While The Man of Steel and The Caped Crusader have hogged the spotlight for too long, the complement to DC Comics' central trinity has been awaiting her liberation from Paradise Island. And now Wonder Woman has arrived, the heroine of her own direct-to-video anamiated feature film.
Princess Diana/Wonder Woman (voiced by Keri Russell) is a paragon of virtue yet naïve in the ways of the outside world. When womanizing fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) is shot down above the hidden island populated by gorgeous warrior women, a contest is held to determine who is best-suited to return him safely to civilization. Diana defies her mother and proves herself to be the most capable of all her sister Amazons, and so is charged with that errand plus a much graver task: locating the newly escaped Ares (Alfred Molina), hell-bent upon bringing war, death and annihilation to the entire planet for his own benefit.
Pointedly rated PG-13, Wonder Woman is pretty violent, with some innuendo and mild language. The unavoidable theme of feminism is deftly explored, while the comedic touches strike a perfect pitch. And maybe it's because I now have two daughters, but I love the fact that this movie was directed and co-written by broads. Interesting piece of trivia: Wonder Woman's creator, William Moulton Marston, when not thinking up weapons like the golden lasso of truth, also dabbled in real world technology--namely the lie detector.
Much like Justice League: The New Frontier, Wonder Woman employs digitally rendered graphics in the style of old-fashioned cel animation. Several distinct palettes are used at different stages of the story, and all are exceptionally strong. Individual figures in long shots are precise, focus pulls are appropriately cinematic, and light effects display a genuine subtlety. A deliberate blur is added to certain action shots, looking mildly artificial, but the real issue with the 1.78:1 image here is the artifacting in difficult backgrounds, common throughout the movie, combined with a hard ringing on what should be smooth glows and surfaces. It can remind us that we're watching digital video and not a comic book come to life, but thankfully the problem is seldom excessive.
Someday I'll remember without being told: This is yet another Warner title that defaults to the Dolby Digital track, so be sure to actively switch over to Dolby TrueHD for the best sound. The implementation of the 5.1-channel soundstage is excellent, particularly in the large-scale fights, everything from the front-to-back phasing of a wounded horse's whinny to the 360-degree whooshing of the lasso to a voice shifting behind us during a grand speech. Dogfighting jets bring a modern-day thrill, with meaty, wide explosions that make ample use of the subwoofer, while the unsheathing of a steel sword indicates the exquisiteness of the trebles.
The audio commentary by DC Comics' Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs Bruce Noveck, producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery and writer Michael Jelenic is lighthearted and surprising: The Little Mermaid apparently had a strong impact on the finished product. The documentary "Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream" delves into her history and underlying psychology as the companion "Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth" unearths her Amazon roots and her evolution from the influences of Greek lore to her role in modern pop culture. Each of these runs 25-and-a-half minutes.
Four Wonder Woman-centric episodes of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited are provided (versus the DVD's two), chosen by Bruce Timm in further celebration of the character. This disc also cross-promotes some of the other DC Universe titles with its inclusion of "Green Lantern: A First Look" (he'll be the next installment in the collection of direct-to-video animated feature films this summer), along with "From Graphic Novel to Original Animated Movie: Justice League: The New Frontier," "Batman Gotham Knight: An Anime Revolution," as well as the "Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess" preview, each running ten to eleven minutes. All of the above is presented in HD. Disc Two is a DVD containing a Digital Copy of the movie for iTunes and Windows Media.
In the absence of a live-action movie (Jessica Biel, why have you forsaken us?), I'd say that this Wonder Woman would have been good enough to be the first-ever theatrical outing of the star-spangled heroine, a smart, fun and action-packed origin/adventure. And like a 24K lariat, bulletproof bracelets and a boomerang headband, the bonus features are the perfect accessories.
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