Pretty good. Exactly what I was expecting. Not as focussed, structurally sound or iconic as i’d hoped but completely serviceable. To be fair, nearly every single criticism I can throw at producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery and crew’s animated Wonder Woman film can be explained away by it’s two most villainous foes – budget and running time.
Scribe Michael Jelenic by way of Gail Simone‘s story makes a grand effort of attempting to tell the definitive origin of DC Comics‘ Amazonian princess by amalgamating and slightly reshaping the best and most iconic elements found in the comic book series and on television. This Wonder Woman can’t fly like the comics or Justice League cartoon incarnations and won’t fight in heels like Linda Carter but is steeped in the Greek mythological background stuff that makes the modern DC version of the character feel timeless. In fact, the film skews heavily toward the sword and sandal tone, only allowing a hint of what Princess Diana’s adventures in “Man’s World” might feel like. And I think that’s where it fails for me.
This fable feels most at home when exploring the lives, characters and mythology of the Amazonian world. It spends a glorious amount of its brief seventy-odd minute run-time focused on the toga/sandal crew and reasonably little on our protagonist’s fish-out-of-water, island girl in NYC arc. A grave mistake, if you ask me, as that’s where the character really shines, where she becomes the Wonder Woman that we all know and love. That version, the ideal status quo for the character is what the whole narrative leads us to in a denouement which really pays off. But along the way, the rush to explore every nook and cranny of the Amazonian plight leads to a juxtaposition of tone and style that doesn’t always work, as if the climax of of Frank Miller‘s 300 was randomly staged in downtown Washington DC without much explanation. In fact, a lot of things get glossed over or unexplained in this story. Like the Invisible Jet that suddenly appears on the primitive Amazon island, for instance.
And, if the production team’s comments are to be believed that sloppiness comes as necessitated by restricted budget and time. Sadly, it seems this vision for Wonder Woman was simply too epic to be contained in a short DTV feature. This is meant to be storytelling writ large and long. The music cues, riffing heavily on Shore’s Lord of the Rings (with a little of Kilar’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula thrown in for good measure) tell us as much right off the top. But you can feel the edits, the glossed over details, the deleted dialogue and scenes, the moments you were meant to love that ended up on the cutting room floor or the directors storyboard pages, as it were. I mean, this thing works well and looks good for a short, modestly budgeted video project. But ultimately, it serves best as a blueprint for Hollywood to follow and expand upon as they bring Wonder Woman to life, live-action on the big screen.
Wonder Woman hits Blu-ray on a BD-25 with a VC-1, 1080p encode that averages 17mbps. Audio is encoded as Dolby True HD 5.1 48 kHz 1641 kbps. The movie, featured on disc one of the two disc set, looks and sounds quite average. Video is softer than it should be, most likely as a result of the diffusion filters used by Moi Animation Studio – a stylistic choice – and exhibits some occasional mild compression artifacting. On the plus side, the film appears vibrant with deep blacks and an over-all pleasing visual experience.
Extras on disc one include a stellar commentary track from Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery and crew where they speak candidly and in depth about the production. Also, two featurettes provide insight into the history and social relevance of the character. Four hand-picked episodes of Justice League featuring Wonder Woman heavily in the plot round out the extras of interest. The remaining features are all promos for other DC and Warner discs. What’s missing, in this reviewer’s opinion, is a doc outlining the creation of the film. I would love to see some production art and meet more of the team responsible for the film, outside of what little is shown in the old promo.
Disc two provides a digital copy of the film, compatible with mac and PC. That’s all folks!
The Final Word:
I really love that Warner is putting it’s muscle behind these DTV releases. Despite any criticisms that I might have, i really enjoy the DC heroes in their various animated incarnations. And I can count this Wonder Woman film among my favourites. With a decent transfer and a handful of compelling features I can’t help but give this disc a recommendation. As a PG-13 film, it’s clearly focussed at fans and certainly not made for children but most viewers who enjoy animated adventure films will get a kick out of it.
Learn more about the animation of Wonder Woman in my review over at Frames Per Second Animation Magazine.