You knew that DC Universe was going to get around to a Wonder Woman feature eventually, didn't you? Like her compatriots, Superman and Batman, Princess Diana has been continuously in publication for decades (though, it must be admitted, not in several simultaneous titles), yet she had to wait for their fourth offering. This is Wonder Woman. WONDER WOMAN. Discussing her iconography would take several pages and likely more patience than the average reader should be called upon to muster. Besides, all that gets covered in the Extras, so I don't have to get all academic.
Wonder Woman is a welcome addition to the likes of Superman: Doomsday, Batman: Gotham Knight and Justice League: The New Frontier (in which she appears); like them, all previous animated adventures (even the aforementioned New Frontier and the popular TV series) go by the wayside, and the story exists in its own reality. Wonder Woman's origin story is faithfully retold - molded from clay and given life by the gods; living in peace with her fellow Amazons on the hidden Paradise Island until the Outside World intrudes in the person of wrecked American fighter pilot Steve Trevor. Winning a martial contest, Diana is elected to return Trevor to his people and act as Ambassador to the World of Man.
Complicating matters: since the all-out war between men and Amazons that starts the story, Ares, the God of War, has been a prisoner of the Amazons, a divinely-decreed judgement. Ares employs the contest as a distraction to escape, so Diana's mission becomes twofold: she must also find and recapture Ares before he can find a way to break the bracelets that prevent him from using his War God Mojo to take over the world.
It is here that Wonder Woman unfortunately falters, and it's not truly its fault. There seems to be an artificial time restraint of 70-75 minutes on these direct-to-DVD movies, and the story's epic sweep seems crowded and hurried in the last act. Really, I suppose most movies just aspire to have that problem. The animation, as usual, is top notch, with great design work and spot-on voice performances from the like of Keri Russell, Rosario Dawson, Alfred Molina, Oliver Platt and Nathan Fillion (who makes for a cracking good Steve Trevor).
The digital soundtrack should be singled out here if only for Christopher Drake's extraordinary score. We see once again on a cover sticker that this is "The First PG-13 Rated Animated Movie Featuring Wonder Woman!" Actually a fair warning this time: these Amazons are Warriors with a capital War, and there is blood and great gouts of violence.
Disc One starts with the now-traditional ad pimping WB's Blu-Ray offerings, and an ad for the computer-generated Clone Wars series. The audio commentary track featuring producer Bruce Timm, DC Comics VP Gregory Nowack, writer Michael Jelenic and director Lauren Montgomery is useful mainly for finding out how much a feature can change from conception to final product, and what artist was in charge of what sequence.
There is, as usual in a DC Universe disc, a piece previewing the next offering, Green Lantern, mainly actor and creator interviews interspersed with pencil sketches. If you missed them before in their native discs, similar featurettes for Gotham Knight and New Frontier are re-presented. There are also trailers for LEGO Batman, Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword, and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.
The DC Universe extra featurettes have established a very high standard, and the two on the second disc are no exception. Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream and Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth explore the sociological and mythic context of the character with a diverse and occasionally bewildering cast of experts. The only false note is hit when the subject of the seemingly endless instances of the Princess in bondage situations is brought up, then dismissed with a vague, almost shame-faced piece of academic doggerel. The rest is damn fine stuff.
Rounding out the set are two of Bruce Timm's Top Picks" from the Justice League Unlimited TV series featuring our favorite Amazon, To Another Shore and Hawk and Dove. This fan is satisfied.
Dr. Freex, 4/14/2009