Sunday, October 4, 2009

But Does She Wear a Wonder Bra...?

I realized I hadn't made an animation-related post in a while, which must be something of a record for me, so time to fix that.

Okay, so I've never really been a Wonder Woman fan. No real reason behind it, I have nothing against the character, she just never really snagged my attention. I never saw the Linda Carter TV series, I never watched Super Friends, and the only WW comics I have, I actually bought for the Huntress mini-stories in the back. I've seen some Justice League cartoons, but she really never appealed to me in those-- she just seemed like a stodgy, stuck-up, humorless, statue with way too many superpowers (I had no idea she could fly, that seemed like overkill to me). She just seemed like they took Batman's personality (minus the genius-level intellect-- she's not stupid, just not a super-genius), and stuck it into a supermodel's body with Superman's powers and called it good. Others disagree and that's cool. I didn't have much investment in her before that and her portrayal there just put me off of her even more.

So when I heard about an animated WW movie coming to DVD, I wasn't really interested until I heard who the voice cast was. Kerri Russell does not conjure the image of a stony killjoy, and I'll watch pretty much anything with Nathan Fillion in it, since I think he's both dishy and fun. Add to that the fact that I happened to be watching someone on Deviantart (Lauren Montgomery) who turned out the be the director of this movie, and that was enough to spark some interest in me to see it.

It was a lot of fun. By far one of the better direct-to-DVD releases for superheroes I've seen so far, which was gratifying in its own right, but it also actually made me care about the character for the first time. I wish they'd make a TV series based around this, or at least a sequel, because I'd love to see more of this WW and the world she lives in. I really did have a blast watching it, and they did a good job of giving the characters some humanity and something for the viewer to identify with. You can understand why the Amazons would want to seclude themselves from the rest of the world, you can understand WW's frustration with the culture shock of a world run by men, as well as Steve's frustration at being criticized all the time.

When a girl kicks your butt, it means she likes you.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. For people who don't know how the story goes, basically there's an island secluded from the rest of the world where the Amazons live-- in this version it's because waaaay back in the day, they were enslaved and abused by Ares, the Greek god of war and this was how Hera was able to give them time to heal-- and men are not allowed to set foot upon on pain of death. Hippolyte, the ruler of the island, wanted a daughter and made one out of clay (or in this case, beach sand) and the child was given life by the gods, along with other virtues such as strength, speed, wisdom, and beauty. Diana (they liked to mix and match Greek and Roman names, I guess) is the one who would become Wonder Woman, when years and years later a U.S. fighter pilot named Steve Trevor would crash land on their island and need an escort back home. Diana proves to be the most qualified for the job of ambassador, and since she's the only one who hasn't seen the outside world herself, she's by far the most eager to go. And so begins Princess Diana's adventures in "Man's World".

It takes a confident woman to wear that in public.

In this movie, Diana has another reason to leave the island as well-- when the Amazons defeated Ares thousands of years ago, Zeus imprisoned him on their island, but soon after Steve arrives, he escapes. Diana's mission is to both return Steve to the U.S. and to find Ares and stop him from wreaking havoc on the modern world. So she's got her work cut out for her on her first trip away from home.

Steve realizes too late that Amazons remove their sense of humor when they hit puberty.

Now as much fun as the movie is, it's not perfect. The 'battle of the sexes' that Diana and Steve engage in through most of it feels somewhat dated because of some of the points of contention. I can't speak for anyone else, but I haven't heard the issue of men opening doors for women brought up in like twenty years, but maybe I'm out of touch. It just felt like it missed the point sometimes, or left out a few decades of progress in gender relations. Steve's such a pig it's almost ridiculous at times, and that comes off as somewhat flat (he seriously tries to get Diana drunk while he takes her "sightseeing" at some hole in the wall bar), and he has this really off-the-mark speech in a hospital later that is just... sort of... ugh. He's so much of a pig through the movie it's sometimes hard to understand what she sees in him, at least in terms of romantic compatibility-- this makes me want to see if they could flesh him out a bit better in a sequel, since it felt like they fumbled with him in this.

Comparing sizes is evidently universal.

It also commits the faux pas of mistaking masculinity for strength, and in fact seems to have trouble validating traditionally feminine or intellectual traits. It sort of makes a token effort, but then undermines it almost immediately by defaulting back to the 'masculine' stuff. Given that so much of the film revolves around these ideas, I think it's a fair gripe, but the rest of it is so much fun, I don't have much trouble forgiving it.

They did a really nice job with the animation, too. I wanted to take stills of some of my favorite scenes because there are some really gorgeous compositions, but I'm on a new computer and haven't figured out how to do any of that yet. But they did a pretty decent job of giving it an 'epic' feel without the budget for an epic movie, and some of the fight sequences have some nice pieces of animation. I like the designs for the most part, though Steve's rather plain-looking and blah, which might have more to do with his coloring than anything else. But I like that the Amazons have some musculature and broader shoulders, and that they gave Diana a more "Greek" nose than she's traditionally drawn with. And people change their clothes, too! I like it when cartoon characters have more than one outfit to wear. There was one design that came out of left field and I'm sort of ambivalent about it (you'll know which one I'm talking about if you see it), but they tried something new, anyway, which I tend to like, even if the end result isn't what I personally would have gone for.

They never explained where the invisible jet came from. I don't know if I like that or not. I sort of do and sort of don't. It's pretty inconsequential either way, I just remember wondering about that. There are some other plot holes, too, but they're sort of spoilery, so I won't get into them.

Wondy's workout tapes sell big with horror fans too.

I will say that the big climactic showdown had some neat elements in it, particularly the big nod to the old Harryhousen sword and sandals movies from back in the day. I thought that was pretty cool. And I can't speak for anyone else, but I really, really enjoyed seeing WW take some pretty serious smackdowns and then get right back up again and return the favor. I find that immensely gratifying after years of seeing women either take minimal damage in fights or taking no part in them at all. I wouldn't want to see it all the time because then it would get boring, but it is really nice to see a woman get to be tough and resilient.

Overall, I'd really recommend it to anyone who might be interested. It's got flaws, yeah, but I just have so much fun watching it, they don't mar the experience for me.


  1. I loved this way more than I thought I would. I found WW to be irritating, personally, especially after her magical Mary Sue portrayal int he Justice League cartoon. This was awesome, and she was way more relatable in this.

    Steve was awesome, especially when talking about Diana's rack!

  2. I thought the movie was just 'okay.' But I have a super hate for the Justice League. Golden Age Wonder Woman is best. She's such a period character! And she couldn't fly in the original, they made that up in 80s to turn her into a female Super Man.

    If she's not in WW2, I usually hate it. I thought this movie was alright though. I hated their take on Steve though. I did like seeing Artimis animated! She was my favorite of the Wonder Woman Comics Vol 2 characters. But she is overtly masculine, which is the trouble with most of the vol 2 WW stuff.

    In the Golden Age, the feminine strengths of the Amazons are constantly in the spot light. It's too bad no writers but Diana's creator seems to understand that strength does not equal masculinity.

    On another note, I have all the Linda Carter stuff on Dvd. Big Lots was selling them for $14 a season. once again, the WW2 stuff is awesome, but the other 2 seasons...sort of make my soul cry.

  3. Stac- I was in the same boat as you after Justice League, I was just irritated by her in that.

    Mandrake-- I am curious to try out WW's golden age run, since you've told me so much about it and it seems interesting.

    And I think part of the reason the characters have evolved in such a masculine way over the years is because we culturally validate masculinity over femininity. So we tend to make women more masculine as a means of empowering them, which on the one hand I think is fine because a lot of women do have "masculine" traits, but on the other hand we're not allowing men to have more "feminine traits" because that's seen as a demotion or a lessening for them-- to be feminine is to be lesser or weaker. So while on one hand women are able to explore their masculine sides more, men are still excluded from safely exploring their feminine sides, and so the culture's just become more masculine instead of more androgynous.

    That's definitely what I see here-- when women are empowered it's because they're out-machoing the guys. Not to say there aren't women who embody really masculine traits, like Artemis in particular, but the fact that there's no reciprocal validation for women who aren't super masculine is what's troubling to me. In fact the writer seems to go out of his way to demonize traditional femininity in the form of Etta Candy and to a certain extent Alexa.

    But then you get into traditional gender roles, and how much femininity might be a construct of patriarchal culture as opposed to just core feminine traits (which men do have as well), and that's about the time I start thinking in circles. ;)

  4. Golden Age Etta Candy is my hero. Short, fat, and kickass.