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Wonder Woman (2009)
Warner Home Video
DVD Released: 3/3/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/4/2009; Updated on 5/24/2017
For decades, Marvel and DC have been battling for dominance in the world of comic books. Using their flagship titles (Spider-man, Batman, X-Men, Superman), and special titles, the two companies often go toe-to-toe to see who can be the most popular. This battle has often moved from comic books to other mediums. Just look to the cinema for an example. In the this decade alone, we've seen the well-receivedSpider-man and Batman movies become huge hits. Both companies have also moved to producing direct-to-video animated features. Marvel has brought us The Avengers, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and the recent Hulk Vs. DC joined in with projects like Justice League: The New Frontier and Batman: Gotham Knight. Their latest offering brings in what is arguably DC's most popular female character, Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman opens with a great battle between the female Amazon warriors, led by Queen Hippolyta (voiced by Virginia Madsen), and the army of Ares (voiced by Alfred Molina), the God of War. Hippolyta takes on Ares until Hera (voiced by Marg Helgenberger) places arm bands on Ares which rob him of his powers. He is then imprisoned, to be guarded by the Amazons. The Amazons, wishing to be separated from the world of man, live on the island of Themyscira, where they are hidden from the rest of civilization. The story then skips ahead a few years and we see Hippolyta combine sand and lightning (?!) to form a child. Years later still, we meet Hippolyta's daughter, Diana (voiced by Keri Russell), who spends her days training with Artemis (voiced by Rosario Dawson) and talking to Alexa (voiced by Tara Strong). One day, a fighter jet carrying Colonel Steve Trevor (voiced by Nathan Fillion) crash lands on the island. Once it's decided that Trevor isn't an enemy, it is decided that he should be escorted back to his world. Diana wins this contest and her mother's blessing to leave the island. But, before that can happen, Ares escapes. Diana, with Steve's help, must now track Ares and defeat him before he can plunge the world into chaos.
With DC's other direct-to-DVD projects, the hows and whys were fairly east to suss out. (Although, I still think that Justice League: The New Frontier was a misfire.) However, with Wonder Woman it's difficult to say at whom this piece is aimed. It wouldn't be a great leap to assume the Warner Home Video and DC are hoping to attract some female viewers with this movie which offers a female lead character, strong women in supporting roles, and a subtle, but present romantic angle. The piece also tries to separate itself from the standard superhero/comic outing by introducing ideas and characters from Greek mythology.
However, those elements aside, this is a comic-book action story from beginning to end. The movie opens with a battle featuring Amazon warriors and minotaurs and rarely lets up from there. When I popped in the DVD, I was puzzled by the PG-13 rating logo which came up, but I quickly understood this, as the battle sequences are full of beheadings. Not to stereotype, but would females, specifically adolescent females, be interested in this? And as this, once again, detours from typical comic fare and doesn't feature any of DC's other characters, will comic fans be interested?
One thing is for sure, the story contains some issues. The story is at once too complicated and yet too simplistic. The relationships between the various Greek mythology inspired characters can get confusing, especially when Ares seeks help from a family member. In contrast, the rest of the script is too simplified and vague, and I felt that we were never given enough information. We learn little about Trevor and the motivations leading up to the final battle with Ares are vague, save for the fact that he loves chaos. But, my favorite bump in the road is Wonder Woman's invisible jet. Where did this thing come from? They simply give it to her for her trip and no one says a thing. There is no other piece of technology on the island and you pull this out of nowhere? At first, I thought that it was simply Trevor's plane with a new look, but the aft engines are different. Maybe the sequel will be called "Wonder Woman and the Origin of the See-through Plane".
I didn't know what to expect from Wonder Woman, but as a comic fan, I thought that I'd give it a shot. What I found was a movie which may not please anyone. While the action is OK (and surprisingly violent), the story is second rate and the whole thing feels like the first chapter of a story.
Wonder Woman flies invisibly onto DVD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, and you'll notice that the color palette shifts slightly throughout the film, reflecting the location and action. The animation shows some slight blurring at times, but otherwise the image is solid. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The sound is surprisingly good here, as we are treated to nearly constant stereo effects. The battle sequences and crowd scenes provide notable and detailed surround effects. The scenes involving jets bring forth wall-shaking sub-woofer action.
The Wonder Woman DVD contains a few special features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Gregory Novick of DC Comics, Writer Michael Jelinek, Producer Bruce Timm, and Director Laura Montgomery. This is a pretty good talk, as we feel that we are listening in on a production meeting rather than having the speakers address us. They talk about the story, the voice acting, and character design. They also discuss working within a budget and how the movie compares to the comics. "Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess" (10 minutes) features comments from the vocal cast who touch upon their characters. We then get a brief look at the history of the Wonder Woman character and a look at the making of the movie. Oddly, these are the only two extras which are linked directly to Wonder Woman. "From Graphic Novel to Original Animated Movie - Justice League: The New Frontier" (11 minutes) examines the making of another movie...so, it's basically a commercial to get you to check out that movie. This is followed by "Batman Gotham Knight: An Anime Evolution" (10 minutes) which examines the making of the less-than-stellar tie in to The Dark Knight. "A First Look at the Animated Feature Film Green Lantern" (10 minutes) gives us a preview of the next DC project with no finished animation.
On June 16, 2017, Warner Home Video brought Wonder Woman to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an VC-1 HD transfer which runs at an average of 15 Mbps. (Really? VC-1? Apparently they didn't upgrade the transfer from the 2009 release.) The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, although the overall palette skews a bit pale. The image is never overly dark or bright. The image does go a bit soft at times and the transfer reveals a lack of detail in the animation in some shots. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.1 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver noticeable stereo and surround effects, some of which highlight sounds coming from off-screen. We also get obvious, but not over-powering subwoofer effects in these sequences.
The Wonder Woman Blu-ray Disc contains a handful of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from DC Comics' Gregory Novak, Writer Michael Jelenic, Producer Bruce Timm, and Director Lauren Montgomery. "What Makes a Wonder Woman" (10 minutes) contains comments from several involved in the film and with DC who discuss the history of Wonder Woman and the dominant themes which revolved around the character. "Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream" (26 minutes) provides a much more definitive history of the character, not just how she enters comics, but how Wonder Woman reflected and challenged gender norms of the time. "Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth" (26 minutes) goes even further into Wonder Woman's origins, exploring the roots in mythology and how those were combined with the superhero myth. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2009/2017 by Mike Long