'Toon Review - Wonder Woman
Dear Warner Bros.
This this this this this!
You want to know how to make Wonder Woman work on the big screen? Take the screenplay for this animated movie, expand on it (and really, all you have to do there is just let the more spectacle moments of the animation be even more spectacle-y on film) to fill up 2-ish hours instead of the 72 minute running time of this feature and blam…done. But don’t you dare touch the banter. The Diana/Steve moments? Leave them alone. Sure, that might need a little bit of that expansion but don’t you dare touch the tone of them. I mean, hell, we’re looking at an animated piece here that has elements of swords & sandals epics (which upcoming Wonder Woman movie producer Zack Snider has some experience with), romantic comedy and goddamn zombies (again falling into the past experience of Mr. Snider)! Sure, there’s more to it than this (after all, it is also a superhero origin story too), but come on! In a Hollywood where in order for any film to be made it has to fall into the template of ‘past successful movie crossed with another past successful movie’, this falls perfectly into that limited mode of thinking. It’s 300 crossed with Night of the Living Dead crossed with Superman crossed with boobs. And that’s not me being sexist (okay…maybe a little), that’s just saying that we’re dealing with a female version of Superman (yes, yes, I know, there are vast character differences, I am an old school comic book nerd, I know this, but we’re pitching to Hollywood execs who have gone out of the way to show that they are most certainly NOT).
Having already touched on story, let’s jump over to the visual style of the piece. See…by doing that, I’m hoping I don’t do the long-winded ‘I’m gonna paraphrase the entire movie to you’ trap I seem to keep falling into. The character design by director Lauren Montgomery is fantastic and if I’m completely honest, is my favorite animated interpretation of Wonder Woman. Bruce Timm’s Justice League Wonder Woman had too much in common with his other female designs…the best word I can think of to describe it is ‘cutesy’. Phil Bourassa, who would do character design work for future DC animated features (as well as Young Justice), is visibly influenced by Montgomery’s work when it came his turn to interpret the amazing Amazon…the difference between the two of them is that Montgomery’s WW looks to have just the slightest hint of ‘Disney Princess’ to her, whereas Bourassa’s designs have a dash of anime to them. But the ‘Princess’ angle just works better…well, in more ways than one (because, you know, she’s an Amazon princess…yeah, I know, I’m reaching, but hey, it just occurred to me…). In addition, the one thing I keyed in on, and this is gonna sound really damn weird, was the design for Diana’s nose. It’s not the perfect Caucasian nose that we’re used to seeing with her in animation, it’s bent…and not in a ‘wicked old witch’ sort of way but in a way that’s…well…Greek (because, OMFG, Wonder Woman is actually GREEK! Or at the very least of Greek descent). It’s the little details…you know? And to keep up on of our other fine traditions here at The Cat, yes, the…ahem…big details are handled very well too.
Moving beyond character design and into the action scenes of the movie, Montgomery proves to be very accomplished here as well. While the large crowd battles that bookend the movie are certainly done well, I’d point at Diana’s confrontation with Deimos as the best example of action in the piece. Throughout the fight, Diana’s attire transitions from evening dress from her night out with Steve Trevor eventually, in tatters, being ripped off in favor of the usual Wonder Woman garb. Sure, you could read this as that while she’ll try to blend into man’s world she will always be an Amazon at her core…and it works on that level of metaphor…but it’s just a damn cool visual. And the brawl entering into a shoe store…well…you know…
Going into the story, well, it’s the standard Wonder Woman origin. That being said…wow, I’m really having a hard time thinking of when that’s been covered in its entirety. The old Lynda Carter TV show picked up with Steve Trevor crashing on the island of Amazons, and that’s as good a place to start as any, but this goes back even further…giving us a little more background on the Amazons themselves and why they’re secluded and showing us the fateful scene where Hippolyta molds her soon-to-be daughter out of clay. So yeah, aside from that…we get the usual, Steve Trevor crashes, has to be returned, contest to see who gets to do it, Diana is forbidden by her mom, competes anyway, wins…yadda yadda. At this point, we go off the beaten path a bit as Diana must track down Ares before he unleashes massive war and death on mankind, making himself all-powerful. All of this done very well, thanks to the aforementioned banter. As I’m sure I said in a previous review, it’s okay to fall into a story trope provided that you can add some new flavor to it. I mean, hell, everyone loves pizza…the variety coming from either different styles or toppings or differences in flavor of the crust or sauce or cheeses. And the semi-romantic banter and bickering between Steve and Diana is fantastic as it displays the character arcs both of them end up travelling amazingly well; Steve from being a pig to a more open minded modern male and Diana from an Amazonian font of feminist rhetoric to realizing that men are just as capable of good things as women.
I did have one beef, though. It’s Alexa. You see, Alexa’s thing is books. She’s not the typical Amazonian warrior, she’s a bookworm. Always with the books. Books, books, books, books, books. You think I’m being heavy-handed with this? This is a gentle touch compared to what the movie does. Christ…I was expecting guest apperances from Belle of Beauty and the Beast, R. J. Readmore and goddamn Levar Burton…Reading Rainbow music included. Sure, it ends up being kinda important in the end…but seriously movie…we get it. Alexa. Books. Okay. Move on.
The film, sadly, ends with a set up to a battle with one of Wonder Woman’s other main foes, the Cheetah that shall never come to pass. Although it earned over $7 million, the powers that be decreed that it had underperformed…which is strange, since, of the 22 animated features made so far, it is the 8th highest grossing of these projects…outperforming many of the Batman, Superman and Justice League titles that WB thinks are the only marketable ones. WB guys, seriously, pull your heads out of your asses. This is a story told well with great visuals…and there’s ALWAYS a market for that. For those of you reading this review having not seen this animated wonder (see what I did there?) this is your lucky day, as thanks to WB’s myopic view of things, you should be able to get your mitts on this pretty cheap. And you should.
To wrap up the same way I opened…honestly, just take this script…since Warners is so convinced that no one has seen this…and make it a movie. Even if you DON’T expand on it, it’d work for live action. If Warners really is serious about competing with Marvel Studios/Disney, you could do far worse.
And they have.
Catwoman. Supergirl. Steel. Yeah, even Green Lantern. I’m looking at you guys…