This week certainly belongs to Diana Prince (also known as DC Comics’ Amazonian superhero Wonder Woman), given the theatrical release of Warner Bros.’ highly anticipated Wonder Woman feature film and the celebration of Wonder Woman Day on June 3rd. While not as currently buzzworthy as its cinematic partner, fans enthused with the new movie will also certainly find themselves rewarded by revisiting the 2009 DC animated film of Diana’s origins, now available in the recently released Wonder Woman: Commemorative Edition Blu-Ray/DVD set. This more classic interpretation of the character’s beginning is sure to, once again, delight fans and promote constructive and enjoyable discussion in comparing its take on the characters and themes present in both the animated and live-action Wonder Woman feature films.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
When United States fighter pilot Steve Trevor (voiced by Nathan Fillion) is shot down over the mystical island of Themyscira, he is rescued by Diana (voiced by Keri Russell), princess of the all-female warrior race of Amazons that control the hidden nation. Defying her mother’s wishes and Amazonian law, Diana travels back to the human world with Trevor when it is discovered the God of War, Ares (voiced by Alfred Molina), has escaped his imprisonment on Themyscira. With Ares planning to start a destructive World War that will go on for centuries, Diana is forced to use the skills and knowledge bestowed on her by her people in order to become Wonder Woman and save the world from the cruel and misogynistic God’s evil plot.
Wonder Woman has always been regarded by fans as one of the strongest entries in the DC Animated film series, and this assessment remains valid to this day thanks to the strong cast and crew lead by director Lauren Montgomery. While, by today’s advancing cultural standards, the script feels dated at times, the majority of the story is a solid and enjoyable origin tale that communicates exactly why audiences should love the characters of Wonder Woman’s world. The story never loses the huge amount of heart that is present in the film from its opening scene. Grounded by its connective story threads to ancient Greek mythology and the film’s refusal to shy away from the fairly brutal violence that would naturally accompany a sword-wielding warrior, the animated Wonder Woman feels less like a comic book superhero tale and more like a fellow member of the “sword and sandals” genres that includes films like Clash of the Titans, Conan the Barbarian, Gladiator, and others. In addition to great performances from Russell, Fillion, Molina, and Rosario Dawson as the cynical and snarky Artemis, Wonder Woman also benefits from an amazing score that truly elevates the emotional weight of the film.
While there are many great moments in this version of Wonder Woman (I especially like the explanation of Wonder Woman’s costume and the scene where she encourages a little girl to “unleash hell” on her male peers who won’t let the girl play “pirates.”), there are a few elements that will cause viewers to realize how far we’ve come in our depiction of female characters in the past few years. For one, the Amazons have diverse personalities but are all physically depicted as white women. Fillion is always an enjoyable performer, but the dialogue given to his Steve Trevor feels very reminiscent of Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan, and what once may have been charming and humorous then (such as commenting on Diana’s “rack”) now makes Trevor often seem cringe-worthy and tone deaf. While these “rough edges” don’t completely take away from the enjoyability factor of the film, it – as I mentioned previously – does make the picture feel noticeably dated, especially when compared to the respect and authority given to the character in the Wonder Woman footage and clips we’ve already seen from the upcoming film. For example, there’s a moment in 2009’s Wonder Woman where our heroine mocks Ares by asking how he’ll possibly beat Zeus if he can’t be a girl [her]. Sure, it could be argued that the line plays into Ares’ own misogyny and Diana’s knowledge that the statement will disgust Ares because he’s being bested by what he views as an inferior gender, but those words also, in some ways, continue to reinforce the unhelpful stereotype that we should expect less from a girl or woman in this situation. It feels like a view of female superheroes that we’ve moved past and, hopefully, would never appear in director Patty Jenkins’ interpretation of the character.
All in all, the Wonder Woman: Commemorative Edition is well worth the time of anyone who considers themselves a fan on this enduring and powerful character. Despite some of its flaws, the film still represents one of the best original movies that DC Animated has produced thus far.
The Wonder Woman: Commemorative Edition can be found on Amazon and at many local retailers.
That’s all for now, comic book sniffers! Now, unleash hell!
‘Till the end of the world,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer