Wonder Woman

Director: Lauren Montgomery
Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Virginia Madsen, Rosario Dawson
Rating: 3

Funny detail …

So in the movie, there’s a scene where Diana puts on the WW costume, meaning serious business, and we see closeups of each piece going on over serious, high-tension music. She pulls a boot up her leg, slips the bracelets over her wrists, clicks her gold belt over the costume … and pulls her red bustier up over her cleavage, which drew titters from the mouthbreather-heavy convention crowd. If you watch the official trailer, below, it’ opens with that scene, but the giggle-inducing cleavage adjustment has been edited out. Make of that what you will.

Wonder Woman Official Trailer

Wondercon offered an opportunity to do the roundtable interview thing with the makers of the Wonder Woman DVD hitting stores today. The Q&A sessions came a couple hours before the new movie was screened for convention attendees, so the assembled web writers hadn’t seen the production yet. Fortunately, the obsessiveness with which the animation of comic icons is tracked online meant that my fellow interrogators knew to ask about the violence. The movie starts with brutal war in ancient Greece, and the whole film contains enough violence, and a few sexually risque lines, to have earned the movie an R in its initial cut.

Yeah, think about that for a minute: A Wonder Woman cartoon scoring an R. No, I don’t know what the hell is wrong with the world, either.

The movie looks pretty good. It’s animation on a budget, and for that, the Warner Brothers team acquits itself well again (after last year’s epic Justice League: The New Frontier, particularly). The designs on Wonder Woman, villainous Greek god Ares most especially, and even handsome foil Steve Trevor show a manga influence, as does a fair amount of the action. The film looks good, and the choice to tell Wonder Woman’s origin on an epic scale, and explore her as a new arrival to our world, is the right one.

The jarring violence, in which our warrior princess seems to score a small body count herself, might be the thing that most riles the purist. If it’s not that, it might be the decision to portray Steve Trevor as a macho pig making the kind of inappropriate remarks that would fit better in a Pierce Brosnan Bond film. This would be forgivable if it were meant to be the starting point for character growth. While by the end of the film Trevor becomes a dutiful boyfriend, the locker-room sensibility is never really repudiated, so it doesn’t become a case of the frat boy learning to be a man, but that the frat boy just gets the girl. Which, you know, who needs that in our heroic fantasy material?

The initial writer on the film, comics savant Gail Simone, and director Lauren Montgomery, are women. Much was made at the press roundup about that, and Montgomery was asked a few times about the importance of a woman doing the project, or what it meant to her to be a woman doing the project, and apart from wanting the movie to, you know, “kick ass,” she didn’t really have an answer.

As far as could be gleaned from director, producer and second-draft writer, ass-kicking was the mission statement. A good mission statement, but the best Wonder Woman writers in recent decades have also wrestled with the idea of the character as some kind of missionary from a lost culture, a warrior pacifist here to teach us some contradictory message of peace through strength and dignity through limited outerwear.

The film does have elements that, going by stereotypes, appeal to girls: The almost imperceptibly mangafied character designs, the relationship subplot (which the writer on hand at the press thingy called “romantic comedy,” by which he apparently meant Steve Trevor trying to get Wonder Woman drunk), the weight put on the film’s mother-daughter relationship and the prominent (if tragic) role alloted the cute, mousy Amazon who’d rather dream over her books than fight. But what the hell am I talking about? No one ever promised us a star-spangled role model for girls. If you’re into role models, well, she fights evil, and that’s a good role model for anyone. Unless you’ve got a thing about the killing and maiming and whatnot. Wimp.

A very good voice cast, and the eternally charming Nathan Fillion even manages to bring Steve Trevor within shouting distance of likable. Felicity‘s Keri Russell is Wonder Woman, and Virginia Madsen voices a Hippolyta (Wonder Woman’s mom, for you civilians) who very nearly steals the show. There are a number of good character moments (Madsen’s work with Rosario Dawson’s Artemis, especially), and the action—particularly the final battle—have the epic proportion you want in a fight with super heroines, rogue war gods and undead skeleton warriors. Also, a closing scene setting up the character’s future status quo that is just perfect. Plenty of good stuff, and if you’re going to be bothered by fratboy sexism and rape as a throwaway plot point, well, hey, it’s not like this stuff is supposed to be for kids, right?

Next up: This summer’s Green Lantern. I dunno about you, but I’m expecting child mutilation and prison sodomy.