Comic books are currently dominating the movies and they have gone into every field imaginable. So far we’ve had spy movies, fantasy epics, war films and of course soon we will be watching a space opera. Yet despite all this we haven’t yet had a movie starring a woman, oh sure we’re had women knock around the back of movies balancing out the sausage fest of team ups and we’ve had damsels needing to be saved by cool leading men because they’ve given out their home address to well-known terrorists. Now at this point I’m sure people out there will try and point out the unlikeliness of female superheroes what with them lacking the upper body strength of the men and being able to think about anything outside of flowers and shoes. See unfortunately that argument falls down slightly when Marvel is prepared to base one of their movies around a comic nobody knows about which stars a talking raccoon and his partner an Ent. Not only that, we’re pretty much already had Wonder Woman’s origin story; outdated religious structure turning out to be true, the gods sending their emissary to the modern world. Of course with talk about Wonder Woman coming to the world of Batman vs Superman perhaps all this is wrote in vain. Well not if it turns out to be true that she’s going to be from a tribe of lost Kyptonians. So even though Thor has pretty much already done it I’m going to ask the question of can a movie do Diana of Themyscira? Heck can a superhero movie do a female lead?
Wonder Woman was the fourth Animated movie released in the line in the year of 2009 and stars Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion in the lead roles. But who’s ever heard of those two, lets get down to the good bit, the fighting and the movie doesn’t take long to get to that.
However before we get bogged down in the plot the movie runs a rough hour and twenty minutes including the credits and the art style looks like an update to the Bruce Timm animation style we used to see in the old 90’s cartoons like Batman up to Justice League Unlimited. Now neither of these are particularly bad points but they hardly help to sell the film and this is before we’ve put it in the player. After all this is the full blown origin story of Wonder Woman from before birth to having people point her out in the street with cries of “Look Wonder Woman!” and while I like the art style of Bruce Timm it helps add to the feeling of this being a cheap direct to DVD; though some may consider the run time a good point, especially when considering how long it took Clark to don the outfit in Smallville.
The movie opens in generic ancient times with the Amazons leading an all-out attack on an army of varied greek-esque monsters. The battle looks good and flows nicely and though we see various decapitations and stabbings it should be noted that we don’t see anything too graphic keeping it nicely in pg territory. We’re introduced to some of the notable Amazons outside of Diana as they set up their basic character types while Diana’s mother goes into a one on one fight with Ares god of war. They win and get Ares as their prisoner as well as apparent eternal life and a sweet island in the middle of nowhere complete with an invisibility cloak to cover it.
The thing from here on out is the apparent loyalty to the comic book source, something the live action Dc movies could learn although maybe this is the reason they don’t. Oh I’m sure some hard core Nolan nerd will be complaining at this point but for me the inclusion of Diana being born out of sand (not clay I know) the full original uniform and at one point the Amazons pulling out an invisible jet far more modern than anything the Americans can produce with no explanation is quite unashamedly fun. Now I’m sure we could argue they reverse engineered the cloaking part from the screen covering the island but the missiles and what not are another matter considering the island is cut off from the world since the fight with Ares and all on it still look like something out of a sword and sandal epic.
But I’ve got slightly off topic. The old story of Wonder Woman is updated slightly with Steve Trevor now fighting unknown combatants who are ready and willing to open fire on a trio of rejects from Hot Shots who spend their time making sphincter jokes. Once Steve is shot down he manages to land on the island where we realise, if we hadn’t at this point, that Nathan Fillion is carrying on his tradition of playing diverse original characters. This isn’t a joke by the way, if you haven’t liked Nathan Fillion up to this point seeing him animated isn’t going to help much. Once he is captured by the Amazons they decide to hold a competition to determine who will take him back. These games look like a far more violent ancient Olympic games with archery and chariot racing rounding out in a competition where arrows are fired point blank at the last two competitors who must deflect them to win.
Once we have a winner we have the dramatic reveal of taking off the helmet to reveal Diana who was previously barred from entering. What was nice, was the lack of expression on the face of her mother who despite not watching the movie also seemed to see this coming just as easily as we did.
At this point Diana gets the classic outfit with the explanation that she is wearing the colours of the country she will be travelling to and as much as I appreciate it, I can easily see why we won’t be getting it in live action. I only hope that the outfit we do get proves better than the other DC live action costumes we’re had so far which have all been dull to plain bad.
Unsure of where to park Steve obviously tells her about the great American classic “The voyage home”. Before they leave the park Diana gives a young girl a pep talk about sexism which is certainly better than the last time I saw Diana in a park in Washington though kind of indicative of the tone of the movie we’re going to watch. See while Wonder Woman is an obvious character to discuss gender inequality the movie manages to get more than a little preachy on the subject though the scene where she lifts up a desk to the annoyance of Steve Trevor’s latest squeeze was worth a smirk at least. Though I have got to question whether Diana stabbing a monster in the eye with a stiletto is a political statement or not.
From here the movie plays out with Diana and Steve trying to track down Ares, who managed to escape, before he claims his god powers back and takes over the world.
Without wishing to spoil it about the only other thing I will say is that despite the end battle being sufficiently big to feel, dare I say it, epic it felt small and character focused enough to not feel like two people just throwing each other through buildings and causing masses of collateral damage while no doubt causing the death of thousands. It also gave me a big Ray Harryhausen vibe but I don’t think that’s quite a bad thing.