Imagine pitching an action-adventure piece based loosely on mythology wrapped around elements of a romantic comedy as your project to feature one of the most well known super heroes ever.
OK, that may not be what Warner Bros. intended, but that's what director Lauren Montgomery has done with "Wonder Wonder" (rated PG-13 for good reason). Sound weird? Absolutely. But, guess what? It works — in spades.
DC Comics, together with parent company Warner Bros., has been giving fans a regular diet of DC Universe Animated Original Movies starting with the Sept. 18, 2007 release of "Superman Doomsday." Last summer, Warner Home Video released "Batman: Gotham Knight," (you can read my review here) to tie into Christopher Nolan's live-action film, "The Dark Knight." (My front-page Reflector review ran the day of TDK's July 18 release and I wrote a follow-up blog the next day.)
Now it's the time for the final third of DC's Trinity of heroes. And "Wonder Woman" is arguably the best of the lot. In some ways, the creative team has managed to do the impossible: Throw in all the characteristics fans say are iconic to Wonder Woman and make the character dynamic. Princess Diana is a gorgeous, heroic warrior who embodies athleticism and sexiness, stands up for women's rights in "man's world," yet can kick some serious behind.
Keri Russell (most recently of "Waitress") would not have been my first choice as Wonder Woman. But her young, breathy voice gives the heroine a subued sexiness and nicely characterizes how Princess Diana is a young woman thrown into the deep end in the being the first Amazon to leave the paradise island. Russell also gives the Amazon Princess authority. In short, Russell is great.
Nathan Fillion (Dr. Adam Mayfair on "Desperate Housewives") is a treat as pilot Col. Steve Trevor. His delivery is so good it's hard not like the womanizer even when he's saying some sexist things. A huge asset, as pointed out in the very interesting audio commentary, is Fillion had befriended Russell while working together in "Waitress."
One of the greatest moments — and there are many — is when Wonder Woman first arrives in Central Park in her invisible jet with Trevor. She sees a young black girl who is sad because she's been relegated to being the "damsel in distress" while her boy friends play with swords nearby. Wonder Woman gives her some advice on swordplay and sends the girl to join them, telling her to "give them hell," to which Trevor sardonically replies how "great" it is the girl now knows how to embowel her playmates.
While there are plenty of lighter moments, not everything is levity. In fact, the first 8 1/2 minutes of the film is warfare between the Amazons and the army of Ares, the God of War (voiced deliciously evil by Alfred Molina, Doctor Octopus in "Spider-Man 2" — just one of the great cast members in WW). It is surprisingly intense with bloodshed, swordplay of course and even a beheading. The sequence is the animated equivalent of "300" or "Lord of the Rings."
The color palette is breathtaking, making "Wonder Woman" the best looking animated project by Warner Bros. The story stays close to her December 1941 origin, but unlike say the first third of "Superman: The Movie," the momentum doesn't slow down in "Wonder Woman" or get bogged down in the details. It's a fascinating story that the WB needs to make a priority and spend the big bucks to tell in a live-action film. The ending moments put a nice cap on — and set-up for — Diana and Trevor's relationship and is, by far, the greatest tease for an animated sequel I've ever seen. Let's see Wonder Woman tangle with (name omitted to avoid killing the surprise) now!
The extras include two documentaries on Wonder Woman, which dissect her comics and feminist backgrounds. These were interesting, but a tad dry. I would have loved for the producers to have gotten TV Wonder Woman Lynda Carter's feedback. Also included are animated producer extraordinaire Bruce Timm's "bonus episode picks": actually two "Justice League Unlimited" shows featuring Wonder Woman. (One was included on the "Justice League: New Frontier" DVD — my review is here.)
Most promising was the preview for "Green Lantern" First Flight," coming to DVD on July 28, which was similar to what was done for "Wonder Woman." Film: A+ Extras: B
Timm hinted at DC's next animated movie beyond "Green Lantern" in the commentary. I'm going to guess it will feature The Flash. And if I were WB I'd be working hand-in-hand with the DC Universe Animated Original Movies team, using those DVD features to get the public primed for (and the studio ready to write, schedule and cast) live-action launches of the Fastest Man Alive and of course, Wonder Woman. Hint! HINT! HINT!