Review: ‘Wonder Woman’ Animated Film Commemorative Edition

When the Wonder Woman animated film was first released in 2009, my reaction after one viewing was a disappointment.

Oh, the movie has some bright spots. The action sequences in the second half are terrific and the new commemorative edition out today has some great special features, the voice cast is excellent, and one sequence with Wonder Woman and a young girl is note-perfect.

But, re-watching this weekend confirmed my initial impression. It’s not a great movie.

The biggest flaw of the film is turning Steve Trevor (played by Nathan Fillion with a smug-type of self-satisfaction) into a shallow skirt-chaser. The first thing Steve does after crash-landing on Paradise Island is come across Amazons bathing in a pool and makes a sexual remark. He then goes on to make comments about Princess Diana’s breasts, and when they arrive in America, he takes her to a bar to get her drunk and perhaps take advantage of her.

Getting the story of the “survivor,” as he’s called in Greg Rucka’s recent reimagining of Steve Trevor , is a key to the story of Wonder Woman. He’s the one who shows Diana that all humans, not just Amazons, can be a force for good. To turn him into a series of sexual jokes is to miss the entire point of the origin story.

image via Warner Bros.

However, my re-watch allowed me to appreciate the movie’s strengths. The back half of the movie, which I skimmed the first time because I was annoyed, is far better than I remembered, with Ares as a formidable foe using a literal army of the dead to attack Washington, D.C.  It contains tense fight sequences and visuals, with the Amazons saving the world. (Though I could have done without the comment about “supermodels” saving the world.) I also love the subplot with the two Amazonian sisters, one who only values the strength of arms, and the one who only values learning.

However, I’m ambivalent about the opening battle sequence, which is quite gory.  This film is definitely for tweens and up, not younger children. That’s disappointing as I feel Wonder Woman is inherently a character that should be enjoyed by children. On the other hand, it’s a terrific showcase for Hippolyta.

Gail Simone’s name is in the credits under “story,” while the screenplay was written by Michael Jelenic. I can see the bits that were pure Simone, especially Wonder Woman’s encouragement to a young girl in the park who’s being pushed by boys into the role of a “princess who must be rescued,” which I consider the highlight of the movie. One can see echoes of that scene in a more recent Simone Wonder Woman story, with art by Colleen Doran, in the recent 75th Anniversary Wonder Woma special.

Star Blossom, WonderWoman, Colleen Doran, Gail Simone
Wonder Woman/Star Blossom, 75th Anniversary special, art by Colleen Doran, image via DC Comics

Simone said in an interview with After Ellen in 2009 that the on-the-nose dialogue about sexism in the movie was not hers, that her script was more subtle about misogyny, but that she’d come to appreciate the movie’s points about sexism.

Wonder Woman in the animated movie, image via Warner Bros.

What I can unreservedly recommend in this new edition are the special features.

Yes, there’s a fun preview of the Batman & Harley Quinn direct-to-DVD movie that’s coming soon. But there are also features on the history of Wonder Woman. Their only problem:  they’re too short.

They are:

What Makes A Wonder Woman: For 75 years, Wonder Woman has resonated with audiences because of her loving nature and quest for truth. Hear some of her biggest fans and fellow creators discuss how her qualities have crafted her into the icon we know today.

Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream – A definitive look at a psychologist’ s dream, and the rich history of one of the pillars of DC Comics.

Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth – This revealing documentary explores the archetype and tradition of the female DC Comics Super Hero.

The full voice cast is led Keri Russell as Diana/Wonder Woman, Fillion as Steve Trevor, Alfred Molina as Ares, Rosario Dawson as Artemis, Virginia Madsen as Hippolyta, David McCallum as Zeus, Marg Helgenberger as Hera, Oliver Platt as Hades, and Vicki Lewis (NewsRadio, Godzilla) as Persephone.

The Blu-ray Combo Price is $24.98 and the regular DVD Price is $19.98.

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