence, but still shy away from anything about sex, especially individual quirks.

 
Green Lantern DVD Shifts Ship Dates Again » Comics Worth Reading writes:  

[...] Wonder Woman – over 400,000 units shipped [...]

 
Green Lantern: First Flight » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] Flight was directed by Lauren Montgomery, who also directed Wonder Woman and Superman/Doomsday. I thought the direction here was a big improvement over Wonder Woman, as [...]

 
Marvel Animated Movie Planet Hulk Arrives February 2 » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] of the attention with such titles as Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Green Lantern: First Flight, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Justice League: Crisis on Two [...]

 
DC Doesn’t Want to Animate Super-Heroines » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] by Think McFly Think. In this piece, he reveals that We had originally planned to do sequels for Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, but Wonder Woman’s sales started out extremely slow and then over time were [...]

 
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths — The DVD Review » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] The animation and design aren’t as good as they were on the original TV shows (which makes me wonder if there’s a little too much cost-cutting going on to keep the film series going, or if I’m just overly nostalgic and remembering the older show too fondly). Maybe those involved just have different tastes than I do, and they wanted something that seemed a little edgier. In keeping with the parallelism theme, the film had two directors: Sam Liu, who previously directed Planet Hulk and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and Lauren Montgomery, who handled Green Lantern: First Flight and Wonder Woman. [...]

 
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights to Star Nathan Fillion » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] previously played Steve Trevor in the animated Wonder Woman movie. This is the second Green Lantern animated film; in the previous, First Flight, Jordan was voiced [...]

 
Warner Announces Batman: Year One as Next Direct-to-DVD DC Movie, Justice League: Doom to Follow » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] Rocco (The Godfather) as crime lord Carmine Falcone. The movie is co-directed by Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) and Sam Liu (All-Star Superman), with script by Academy Award [...]

 
Justice League: Doom Pictures and Casting News » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] Green Lantern: Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman) [...]

 
Nathan Fillion on Playing Green Lantern » DVDs Worth Watching writes:  

[...] also resulted in some promotional interviews. He has also been the voice of Steve Trevor for the Wonder Woman DVD movie, and that meant an interview available then as well. So the reason I’m running this [...]

 
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