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Retro Review: Wonder Woman (2009) – A Fun Modernization of an Origins Story

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Wonder Woman has finally made it to the big screen in her first live-action solo film this week. However, it is not the only time she has led a film, starring in the 2009 direct-to-DVD animated film.

Centuries ago the Amazon warrior women went to war with the forces of Ares (Alfred Molina), the ancient Greek god of war. After a hard fought battle the Gods intervene, allowing the Amazons to hold Ares hostage and were given their own island so they no longer have to live with men.

Diana (Keri Russell), the daughter of Queen Hippolyta (Virginia Madsen) has been trained to be a skilled warrior but she has never seen the outside world. Her opportunity comes when a USAF pilot, Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion) crashes on Themyscira and she agrees to take him back to America. However, Ares escapes at the same time and becomes more powerful than ever. It’s up to Diana and Steve to save the world from the God of War.

The 2009 version of Wonder Woman is basically a modernization of the origins story, taking the character away from a historic conflict that’s ravaging the world. As an origins story, the animated film does a decent if unspectacular job. It follows the main origins plot points: Hippolyta makes a daughter out of clay and Diana being raised in isolation before Steve crashes on Themyscira – being the first man she ever sees.

Wonder Woman (2009) had plenty of talent working on the film: it was directed by Lauren Montgomery who directed Superman/DoomsdayGreen Lantern: First Flight and Batman: Year One, comic-book writer Gail Simone co-wrote the story with Michael Jelenic and the overseeing of all things animated for DC, Bruce Timm, produced the film. There was also an impressive voice cast, featuring stars like Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Rosario Dawson and Oliver Platt as well as veteran voice actors like Tara Strong (Bubbles from Powerpuff Girls) and John DiMaggio (Futurama’s Bender). And their talents weren’t wasted: Montgomery keeps to the Timm character designs that he used in his Superman and Justice League shows and there was a fluidity in the action scenes as Wonder Woman uses her fists and weapons to do battle.

Wonder Woman was originally created by William Moulton Marston with the aim of being a positive role-model for girls. But he was also keen on bondage scenes with the heroine which are not particularly politically correct today. By moving Wonder Woman’s origins to the modern day she got to act as a critic of attitudes towards women: she was a woman raised to be a strong, smart warrior and when she comes to America sees various forms of chauvinism and stereotypes: she makes a stand against these. Wonder Woman acted as the feminist icon she’s meant to be.

The Wonder Woman series is also heavily influenced by Greek mythology and the movie does a fine job at modernization the mythology. Ares grows more powerful when there is violence around him – which leads to the people around him becoming more violent: it’s a vicious circle. Oliver Platt’s Hades was a delight – being sly, cunning and self-serving. Although he was only in the film briefly, Hades plays the Gods against each other and it would have been great to see more of him.

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Due to the fact that Wonder Woman (2009) was a direct-to-DVD movie, it was more violent than its TV series counterparts – a fair amount of blood is shed and characters get decapitated. One of the most effective is when Ares raises dead Amazonians to fight against their living sisters and if any Amazonians fall in the battle turned into a zombie.

Whilst Fillion is an actor with a fanbase he was made to quip like he was in a Joss Wheldon project but with dialogue that isn’t as well written. When he first met Diana and the Amazonians he was made out to be a bit sleazy.

Wonder Woman (2009) is excellent preparation for the live action film and it makes interesting reinterpretation of the character’s origins. It’s worth checking for people who enjoy superhero adaptations.

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Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.