Wonder Woman (2009) is a pretty interesting movie about reclusive Amazon warrior women and their struggle against the Greek god Ares. It’s a rather fascinating reinterpretation of Greek mythology, including the creative decision to make the struggle reach even into the modern day, and have their separate world interact with the more familiar one.
Oh, one odd thing: for some reason one of the women wears a costume that looks remarkably like Wonder Woman’s.
Okay, you caught me. From what I can tell, Wonder Woman’s origin story is retold pretty faithfully in this film. The thing is… that’s the entirety of the film. While I realize that was probably the intent, it’s a really frustrating creative choice, because we never really get to see Wonder Woman being Wonder Woman, except for about thirty seconds at the end of the film, which teased a fight between her and one of my favorite antagonists (Cheetah.) It really seems like about half of the film should’ve been that, considering it’s called Wonder Woman, not Amazon Woman Who Eventually Becomes Wonder Woman, Later, Offscreen.
Even in the story the writers/producers/director did decide to tell, something felt more than a little “off.” The final battle in particular felt very out of place, with the President randomly being shown ordering the military to defend Washington, D.C. despite not having appeared in the rest of the film. (Protip: don’t bring the President of the United States into a movie he hasn’t appeared in at all just so you can show him ordering the military to defend the nation’s capital. When the military shows up, we’ll figure out someone ordered them to show up. And no, we don’t need to cut back to him to show some advisor telling him the battle isn’t going well. You can also establish that by showing the battle not going well.)
Before I get into more bad, this is a DC Universe animated feature, so you know you’re getting high production values. The art and sound were excellent, and the voice acting was strong. I truly believe you can never go wrong having Nathan Fillion involved in any production. Christopher Drake’s soundtrack was, of course, a strength as well. This is a small thing, but I’m pretty disappointed there were no opening credits, as Drake was not afforded the opportunity to shine with a sweeping theme song ala Batman: Under the Red Hood or Justice League: Doom. I think Wonder Woman is iconic enough that she deserves an iconic theme, right?
Alright, now I guess I have to talk about the elephant in the room. Being a Wonder Woman film, you know this film has to deal with the whole gender “thing.” I’d like to blame the fact that any film about a female superhero will inevitably be forced to address gender in ways that no male superhero film ever is, but I will admit that Wonder Woman in particular is a hero who was conceived in such a way that any adaptation of her story is going to have to address gender issues.
Faithfully adapting Wonder Woman for a general audience requires a certain amount of bravery. I mean, this is a character who was originally conceived not with female equality in mind, but female supremacy. On the other hand, that idea was never portrayed by making her openly hostile toward men. She was simply better. Obviously this film had to tread very carefully, balancing the character’s spirit with the issues she brings out.
What? Oh, they did the opposite of that? I guess that’s cool, too.
There’s a rather clumsy attempt to portray Wonder Woman as being confronted with sexism (“You don’t have your women lift desks over their heads with one hand when they have to move them? You sexist pigs!”) and reacting negatively to it, but it’s jarringly out of place and it makes Steve Trevor come off as the more reasonable of the two. He’s portrayed as a fairly egalitarian man, and there’s really nothing shown to give any of Diana’s complaints any real weight. If you’re going to bring gender issues into a superhero film (especially, especially Wonder Woman), I feel you have a responsibility to handle them much less clumsily than this film did.
The last thirty seconds of the film (the part where Wonder Woman actually was Wonder Woman…) were pretty promising, and seemed not so much to suggest there might be a sequel as hit you over the head with the fact that there would absolutely, definitely be a sequel. Thus far, however, D.C. has not announced any sequel to this film, which is deeply frustrating to me. Because if this movie had to be the way it was, the upside very easily could’ve been, “Oh well, now that that’s out of the way they can actually make a Wonder Woman movie.” Instead, the payoff was about thirty seconds of what I was hoping the entire film would be like.