Superhero Sundays: Wonder Woman (2009)
Matthew Turner | On 15, Jan 2017
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Stars: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson, Oliver Platt, Virginia Madsen
Watch Wonder Woman online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
On Sunday mornings, we like to watch cartoons. So we’re working our way through DC’s animated superhero collection. We call it Superhero Sundays.
With Wonder Woman getting a live-action reboot, this animated adventure serves as a useful primer to DC’s flagship superhero.
The 2009 movie serves up an engaging origin story and even gives you a quick run-down of her various gadgets (Golden Lasso of Truth, Bracelets of Submission, Invisible Jet, etc.). Loosely based on “Gods and Mortals” (the first storyline of the 1987 Wonder Woman comic book series by George Perez), the film stays faithful to Wonder Woman’s comics-ordained roots and depicts Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen) giving birth to Diana / Wonder Woman by sculpting her out of clay and raising her on the peaceful, all-female island of Themyscira.
Years later, fighter pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) crashes down on Themyscira and instantly falls for the grown-up Diana (Keri Russell). After gaining her mother’s respect in a masked fighting contest, Diana is tasked with returning Steve to New York, but her mission takes a more dangerous turn, when it emerges that Ares (Alfred Molina), the God of War, has escaped captivity on Themyscira and intends to wage war on humanity.
Russell does solid voice work as Diana, striking a tricky balance between the character’s naivety at both the ways of men and the world outside Themyscira, while still commanding the necessary authority for the action scenes. There’s also strong support from Madsen (suitably authoritative), while Molina makes a fun, hissable villain as Ares and there’s a delicious turn from a smartly cast Oliver Platt as the duplicitous, dripping-with-evil Hades (looking like he takes style tips from Jabba the Hutt).
However, the stand-out in the cast is Fillion, who lends his own wise-cracking screen persona to Trevor and gives him a likeable comic energy, all of which goes a long way to mitigating against some of the less appealing aspects of his character, such as the fact that he’s meant to be a bit of a womanising sexist. (Naturally, under Diana’s influence, he comes to see the error of his ways.)
Considering that the film is only 74 minutes long, it manages to pack in a surprising amount of action, beginning with a 300-esque battle sequence and climaxing with a spectacular free-for-all – set, bizarrely, against the backdrop of Washington’s National Mall. At one point, Diana punches Ares so hard he rebounds off the Washington Monument and into the Capitol building. This gives the action a cheekily subversive edge, with the White House getting destroyed by the good guys and terrible things happening to Lincoln’s statue.
The animation is attractive throughout, courtesy of producer Bruce Timm, whose signature, old-school comic-book style is closely associated with the D.C. animated universe. As directed by Lauren Montgomery, the film also carries an appropriately strong feminist message, with Diana justly appalled at the treatment of women in the outside world. The only problem is that the violence is bizarrely over-the-top in places, which may prove off-putting for younger viewers – Diana is shown to bleed with her injuries and there are at least two beheadings, as well as a blood sacrifice, although it is amusing to note that the Amazons’ signature fighting move appears to be a kick to the bollocks.
Ultimately, this is a lot of fun, thanks to a witty script, attractive animation and a terrific voice cast. If the live-action Wonder Woman movie is even half as good as this, fans will be in for a treat.