NYCC '09 - Wonder Woman Animated Premiere & Panel

Animated Shorts - Mike Jelenic

Image from the 'Wonder Woman' DVD
Image from the 'Wonder Woman' DVD
Wonder Woman goes on sale March 3

Wonder Woman is a cultural icon as much as she is a comic book character, and her popularity led to long lines outside the IGN Theater at the New York Comic Con Friday evening waiting on the screening of the first Wonder Woman animated feature.

Animation for adults has a long tradition outside of the U.S., but it has yet to catch on in a big way in this country. Films like this could do a lot to change that, drawing on the anime tradition and its style of action without mimicking the art style. Its action was well-done, slick and speedy with plenty of violence and explosions but still PG (though the sex jokes might go over the heads of kids).

The film is a retake on the origin story of Wonder Woman, the first time she ventures out into the real world, and so it spends most of its time focusing on the Amazons. Many of them were stock characters — the film is a rather traditional hero's journey, and focuses on action and plot much more than character development.

In addition to the laughs, the film carries an undercurrent of social commentary. After all, how could it avoid that when its villain is the God of War? It skillfully avoids making the story a battle between men and women, though, a hard thing to do when your lead characters are a secluded colony of women hiding out from men. The final battle scene on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial carried compelling symbolism, especially after the huge crowds we all saw at the Obama inauguration only a couple of weeks ago.

The underlying theme was not of one culture being superior to the other, but rather of the Amazons and the outside world coming together—a very current message for 2009.

The film slyly winked at the sexualization of Wonder Woman as well, with a few jokes about her costume and the need to get her into normal clothes when she lands in New York, and how the world is saved by “armed supermodels.” Moving comics into live action often calls for this kind of self-awareness, but it was refreshing to see it as well in the animated film.

Wonder Woman gets to make a few almost trite feminist speeches, but the nimble script manages to play them for laughs without poking fun at her independence, and the moment where she teaches a little girl in the park to sword-fight “to do maximum damage” is both cheer-inducing and giggle-inducing. And after she beats up and then rescues the male lead, she then proceeds to out drink him.

The supporting characters don't get much development in a 75-minute film, but several of them do get to learn and change, which is nice to see. Wonder Woman is still a tough character to get a grasp on, since like Superman, she is almost too perfect, which can be, well, boring. Still, here she is by turns witty and stoic, loving and ruthless.

And of course, everything is better with the zombie apocalypse. (No, I'm not going to tell you more than that.)

The origin story makes this a perfect jumping-on place for new Wonder Woman fans, but is original enough to please the crowd of longtime fans at the convention. It will be available on DVD on March 3rd.

Panel with producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery, screenwriter Michael Jelenic

The creators of the Wonder Woman film got a rousing round of applause after the screening, and the questions they took were resoundingly supportive of the film.

“She's a tricky character,” Bruce Timm said of Wonder Woman, noting that it was hard to point to a definitive Wonder Woman story. “You don't want to make her too tough because then she's Xena, you don't want to make her too soft because then she's not Wonder Woman.”

Jelenic spoke of the contradictions inherent in the character, and the need to avoid portraying the Amazons as stereotypical man-haters. He joked that he made a romantic comedy out of it.

Montgomery discussed the need to make sure Wonder Woman appeared strong and yet feminine, and the fun of making a “girl movie.”

“It was happy time for me,” she said.

The characterization of the male lead/love interest was also difficult, as he served as the comic relief yet, writer Jelenic noted, “He had to be worthy of Wonder Woman.”

Fans appeared thrilled with the movie, asking questions about a sequel, a TV series and of course a possible live-action Wonder Woman movie, and asked for a Catwoman movie as well.

The fans appreciated the adult nature of the film, from the violence to the “S&M undertones,” one questioner noticed. The creators noted that the DC Universe animated films are designed to be PG-13, and Montgomery spoke about her experience working for TV and said that after that, “If you give me a sword, I wanna cut someone with it!”

“There were a few severed limbs that we had to cut to make our PG-13 rating,” Montgomery noted, and Timm commented on a scene that was deleted, “It was so bloody it was like Monty Python gore.”

The question of an unrated, extra-bloody version of the film drew applause from the audience as well.

Timm said that they actually tried to get Lynda Carter to do the voice of Hera so that every time Wonder Woman swore by Hera, she'd actually be swearing by Lynda Carter, but her schedule didn't work out.

Jelenic said that the hardest thing for him was figuring out what Wonder Woman's arc in the story was, while avoiding having her “tamed” by man, and that he ended up with the idea of bringing two cultures together. He also gave a shout out to Gail Simone for her work on the character and the supporting cast.

“If you're going to fight crime, you probably shouldn't wear heels,” Montgomery noted, “So I made sure her boots were flat.”

“I think this was our best movie yet,” Timm said.

More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage:

NYCC '09 Video Page

NYCC '09 Mini-Site

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