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On the mystical island of Themyscira, a proud and fierce warrior race of Amazons have raised a daughter of untold beauty, grace and strength Princess Diana. When an Army fighter pilot, Steve Trevor, crash-lands on the island, the rebellious and headstrong Diana defies Amazonian law by accompanying Trevor back to civilization. Meanwhile, Ares (the god of War) has escaped his imprisonment at the hands of the Amazonians and has decided to exact his revenge - intending to start a world war that will not only last for centuries but will wipe out every living being on the planet, starting with the Amazons! It is up to Princess Diana to save her people and the world by using her gifts and becoming the ultimate Wonder Woman!
For more about Wonder Woman and the Wonder Woman Blu-ray release, see Wonder Woman Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 26, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina
» See full cast & crew
Wonder Woman Blu-ray Review
Bland voice acting hinders this surprisingly sharp and stylish actioner...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 26, 2009
Let me start off with a warning to any DC Comics aficionados preparing to dig into my review: as much as I adore comic books and all the fascinating characters they've produced for readers like myself over the decades, I've never been, and probably never will be, a Wonder Woman fan. Even turning a blind eye to the series' lassos of truth, bulletproof bracelets, and invisible jets, I've never been particularly taken by the mythos, key players, or storylines. As such, I hesitantly approached DC animation guru Bruce Timm's Wonder Woman with exceedingly low expectations. I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I not only enjoyed the film, but got caught up in its head-lopping swordplay and climactic battles.
Just as a harrowing clash between the armies of Amazonian queen Hippolyta (voiced by Virginia Madsen) and god of war Ares (Spiderman 2 scene-stealer Alfred Molina) comes to a head, Zeus and Hera (briefly portrayed by David McCallum and Marg Helgenberger) intervene and spare Ares' life. Bound by indestructible armlets that can only be removed by another god, Ares is imprisoned by Hippolyta, who in turn hides the Amazons' mystical island in a separate plane of existence to prevent mankind from ever threatening its shores again. Several centuries pass as the queen brings peace back to her kingdom and becomes mother to a graceful warrior princess named Diana (Keri Russell).
Years later, when a headstrong fighter pilot named Colonel Steve Trevor (Firefly alum Nathan Fillion) crashes on the Amazonian homeland, Diana bests the captain of Hippolyta's armies, the powerful swordsmaster Artemis (Rosario Dawson), and wins the honor of returning him to civilization and reestablishing contact with the outside world. Everything proceeds according to plan until Ares manages to escape from his cell with the help of a treacherous lover. After Hades (Oliver Platt) releases the god of war from Zeus and Hera's power-sapping shackles, Ares returns to the mortal realm to usher in a new era of conflict and discord. Rushing to stop a mounting army of beasties and baddies, Diana and Steve emerge as the only warriors capable of saving the world from the wrath of a bloodthirsty god.
An origin story in every regard (sorry folks, there aren't any Batman or Superman cameos to be had), Wonder Woman fuses Western-styled animation with Eastern fluidity to create a thrillingly violent PG-13 affair. While its spurting blood and splitting torsos are still relatively tame, character movement and battle choreography is truly inspired. A ten-minute opener is brimming with memorable kills and did-you-see-that insanity (a hurled headband delivers one of the film's most satisfying split-second shots), kinetic swordsmanship is overshadowed only by the film's weighty fistfights, and director Lauren Montgomery's determination to give Wonder Woman fans everything they could possibly want in a Diana-centric tale keeps things plowing along from beginning to end. Sure, pacing drags a bit every time Steve and Diana argue about the role of men and women in modern society, when Ares pays a visit to a poorly-conceived Hades, and when a brief fling with zombies falls painfully flat, but the story clips along with plenty of exciting clashes, striking characters, and sharply-written exchanges.
Unfortunately, the film is undermined by some questionable casting and mediocre voice acting. I know the Amazonians are meant to speak in methodical, emotionless tones, but Russell, Dawson, and Madsen's plodding deliveries make it sound as if they're reading their lines for the first time. More distracting is Molina, whose vocal intonations simply don't match the face and stature of the menacing warrior-god portrayed on screen. Ares' appearance will remind more than a few animation fans of Ninja Scroll's Lord Gemma and Molina's voice, regardless of his efforts, is too reserved and frail to fill the god of war's frame. As far as I'm concerned, the only standout performance comes from Fillion, an actor who's recently transformed his Captain Mal charm into a booming side business. His quips sound natural, his jabs pack genuine emotion, and he seems far more invested in the project than everyone else.
Despite its problems, I still have to tip my hat to Wonder Woman for capturing my imagination and outclassing most other direct-to-video DC and Marvel animated films. In fact, were it not for such uneven voicework and maligned casting, I would probably be touting this rousing actioner as one of the best. Fans and non-fans alike should really give this one a shot.
Wonder Woman Blu-ray, Video Quality
Vibrant, stable, and crisp, Warner has given Wonder Woman an impressive 1080p/VC-1 transfer that rarely falters. Overlooking the inherent limitations of Timm's deceptively simplistic animation style, the film boasts a rich palette, bold primaries, exceedingly inky blacks, and inviting contrast. Pause the film at any point and you'll find that each shot looks as if it's been directly lifted from an issue of the comic. More importantly, detail is sharp to a fault -- the rough texture of each character's lineart is apparent throughout, backgrounds are swimming with legible text and perfectly-defined objects, and every errant stroke of the animators' pens is captured on screen.
Only a pair of minor problems hold the presentation back from perfection. Even though banding is an issue that often plagues animated productions (regardless of a transfer's technical quality), its presence here often detracts from Wonder Woman's visuals. Moreover, while the picture is generally clean, a few shots suffer from faint artifacting (watch Hades mouth when he speaks for the most obvious example). Thankfully, image clarity is fairly consistent throughout the film and, more often than not, the transfer looks great. All in all, it may not be a reference level presentation, but animation fans should nevertheless be pleased with Warner's efforts and care.
Wonder Woman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner also delivers a strong and reliable Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that elevates Wonder Woman above its somewhat pedestrian sound design. Dialogue is crisp, clean, and nicely prioritized across the front soundstage, LFE support lends legitimate weight to the film's various blows and explosions, and the rear speakers inject environmental ambience into Themyscira's locales and enhance the crowded roar of battle in several action sequences. Better still, dynamic range is never lacking, directionality is spot on, and the sheen and wheen of sword slashes and passing jets pierce the soundscape. Granted, the immersive qualities of the track are sometimes more akin to a televised cartoon than a feature-length film, but it's tough to fault an otherwise impressive lossless mix with such shortcomings.
If I have any real complaints, it's that the film's music is too subdued and a handful of channel pans are stocky compared to their transparent brethren (listen closely to the Lincoln Memorial battle for several examples). However, negligible nitpicks aside, Wonder Woman should readily satisfy anyone familiar with Timm's animated productions.
Wonder Woman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Wonder Woman arrives on Blu-ray with all of the special features that appear on the DVD edition, as well as a few exclusive Justice League episodes. Once again, all of Warner's video content is presented in standard definition, but the breadth of the material makes the package worth some attention.
Wonder Woman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Wonder Woman really took me by surprise. Its battle sequences are intense, its superheroics are compelling, and its storyline is quite effective. I have my share of problems with the voice acting, but overall it's a fine film that should appeal to fans and newcomers alike. The Blu-ray edition is even more remarkable. An excellent video transfer, a solid TrueHD audio track, a healthy collection of supplements, and even a couple of exclusives make Wonder Woman an easy release to recommend to animation and comicbook junkies everywhere.
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Wonder Woman Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Specs Revealed for Wonder Woman Blu-ray - January 9, 2009
Warner Home Video has revealed the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Wonder Woman', which is due to hit store shelves on March 3rd, day-and-date with the DVD release. For this BD-25 release, video will be presented in 1.85:1 ...
• Wonder Woman Special Features Revealed - November 18, 2008
Warner Home Video has revealed some of the special features that will be included on the upcoming direct-to-video animated Blu-ray release of 'Wonder Woman', which is due to hit store shelves on March 3rd, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented ...
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