When you look at the cannon of iconic comic superheroes, the list is going to be dominated by men in tights. While there are plenty of ladies on the pages of comics, most are relegated to big chested fantasy figures and supporting players. Wonder Woman is probably the only household name when it comes to female comic heroines. And even then, she doesn’t necessarily get her due. Outside of the 1970s television show starring Linda Carter that only lasted for a few seasons, Wonder Woman hasn’t really had the spotlight shone directly on her outside of the pages of DC Comics. That might be starting to change. With a live-action film on the way (one day) (maybe), Warner is priming audiences with the Wonder Woman animated film, the latest in a series of direct-to-DVD DC Comics projects that take a distinctly more adult approach to content. Although part of the edgier stance is a marketing ploy, it does leave room for stronger storytelling and, finally, a solid film in which the amazon’s story can be told to current audiences.
On the surface, the mythical Themyscira is a stereotypical male fantasy island filled with gorgeous women in shape-fitting clothes. The Amazon women that live there are strong and proud. Princess Diana (voiced by Keri Russell) is the overlooked youngster who is supposed to sit back and watch as those around her become great warriors. Not content with being an observer, Diana disguises herself and shows both her mother and the other Amazons what’s she’s capable of. And it’s kicking butt, not baking pies. With a war at had with Ares the God of War, Diana is sent to Earth with her invisible jet where she is dubbed the iconic Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman is largely an origins story, providing a background story for Diana and a cast of supporting characters both on Earth and is her mythical homeland. The film provides solid storytelling but there are some limitations strictly based on who the character is. It’s hard to connect with Wonder Woman. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a guy who is used to male superheroes or if it’s something else. But with Spider-men there’s a universal story of being an outsider that should connect with both genders.
Wonder Woman, however, is set up as a fantasy. She’s a beautiful woman in skimpy clothes. Yet, at the same time, there’s some very deliberate attempts at challenging this assumption within the film. Diana plays a typically masculine part as she saves the damsel in distress, who just happens to be a male fighter pilot (Nathan Fillion). During the second half of the film where the majority of the action takes place, there’s some very direct commentary on the gender reversal, which is the most interesting and thought provoking part of Wonder Woman.
The action part of the film is solid but not spectacular. Despite knowing it’s geared more towards older audiences instead of kids, I have to say it was strange to see animated decapitations in a film about such an iconic figure. Many scenes, particularly in the early parts, have a very familiar feel. In these instances, often there’s too much effort spent on iconic struggles that have little meaning beyond the overly familiar. However, as the story progresses and the thematic elements of Wonder Woman become clearer, the plot gets exponentially better. By the end, there’s something very Shakespearian about it as elements of tragedy take over.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the story that so much intrigued me about Wonder Woman as it was the themes and how it takes audience expectations about female heroes and their fantasy appeal and trying to spin it into something stronger. I admit, it’s odd seeing the guy playing the role of the “girl” in trouble. But that’s because the men have been dominating the spot of the hero for so long. Is this the mark of a shift? I don’t know. There’s still a lot more iconic males than there are females in comics. But balance has to start somewhere in order to be achieved.
Wonder Woman DVD Review
The two-disc special edition DVD release of Wonder Woman combines a solid presentation with an excellent background into the iconic Amazonian heroine. The film is showcased in a sharp widescreen format and audio is in English Dolby 5.1 Surround. Optional subtitles are in English and French. A commentary track brings together Gregory Novack of DC Comics, producer Bruce Timm, writer Michael Jelenic and director Lauren Montgomery. Passion is the big topic of conversation as all come across as very proud in presenting their side of the production.
Additional features on the first disc include a brief gander at the upcoming direct-to-DVD release based on the Green Lantern as well as recycled featurettes from Justice League: the New Frontier and Batman Gotham Knight. Finally, there’s a 10-minute promotional look that combines a little bit of the history of Wonder Woman with the making of the film.
Special features on the second disc are led by two extensive featurettes. The first, “Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream” runs about 25 minutes and gives a historical context for the creation and evolution of the character as well as the social implications of a female hero. “Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth” looks at how the character’s world fits into classic mythology as well as how people experience mythology. There’s also two television episodes from one of DC’s Justice League series.
Finally, there’s a digital copy available for owners to easily transfer the film over to their computers or onto their portable video devices.
Wonder Woman Gallery