NYCC REVIEW: "Wonder Woman"

Sat, February 7th, 2009 at 12:45pm PST | Updated: February 7th, 2009 at 5:05pm

TV/Film
Josh Wigler, Staff Writer
2

CAUTION: This review contains Spoilers

From start to finish, "Wonder Woman" packs the punch of an Amazonian warrior in the heat of battle. The fourth DC Universe animated film proves itself as the strongest feature yet, thanks to its perfect match of action, comedy, voice acting and animation. or an audience quick with plenty of cheers and very few jeers, "Wonder Woman" was nothing short of wonderful.

"Wonder Woman" focuses on Princess Diana (Keri Russell), daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen), ruler of a fierce race of Amazon warrior women. Living on the mystical man-free island Themyscira, Diana's life changes forever when cocky fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) accidentally crash lands on her homeland. While accompanying Trevor back to America, Diana finds herself toe-to-toe with Ares (Alfred Molina), the god of War and sworn enemy of the Amazons. In her quest to stop Ares, Diana bridges the forgotten gap between man and Amazon and becomes the heroic Wonder Woman in the process.

The debut of "Wonder Woman" kills longstanding doubts that DC's number one woman could ever carry her own solo film. While Batman and Superman have strong definitions in popular culture, Diana Prince is a name less familiar to the masses outside of the immediate comic book community. Some have wondered if Wonder Women is a marketable character in a genre dominated by male viewers. Who cares about a woman in star-spangled underwear when the Dark Knight is tearing up the mean streets of Gotham? The latest DC Universe animated film makes great strides towards solving that problem. This movie proves that Wonder Woman not only stands shoulder-to-shoulder with her superhero peers, but she can probably teach them a thing or two about a fist fight.

The action in "Wonder Woman" is so pulse-pounding that it's hard to believe you're watching a cartoon aimed at teenagers. Indeed, the film's PG-13 rating is a generous label given the amount of decapitation and dismemberment featured in the film's opening sequence alone. When stacked up against last summer's "Batman: Gotham Knight," the Amazonian Wonder makes Bruce Wayne look like a white belt. Diana Prince isn't held back by Batman's silly "no kill" rule – when there's a demon in need of slaying, look for Wonder Woman to be holding the blade. Not enough praise can be heaped on director Lauren Montgomery, who also co-directed segments of 2007's "Superman: Doomsday." Montgomery's solo directorial debut is a masterpiece in animated violence that will have action lovers at the edge of their seats.

"Wonder Woman" scribe Michael Jelenic ("Batman: The Brave and the Bold") also gets a gold star for one of the wittiest screenplays thus far this year. Jelenic gives Diana plenty of choice dialogue, though Fillion's Steve Trevor spews out the meatiest lines. Channeling the Han Solo vibe he perfected on "Firefly," Fillion's dialogue delivers laugh after laugh throughout the course of the film. A particularly memorable scene involves his character awakening in a room filled with suspicious Amazons ready for the kill. Trevor describes his situation groggily: "I haven't had this dream since I was thirteen." Jelenic provides all of his characters with sharp tongues that are equally capable of gag lines and dramatic delivery. He also scores major geek points by providing an ending that's considerably less subtle than flashing a Joker card, though I can't say much more than that – that would be "cheeting."

The vocal talent on "Wonder Woman" scores high marks across the board. Keri Russell, best known for her starring role on TV's "Felicity," portrays Princess Diana with all of the fierceness and bravery that the character demands. Her Wonder Woman could very well find a place on the trophy shelf next to Kevin Conroy's iconic portrayal of Batman. Equally talented are Alfred Molina and Oliver Platt as Ares and Hades respectively, both of whom depict two of the eeriest villains to grace the animated screen in quite some time. And it bears repeating that Fillion's work as Steve Trevor successfully provides the comedic foil that "Wonder Woman" requires.

If there's any one weakness of the film, it's the inclusion of Diana's famous invisible jet. Themyscira is portrayed as a technology-free, warrior-driven society. The fact that the Amazons have this hidden high-tech vehicle makes very little sense. Worse still, there's absolutely no explanation for its existence. It feels as though the jet was included specifically for product and marketing reasons, or perhaps as a kind of fan service. Still, it's a minor complaint if the only mark against "Wonder Woman" is an invisible plane, and it's even forgivable due to the jet's hilarious role in the movie's final act.

At it's core, "Wonder Woman" is a film about the relationship between men and women. Sometimes subtle but often overt, the theme of male dominance in modern society is utilized repeatedly throughout the film. The topic is not only relevant to the characters within the story, but to the audience members as well. Wonder Woman is arguably the most well known female superhero of all time, yet it's taken over 50 years for the character to receive her own feature film. Even so, Wonder Woman has yet to see a live-action film adaptation and there are currently no announced plans to remedy that situation. If DC Comics and Warner Bros. ever manage to move forward with a live-action version of Wonder Woman that matches a shred of her bad-assness in this animated feature, it'll do wonders towards breaking gender biases in the comic book film genre. "Wonder Woman" is truly an A+ effort that illustrates how incredible the female superhero can be when treated with maturity, love and respect.

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TAGS:  nycc2009, review, wonder woman

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