"Wonder Woman" Blu-ray Review
February 27, 2009 by James Harvey
Wonder Woman has always been a hard-sell it seems, and unfairly so. While I can understand the somewhat reluctance to get involved with a character that can be difficult to relate to, you have to admit that she's a great romantic figure, one that reminds me, personally, of some of the best characters in classic literature. An Amazon born of the clay, she rose to become an ambassador of peace, falling in love with the world she's never seen. How classic does that sound? Regardless of that, and save for a hit live-action series from the 1970s, she's had a difficult history in the media. Even though she's an influencial character, Wonder Woman has never really broke out of the shadow of Batman and Superman, her male DC Comics counterparts. Well, hopefully that will all change with Wonder Woman, one of the best DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles to date. Let's get that pesky synopsis out of the way and dig a little deeper into this new animated feature.
On the mystical island of Themyscira, a proud and fierce warrior race of Amazons have raised a daughter of untold beauty, grace and strength Princess Diana. When an Army fighter pilot, Steve Trevor, crash-lands on the island, the rebellious and headstrong Diana defies Amazonian law by accompanying Trevor back to civilization. Meanwhile, Ares (the god of War) has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of the Amazonians and has decided to exact his revenge - intending to start a world war that will not only last for centuries but will wipe out every living being on the planet, starting with the Amazons! It is up to Princess Diana to save her people and the world by using her gifts and becoming the ultimate Wonder Woman!
The opening battle sequence for Wonder Woman is a sight to behold, full of sharp directing and beautiful animation. While the battlefield is littered with corpses and combative foes, the backgrounds are detailed and lush. It's an absolutely stunning opening, and also pretty violent. Swords clash and heads fly as the Amazons struggle to defeat an evil foe. And this sequence is literally just the beginning. All this sequence does is provide the backdrop for the rest of the movie. Once the words "Wonder Woman" blaze across the screen, the movie picks up with the leading character, Princess Diana, front and center. And, thankfully, the movie does live up to the promise of the opening sequence, even if it does falter a little here and there.
Without a doubt, Wonder Woman is a fun movie, full of striking visuals and great performances. Nathan Fillion is absolutely perfect as Steve Trevor, who has some of the best dialogue bits in the movie. Fillion manages to play up the cocky nature of Trevor without it becoming too overbearing or tiresome. There's one moment in particular, when Fillion bares his soul after unknowingly stepping into Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth, where we get an understanding of who Trevor really is. Keri Russell also manages to hold her own in this movie. I'll admit I was initially skeptical of her being cast as Wonder Woman when the news originally broke, but she does a good job with the role. She really does push herself into the role admirably and manages to pull it off. I don't think she absolutely nails is like Fillion with Trevor, but she does solid work as Wonder Woman, even resulting in some really hilarious moments here and there. Russell's voice also helps define Diana's age in the movie, too. She's still young and, I suppose, a bit fresh when it comes to the world around her, and we see that. There's one amusing scene where Wonder Woman, just arriving in New York, tells a little girl to "Unleash Hell" in an effort to console the child. Trevor and Diana have great chemistry and, thankfully, Trevor never overshadows Diana despite his strong presence in the movie.
Overall, I thought the movie was very well cast, with everyone pulling their weight respectively. If there was a weak point, I'd have to say that Rosario Dawson was a bit too rough as Artemis. I understand the character and what Dawson was going for, but I don't think she pulled it off as well as she could. There were some line reads that sounded so stilted compared to the others.
The movie does have a couple other detractors, though. It tends to jump around for the last twenty minutes, and while the movie does set up that Trevor and Diana are closely following Ares, I don't think it's handled as well as it could have been. This comes apparent especially for the final battle which has the Amazons just showing up in Washington, DC after Ares pops up there mere moments before. Yes, the Amazons do have a magic mirror to view the outside world, and Paradise Island does seem to pretty damn close to North America, like a few miles away at most, but they do show up way too fast for my liking. But, again, one can assume that the Amazons were also tailing Ares, making it easy for them to show up when they did. Still, how everyone winds up in the same place at the end seems a bit contrived and could have been handled better. It's not too distracting, but I guarantee that it may give you pause to wonder, even for just a few seconds. Since I'm not a life-long Wonder Woman fan, I am sure I missed a few other inconsistencies a dedicated Princes Diana fan would have picked up, but that seemed to be the major dropped story-point for me.
Well, there's also the unexplained invisible jet the Amazons possess, but I'm sure others more knowledgeable in Wonder Woman lore than I can touch upon this better.
To get back on track, I still think Wonder Woman is a solid animated action-adventure, emphasis on "action." As extremely evident by the opening sequence, this movie isn't for the faint of heart. The battle scenes alone make this movie not entirely kid-appropriate. We see a huge amount of stabbings and decapitations within the opening moments, and then many more during the climactic battle. The amount of dead in this movie is staggering. And, as violent as these battle scenes are, they're aren't as violent as early reviews will lead you to believe. In fact, based on the commentary track for the movie, they seem to have been toned down from their original presentation, which would be understandable given the final product. Despite that, it's still a violent movie, even if some of the more graphic moments, such as decapitations, are done in silhouette.
Thankfully, the epic battle and fight scenes are countered with Trevor and Diana, who are paired up for the majority of the movie. Like I said above, there's good chemistry between the two, and that helps balance the movie. If the movie was just an animated retread of 300, then it would get tired really quickly, but that's not the case here. The script provides a lot of light and quiet moments that allow the characters to breathe and move the story along naturally. Even the villains are given some delicious moments, especially a very disturbing Hades, who has some really great, creepy scenes. Everyone has a moment to shine here, making it possible to actually care about what happens and how the movie unfolds, even if the movie succumbs to some erratic skipping toward the end of the feature.
A lot of this is easily overlook-able thanks to some of the truly beautiful animation we see on display here. I briefly mentioned it above, but I'd like to go a little more in-detail for a moment. Whether it's the opening battle scene or the detailed cityscape, the animation on Wonder Woman is top-notch, and possibly the best looking DC Universe Animated Original Movie title to date. The movement is so fluid, with some of it even bordering on rotoscope-smooth quality. There's one scene involving a zombie Amazon (yes, you read that right) that is animated in draw-dropping fashion. Yes, there are a few glitches here and there, but any animation errors are far and few in-between. The only things that may stand out to the trained eye is the occasional obvious use of CGI, to bulk up the size of battle scenes and number of characters, or the odd jumpy animation cycle, such as walking cycles or the odd background movement cycles. But, like I said, it's nothing that takes away from the story at all. Overall, Wonder Woman likely has the best animation to date for a comic-themed direct-to-video animated feature, full of beautiful detail and sweeping visuals. The movie is truly an eyeful.
If I had to compare it to the previous DC Universe Animated Original Movie releases, I'd rate it as the best yet. Much like Wonder Woman, each of the previous installments had their flaws, but also had major redeeming factors, too. Justice League: The New Frontier was a great production, but struggled to fit a massive story in a meager 75-minute movie. Batman: Gotham Knight was an interesting experiment with six loosely related shorts, with some better than others. Superman Doomsday was an unapologetic smashfest that was heavy on visuals but a bit light on story. Regardless of their faults, they were all enjoyable and fun, but Wonder Woman does them all better for one major reason. While there may be a few unexplained jumps, the movie doesn't feel as rushed as previous animated features. Wonder Woman is allowed to breathe for the 75-minute run time.
It goes without saying that Wonder Woman is an animated feature that actually does have something for everyone, as odd as that may sound. We get comedy, romance, action, amazing animation, everything, and it's all actually balanced really well. Just keep in mind that, like the previous DC animated features, this movie it not appropriate for the younger set. Easily the best DC Universe Animated Original Movie title to date, it seems as though the creative team behind these direct-to-video animated features are finally getting a hang of what they can and cannot tell over a 75-minute period, and Wonder Woman is an example of a step in the right direction. Not to say that the previous DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles were bad, they weren't, but they seem to be finding their comfort zone on how to work these 75-minute features and Wonder Woman is a prime example of that. This direct-to-video animated feature is nearly perfect, and pretty much is until the third act when the script takes a few jumps that seem to come out of nowhere. Despite the flaws, once again, I find myself standing behind and touting this release as Highly Recommended. Wonder Woman is a great installment in the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line, and a movie that I'm sure fans new and old will gladly get behind.
As with previous DC Universe Animated Original Movie titles, Warner Home Video has released Wonder Woman on single and double-disc DVD and high-definition Blu-ray. The Blu-ray release features a two-disc Elite Blu-ray case,with the second disc being a digital copy, along with an embossed and foil reflective slipcover. Inserts include the instructions for obtaining the available digital copy as well as a firmware upgrade notice.
As for the release itself, Warner Home Video has done another excellent job putting together a solid release. While it's not the best DC Universe Animated Original Movie title release, it's still nothing to scoff at. Before we get to the bonus content, let's briefly touch upon the overall look and feel of the disc. The video transfer of the movie is a sight to behold, with no noticeable compression or artifacting, resulting in an amazing transfer. The audio transfer is just as solid with Warner Home Video finally giving these animated releases a DolbyTrueHD track. It's an excellent audio transfer that's immersive and sometimes ear-busting. A regular Dolby Digital track is also included. So, now that we've determined how excellent this release looks and sounds, what about the rest?
As for extras, the first on the list is the Commentary Track featuring senior VP creative affairs, DC Comics Gregory Noveck, Producer Bruce Timm, Director Lauren Montgomery and Writer Michael Jelenic. It's a good track for the most part, with Noveck and Timm talking for the bulk of the track and Montgomery and Jelenic occasionally speaking up to share their thoughts on the project. Both Jelenic and Montgomery briefly talk about abandoned ideas from the movie and some of the edits made to the feature, including the reduction in blood. The track manages to cover nearly every aspect of the film's production and is a great extra.
Following that we get two documentaries, both of which run just over 25 minutes in total. Both Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream and Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth touch upon the roots of the character and the mythology of which she is based. Aside from a few clips from the animated feature, there's little mention of the movie. The documentaries focus on the interesting comic book origin of Wonder Woman, how she came to be, and how her influence has lasted for generations. Looking into the myth behind the character also results in some pretty interesting facts being uncovered, including the discovery of a group of mummified women with traits similar to that of the Amazons. Interesting stuff that's worth a look, even if the documentaries are too short for my liking.
Also included in this release are a host of "first look" featurettes of past and upcoming projects. Green Lantern: First Look gives a preview of the next direct-to-video animated feature from DC, providing a look at storyboards, animatics, and thoughts from the cast and crew. It looks like a solid effort, without a doubt. "First look" featurettes for Wonder Woman, Justice League: The New Frontier, and Batman: Gotham Knight, all carry-overs from previous releases, are also included to view. Oddly enough, there's no trailer for Super Doomsday, which was just re-released on DVD and Blu-ray just last year. The Blu-ray is also rounded off with two episodes from Justice League, "Paradise Lost, Parts 1 - 2," and two from Justice League Unlimited, "Hawk and Dove" and "To Another Shore." All four episodes provide suitable entertainment for those looking for more Wonder Woman.
The Blu-ray release of Wonder Woman is absolutely solid, even if it isn't as packed as I'd hope. While it may have some flaws, Wonder Woman is probably the best DC Universe Animated Original Movie title to date and if you're looking for the best way to experience this movie, the Blu-ray is the way to go. With the most bonus content out of all of the releases, Wonder Woman will easily provide hours of great viewing, including a solid rewatchability factor of the main feature and some fascinating content from the bonus materials. I do think the two documentaries could have been longer, as they run just a shade over 50 minutes combined, but what is there is great watching. It goes without saying that the Blu-ray release of Wonder Woman comes Highly Recommended to own. Not only is the main feature an absolute wonder, and looks stunning 1080p, but the bonus materials are fascinating and informative. Warner Home Video has done a great job giving fans an immaculate release for on of DC's most beloved characters.
Wonder Woman arrives on Two-Disc Special Edition DVD, single-disc DVD, and Blu-ray on March 3rd, 2009.
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