The latest DC animated film starts off poorly, with a prolonged 10-minute origin story on Wonder Woman’s home island of Themyscira followed by another nearly 10 minutes of her introduction to the U.S. before we even get to the opening credits. We’ve seen Wonder Woman’s origin so many times in her previous incarnations that the latest rehash is a total waste of viewer time. Thankfully, things pick up once the credits end, and the film does have one major perk that sets it aside from the majority of DC’s typical adaptations of comic book stories: an original plot.
Diana is besieged by various super-powered female enemies throughout the film, including Cheetah, Giganta, and Medusa, but her primary target is a ferocious winged warrior named Silver Swan. Diana feels responsible for the chain of events that lead to Silver Swan’s emergence, so even though she’s determined to stop her reign of terror, she’s also committed to finding a way to help her, a path that leads back to Themyscira. The film is peppered with thrilling action sequences and keeps us guessing as to Diana’s chances for success and which home she will choose. While the plot largely just bounces from one baddie fight to the next, it’s ultimately given some substance by Diana’s quest for redemption in both the eyes of her mother and her primary enemy.
The voice actors are solid in their roles, with the possible exception of lead actress Rosario Dawson. It’s great that DC maintains consistency for the Wonder Woman character by continuing to hire her, but her take here is a bit too monotone, in an apparent attempt to make the character seem impassive. She isn’t done any favors with writing that treats Diana like a foreign-exchange student who makes clumsy attempts at normal conversation and doesn’t understand common idioms. The character design also eschews the classic costume for a weak modern interpretation as pictured on the disc cover. While the hand-drawn animation is competent as usual, the CG-animated vehicles in the film are so laughably amateurish in both form and jerky animation that they look like a student attempt circa the late ‘80s, especially a boxy “boat” that Diana and Steve use to leave Themyscira.
I watched the film in both Blu-ray and 4K UHD and found only one apparent benefit from the 4K upgrade: the enhanced color spectrum provided by HDR. Even that isn’t a major difference, since the film’s color palette is fairly muted. Still, it’s nice to get some added sparkle from occasional energy beams and other effects. The soundtrack options are identical for both Blu-ray and 4K, defaulting to DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
The film includes a stellar bonus feature that I enjoyed even more than the feature attraction: a brand new 20-minute animated short based on Neil Gaiman’s classic Sandman character, Death. The story follows a down-on-his-luck painter as he laments his life choices before making an even worse life choice, all as a prelude to encountering Death, the charming goth girl. It’s a fairly lightweight story, but set up with enough of a Twilight Zone approach that it functions well for its length and reveals that the concept could work as a recurring series if DC ever chooses to pursue it.
Other bonus features includes generous 11-minute looks at the history of Wonder Woman baddie Cheetah, early footage and interviews with cast members and creative staff for DC’s next animated film Superman: Red Son, and, oddly, footage and interviews from 2016’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans. There’s also a shorter making-of feature about the even older Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009) for no apparent reason. Bonus features are rounded out with a staple of the DC animated film releases: two episodes of classic animated series from the DC vault.
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