Wonder Woman has had a very tough time getting a film version of herself realized. You know your in trouble when Joss Whedon, the master of creating memorable, strong females, throws his arms up and says "f*ck it. But with a live-action film now nowhere in site, DC has gone the direct-to-dvd route with ol’ Wondy with the soon to be released Wonder Woman. Produced by the legen–wait for it–dary Bruce Timm, and starring an all-star cast the likes of Keri Russell as Wonder Woman (Diana), Nathan Fillion as Steve Trevor, Alfred Molina as Ares, and Rosario Dawson as Artemis, Wonder Woman is chalk full of talent. The only question that remains is if the animation is up to par, and the story worth the time spent watching it.
Wonder Woman marks the fourth direct-to-dvd outing by DC. While all have been produced by Timm, there have been an equal number of misses among the hits. For the greatness of Justice League: The New Frontier, there has been Superman/ Doomsday. Batman: Gotham Knight was a cool showcase of a bunch of anime artists and directors getting a shot at the character but the film doesn’t really warrant a re-watching outside the hardcore Batman fanatics crowd. So where does Wonder Woman stand? Does it cater to only those who are fans of the comic, or can audiences being swept up in the sea of comic films find something to enjoy in this animated character peice? Well firstly, Wonder Woman is a contemporary retelling of the character’s origin which is a great way to start if you’re looking to draw in a wider audience. Not everyone knows Wonder Woman was born of mortal clay by her mother, Hippolyta, then becoming the ambassador for Themyscira (aka va-j-j island) when venturing to Men’s world (aka Dick City).
The film also frames Wondy’s origin in the context of a war between the inhabitants of Themyscira, namely Hippolyta, and Ares, God of War. Therefore the film starts off firing on all cylinders with an epic battle which leads right into Wonder Woman being born. In theory it’s a cool way to begin the film–instantly grabbing the attention of the audience, but in my opinion it was the weakest segment of the movie. It’s really hard to sell epic fights in animated films. Seeing 2-D tears stream down someone’s face when their comrade dies doesn’t hold a candle to watching real actors shed real tears when the same event happens in a live-action war. It’s also hard not to cringe when the voice work for these scenes demands constant artificial grunts. While the animation for this sequence was fantastic, with slashing blades having the "the anime streak effect" as I like to call it, it still didn’t overshadow the uphill battle of portraying an epic battle through animation. However, once the film settles down and actually begins to tell Wonder Woman’s story, it finds a nice niche to occupy.
The whole movie moves very quickly. Story beats happen rapid fire and before you know it, it’s the final confrontation, then credits. Maybe it’s a testament to proper pacing on director Lauren Montgomery’s part, but past the opening battle, everything seemed to zip by at a brisk pace. It also didn’t hurt that the film only runs 75 minutes (standard for DC direct-to-DVD). But there was a reason I was so enthralled in the story of Wonder Woman, and it wasn’t because of the plot, it was the characters, and more importantly the voice acting that sold the drama of the film. Keri Russell played a convincing Wonder Woman, as well as Diana, who is just as important when discussing the origins of Wonder Woman. You have to understand Diana to get her motivations to become Wonder Woman, and Russell goes a good job showing the layers to the character.
The real star of the show is cult phenom Nathan Fillion. I’ll take a second to break, let the internet calm down and change their collective pants, because that’s what needs to be done when a Joss Whedon fanatic reads/hears his name. And believe me, at least 75% of the internet are Whedon whores. It’s why the ratings for his shows are so low–the fans are too busy discussing old episodes of Buffy and Firefly on the internets to tune in (ohhh sick burn!). But in all seriousness, Nathan Fillion has a following because Nathan Fillion is a damn good actor, voice acting included. And he really gets to shine here in Wonder Woman because the film is PG-13. Meaning: be prepared for a ton of hilarious sex jokes. And you know what, in theory that sounds like a recipe for disaster–a Wonder Woman film made specifically for comic geeks riddled with T&A jokes does not seem like the kind of film that would cater to any outside audience. But in reality, all of these jokes are perfectly timed and perfectly delivered by Nathan Filiion. Like I said, whenever Fillion is on screen, he’s a show stealer and goes a long way to rounding out the Wonder Woman package by bringing some light-heart fun to a moving picture about war.
So the final question I want to touch on, which brings us full circle is if this animated feature film starring Wonder Woman could raise interest enough to warrant a live-action counter-part for the character. Short answer: I don’t believe it does. This film is perfect for Wonder Woman fans, and maybe some curious outsiders of the comic scene because of its great, witty dialogue and cool animation, but Wonder Woman just doesn’t have what it takes, yet, to warrant her own live-action feature. I’m going to peg it on her rogues’ gallery. You know what they say; a hero is nothing without his/her rogues. And truthfully, Wonder Woman’s best villains are those she fights with the JLA. So therefore, a live-action film, that would surely be another retelling of her origin, seems almost unnecessary at this point. We truthfully have it right here. It might not be with real people but this movie is as close as we’ve come to in-motion Wonder Woman greatness, so grab it while you can.
CraveOnline Rating: 8 out of 10.