Monday, March 9, 2009

Movie Of The Week: "Wonder Woman"

While my friends were geeking out on "Watchmen," I decided to see the new "Wonder Woman" movie instead. Animated, direct-to-DVD movies don't get a lot of respect, and I'll admit that my expectations for this venture were pretty low. But "Wonder Woman" is well done and fun to watch. It's got intense action and humor, and it acknowledges the obvious — that Diana is a sexy character whose existence in "man's world" is a plot line unto itself. (More on that later.) I enjoyed it much more than last year's ambitious but draggy "JLA: The New Frontier," which couldn't quite capture the magic of the Darwyn Cooke comic series it was based on.

"Wonder Woman" establishes early that the Amazons of Themyscira are no joke. After their betrayal and enslavement courtesy of the skeevy Ares, Queen Hippolyta and her fellow Amazons stage a bloody, victorious uprising. With Ares imprisoned and the men banished, Princess Diana grows up in idyllic isolation — until cocky pilot (is there any other kind?) Steve Trevor crashes his plane on her island. Diana (voiced by Kerri Russell) is pretty cocky, too, and against her mother Hippolyta's wishes, she proves herself battle-worthy to venture to man's world to capture Ares after he escapes.

Diana might be new to man's world, but she's not stupid. When Steve (Nathan Fillion) tries (and tries and tries) to get her drunk on tequila shots, she tells him how pointless it is to try to out-drink an Amazon. She's openly scornful of Etta Candy, who flirts with Steve by pretending she can't move a table to retrieve a pen. "What's wrong with you?" Diana says, questioning why a perfectly healthy woman can't move a piece of furniture. She then lifts the desk with one hand.

The movie gets a lot of mileage out of Diana and Steve's flirty interaction, especially his tendency to say the wrong thing ("Let's get you some different clothes before I get arrested for solicitation.") But while he's not exactly Prince Charming, it's nice to see a nod to this aspect of Wonder Woman's character. As a Mighty God King essay points out, Wonder Woman's sexuality often has been muted in comics, as if D.C. fears that she'll "come across as a slut or something." Even Batman gets some action once in a while, but until Gail Simone's recent presentation of Wonder Woman's courtship of Nemesis, I can't remember the last time a writer acknowledged that Diana might want — let alone have — a grown-up relationship. Warriors need love, too.

I haven't had a chance to dive into all the DVD extras on the two-disc edition, but I'll definitely watch the main feature again. The Cheetah makes an appearance at the very end, which leads me to believe that Warner Brothers is at least considering a sequel. I hope so.

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