It’s been a while since I sat down and watched something recommended by you guys, and I’m still working my way through a long list of animated DC features suggested way back when. This time, I’ve gotten around to Wonder Woman, where the gal finally gets her own standalone onscreen adventure for the first time since Lynda Carter. With a WW movie in the works (at some point, at least) it’s more relevant than ever to take a look at the character.
Things begin rather darkly as Hippolyta and her Amazon army faces off against Ares and his hulking bros of war. In the opening moments we learn that not only did Ares rape Hippolyta at one point, but their lovechild is in the battlefield right now, slaughtering her Amazon sisters. Seconds later, she promptly jets over to her bastard sun to cut off his head. Obviously they don’t say “rape” or “bastard” and don’t show more than a puddle of blood at any given time, but it’s a pretty dark opening for what’s definitely a cartoon aimed at kids.
Fast-forward to the Amazons winning the war, and in return, Zeus agrees that they can strip Ares of his god powers and keep him locked away on their new paradise island located in the Mediterranean Sea, gifted to them by Hera and invisible to the eyes of mortal man.
I’ve never read so much as a single Wonder Woman comic, so all my knowledge of the character is based on whatever sassing and ass-kicking she did as part of the JLA in all those cartoon shows over the years. As such, I completely forgot that she’s tied this closely to Greek mythology, as I sort of assumed Amazons were their own weird, loopy thing, like Scientologists. The movie felt like a PG-rated God of War at times, with Kratos having a lasso instead of Blades of Chaos, and a pretty healthy D-cup to boot.
Hippolyta’s daughter Diana (conceived by building her out of sand on the beach, NOT by rape) is bored living on a perfect island full of nothing but beautiful women, and gets her wish for excitement when a male fighter pilot crash lands at her door. The pilot is voiced by Nathan Fillion, but I was immediately bummed when I realized the character was not Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. His name is Steve. He’s just a guy.
The Amazons have a contest to see who gets to take Steve back to the mainland. Diana wins the day, but things go sour when Ares escapes custody and starts rampaging around the rest of the world. Diana is given the magical gift of star-spangled spandex and an invisible jet they don’t remotely bother explaining, and her and Steve are off to save the day.
There are some interesting concepts played with here regarding femininity and feminism. Diana is disgusted by how women are treated in the rest of the world (a little girl is forbidden from playing pirates with the boys) and how women themselves act (Steve’s secretary flirtily asks him to move heavy furniture for her). She’s disgusted when Steve hits on her, but then conflicted when she kind of likes it. Gender roles are one of the central debates of the film, as Steve tries to explain not all men are bad and opening doors doesn’t equal misogyny (that’s like, a direct quote). It’s an interesting exploration of a few issues, but I don’t think you can exactly call the film or character a beacon of feminism when she’s having these conversations in a one-piece swimsuit with a prominent animated rack.
The movie got me thinking about how Wonder Woman will work when she’s finally given a feature film, at long, long, long last. I like the whole “outsider girl can’t understand why women are treated like weaklings” angle, but she’s definitely going to need a serious costume redesign to be taken seriously onscreen. I know it’s her classic look and yadda yadda, but even in animated form, can’t we admit it’s a bit ridiculous? The costumes the Amazons all wear on their island are much cooler than her superhero get up.
I also liked how the film let Wonder Woman stand on her own two feet and didn’t have Batman or Superman swoop in for the game-winning assist (even though it is weird the god of war invades DC and no one even bothers to call them). This is also what I worry about with Wonder Woman making an “appearance” in the new Batman vs. Superman movie, rather than just being trusted enough to make her own debut by herself. She’s the strongest female superhero we’ve got. Give her a bloody chance.
Still, there is a lot about Wonder Woman that’s goofier than the more standard heroes we know, male and otherwise. It’s not just the costume, it’s the jet, the bracelets, the boomerang crown, the lasso of truth. It’s all a bit…silly, and really her plain old ass kicking is the best thing about her.
The movie is pretty good, though going full Greek mythology with Zeus, Hades, Ares and all the rest was unexpected and sort of odd. It didn’t like it quite as much as the other animated features that have been suggested like Superman vs. The Elite or Under the Red Hood. It gave me a glimpse at how the character could work in an actual feature, but I also understand the challenges behind fleshing her out as well.
Any more suggestions, animated or otherwise?