Comics on Film: Get Ready for 'Wonder Woman' by Watching the Overlooked 2009 Movie

Comics on Film: Get Ready for 'Wonder Woman' by Watching the Overlooked 2009 Movie

May 26, 2017

We're now only one week away from the theatrical bow of one of this year's most highly-anticipated comic book movies, and the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures' burgeoning cinematic universe. Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine and directed by Patty Jenkins, is already getting positive buzz ahead of its release, with a lot of fans and observers hoping that it will be the first true, critical hit of the franchise that includes Man of SteelBatman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad.

The character of Wonder Woman finally earning her well-deserved place at the table for big summer blockbusters has been a long time coming, but one of the character's most prominent stories outside comics came in another cinematic effort. When it was first released as part of the then-relatively new DC Universe Animated Original Movies line, 2009's direct-to-DVD Wonder Woman movie was one of the first demonstrable, cinematic solo stories featuring the Amazon Warrior that was made to relate who she is and what she's about.

In the run-up to next week's release, WB Animation and DC Comics recently re-released the animated Wonder Woman film on Blu-ray and digital HD, and if you're looking for something Themysciran to do ahead of your trip to the theater next weekend, it'd be hard to go wrong by watching this, one of DC's better solo animated efforts ever released.

While WB Animation had already established a very high pedigree in regards to their DC Comics-based efforts, the Animated Original Movie line promised regular new offerings featuring the wide library of characters with far greater frequency than you could find in theaters. Three previous films had already been released featuring Superman, the Justice League, and Batman respectively, but all of those had been more deliberate adaptations of specific comics stories, or a series of short films that tied together around the theatrical release of 2008's The Dark Knight.

Wonder Woman, on the other hand, wasn't based on a specific comic arc as much as it was inspired by some, and would be the first movie in the young line not to feature either the Man of Steel or the Dark Knight as a headliner. Because of that, it immediately felt back in 2009 that this was the one of the first, if not the first of the animated DC efforts to truly strike out on its own.

Immediately enthralling is the way that the movie begins: a massive battle between the Amazons of Themyscira and the forces of Ares, the god of war (brilliantly voiced by actor Alfred Molina). As the Amazons become victorious, Queen Hippolyta (voiced with regality by Virginia Madsen) is about to strike Ares down permanently before she's stopped by the gods. The goddess Hera binds Ares, and delivers the Amazons to the secluded island of Themyscira. On its shores, Hippolyta is granted a daughter that she molds from the sands of the island, giving life to the form with her own blood and Hera's grace. This is how Princess Diana is brought into being, and is a more classic conception of her origin than the one we understand is featured in the live-action film.

Hundreds of years later, Diana (voiced by Keri Russell) comes upon an Air Force pilot named Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion), whose plane crashed into the ocean, causing him to wash up on their shores. After questioning him, a trial is held to determine who will serve as the Themyscirans representative to return him to his people, and even though she was initially forbidden, Diana is victorious. From there, a new plot is uncovered that sees the capabilities of modern warfare give Ares unspeakable power, and after he forces his way out of Amazonian clutches, he sets off to finish what he began before he was imprisoned. Of course, the only one who can really stop him is Diana.

With a wonderful voice cast, a powerful score by Christopher Drake, and stakes that feel worthy and heavy, the animated Wonder Woman film establishes itself quickly as a terrific and effective introduction to Diana and her world. Perhaps most surprising is the maturity of its content, because at no point do the proceedings feel like they're made to cater to a younger audience. The action has an old-world kind of brutality and violence to it, and some of the themes and humor are definitely made more with an audience of teenagers-and-up in mind. The story is competently executed while also striking a really great balance between plot, character and exposition. There's a lot to learn about the world of this film when you think about it, but that new information never really manages to overload the audience because of its really balanced presentation.

Written by screenwriter Michael Jelenic and the then-current ongoing Wonder Woman comic book writer Gail Simone, much of the greatness of this movie lies in its authenticity to the character as she's presented in the modern source material. The script never really has to try to get Diana on your side, since all it really has to do in a couple of key areas is emphasize why she's such a great hero through the choices the story calls on her to make. On top of that, the rapport between she and Steve Trevor is infectious, possibly due to Russell and Fillion having recently worked together on the critically acclaimed film Waitress. Their back-and-forth works really well here, and all of the elements are brought together brilliantly with Alfred Molina's decidiedly sinister turn as Ares.

Overall, if you're looking for an effective introduction into the world of Wonder Woman and the Amazons, or if you're simply looking for a good way to get in the mood for next week's big theatrical bow, it's hard to get better than absorbing one of DC's better original animated efforts. Wonder Woman serves as a wonderful distillation of the strength inherent to modern depictions of Diana, and will also potentially give you a bit of a leg up as you get ready to head into the theater. While it doesn't provide quite the same kind of crash course that some of the comics can, this film was made by creators and performers who have a discernible love for the character and her world.

While it hasn't always been in the spotlight as much as it likely should've been over the last eight years, Warner Home Video recently put out a new, "Commemorative Edition" that you can pick up either physically or digitally. It likely won't fully scratch the itch you may be feeling for the new film, but it should at least help you get 75 minutes closer to a movie that a lot of fans are waiting on pins and needles to see. If nothing else, if you've never seen it before, then it comes highly recommended.

Next week, come back to Movies.com and a new edition of Comics on Film for our full review of the live-action film. Seven days is a long time, but it'll be here before you know it.

Just as a final aside, Comics on Film wishes to express our deepest sympathies and condolences to the entire family of Zack Snyder during this undoubtedly difficult time. We hope they find comfort in the outpouring of goodwill and admiration from supportive fans across the world, whom we gladly join in expressing our best wishes.


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango, and various fan outlets. He's also a regular on podcasts hosted by Batman-On-Film and Modern Myth Media, while hosting his own show called Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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