Wonder Woman (2009) Blu-ray Review
Wonder Woman features a richer colour palette than we have seen on DC's animated features so far. The VC-1 encoded 1.85:1 image, therefore, is incredibly warm and vibrant. Thick reds and oranges add heaps of atmosphere and eye-entrancing beauty to the presentation. Scenes set down in the Underworld, in the company of a bloated purple Hades (complete with Maximus-style haircut), for example, really stand out. But just about any sequence or shot is marvellously rendered with crisp, lucid blues, strong primary swathes, consistent contrast and shading and reassuringly deep levels of black that offer some awesome shadow-play. Cool blues suffuse some of the sky-borne segments, whilst those amber and inferno-laced colour combos majestically enhance the opening battle and the ritual chamber skirmish and go on to provide suggestive hues throughout. Blood is also quite striking, especially when we see it ooze from one poor victim's mouth. The burnished bronze and gold of the Amazon armour is also vivid and well-rendered and the invisible jet is smoothly depicted with ethereal white lines and a ghostly shimmer.
As is usual for a Bruce Timm production, the animation is not overly detailed, but this doesn't mean that the video lacks any definition. Far from it. Line edges are tight and reliable, close-ups are stable and revealing, and backgrounds yield up a definite sense of distance and depth and surely paint the image exactly as the artists intended with nothing blurred, smudged or softened. Fast action is also expertly presented and there was none of that drag or smearing that can so often hamper animation from anyone other than Pixar or Disney. Even Marvel's recent animated features suffered from jerkiness in some rapid sideways panning, but Wonder Woman has no such detriments, its image remaining locked-in and captivating at all times. Explosions pack heat and debris with whirling aplomb. Splinters of wood and armour, tumbling stone and dented car roofs, cloud patterns and blighted landscapes - whether ancient or modern metropolis - all have weight and a sharpness that is perpetually pleasing.
But, and perhaps inevitably, there are still one or two areas that cause concern. For a start, that blight of such fare - banding - is still very much in evidence. Not consigned to any one particular shade or colour, it presents itself in all manner of hues and shots and there were a couple of instances when it actually seemed to cloud and undulate. Sadly, this did prove to be a slight distraction on occasion and certainly robs a point from Wonder Woman's score, I'm afraid. And, beyond this, there is even some slight trace of artefacting in the image. Now this didn't bother me anywhere near as much as the banding did, but, in an, otherwise, superlative transfer, this can't help but disappoint.
That said, though, the disc still looks phenomenally warm and vibrant, clean and retina-scorching. One or two errors should, in no way, put you off what is a terrific image in a great many ways.
Wonder Woman's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is not as aggressive as the 7.1 lossless tracks on Marvel's Avengers or Doctor Strange BD's, but it is still a good and often exciting one. For a start, the stereo spread across the front is wide and deep, with plentiful steerage across it and fine placement of voices and effects. Ambience is low-key, but it has been addressed, with city noises and jungle atmospherics adding a fair bit to the mix. Battles have some very decent vigour, with solid effects, wild destructive detail and keen positioning dotted about the set-up, and there are some agreeably meaty “thwacks!” and “bokks!” as bodies are bashed and pummelled, and a smart selection of metallic clangs and clashes once the swords come into play. Steve's mid-air dog-fight is electric with machine-gunfire, engines and explosions and there are a couple of supreme panning jet fly-bys that roar across the soundscape with air-punching power.
Dialogue is never less than crystalline and Christopher Drake's score is well embedded and mixed within the design without ever drowning things out or lacking its own suitable weight. The sub is not forgotten either, with several guttural impacts making their presence felt, but this is still not a design that was intended to blow your windows out, so ferocious deep-level bombast is rarely called upon. Rear support is well represented in that there is plenty of activity taking place back there, but there is really only the odd effect thrown out that you actually sit up and notice. Most of the time, the rear speakers bolster the general ambience or help accentuate the score, but they do add to the dynamics of the massed battle sequences that book-end the movie.
Overall, this is an enjoyable lossless mix that may not compare so favourably to a similar live-action production but smartly enhances the power and excitement of the movie in question and certainly delivers some grand-scale dynamics to a story that thrives upon chaos. Plus, it is definitely more powerful and detailed than the DD 5.1 track that is also offered.
There's quite a good selection of extras here, albeit a predictable bunch.
Things kick off with a group commentary from producer Bruce Timm, director Lauren Montgomery and writer Michael Jenelic, and, even with a plethora of “You know's” padding it out, this is still relatively good fun. You won't learn a great deal about the genesis of this particular outing, but the group have a fairly easy-going time of watching their efforts brought to the screen. There must have been some haste putting this together though, as they are still awaiting an effects track and Christopher Drake's score to be placed on the film. Certain topics, such as the invisible jet, are air-brushed over. “We thought about explaining it in the film ... and then decided, hey, what the hell ... let's just leave it, eh?” is about the extent of what we learn. Other core components are discussed - the lasso, the wristbands, the Olympian hierarchy etc - and there is a degree of discussion about the new stance on feminism and violence in a cartoon. Overall, I enjoyed this chat, but as an example of the form, it is not the most elucidating, more a bunch of fans kicking-back and enjoying a movie.
DC and Warner then provide us with a couple of meaty docs - both around 26 mins each - that fill in the background of both Wonder Woman and William H. Marston, the man who created her during a time when stereotypical gender roles weren't up for question. The same participants crop up in both features and the look and style is similar enough to treat them as one main slice of Wonderfull fact-finding. Whilst the first is really dominated by the era in which Marston created his icon and the things in his war-torn world that inspired him to fashion such things as the Lasso of Truth and those wristbands - he actually helped invent the lie-detector and he was always enamoured by the golden bracelets that his assistant wore - the second delves in Diana's place in established mythology, her status as a role model and her cultural impact. Both documentaries, entitled Wonder Woman: A Subversive Dream and Wonder Woman: Daughter of Myth, respectively, are good value and insightful.
Then we get a 10-minute sneak peak at DC and Warner's upcoming Green Lantern feature, First Flight. We meet the voice cast and see some storyboards, as well as hearing about the character's heritage and what we may expect from this new interpretation. There is also a rehashed and re-badged presentation of the original sneak-peak for Wonder Woman, which adorned the Justice League: The New Frontier disc. A bit of a con, you could say, but it does serve as a decent look at the genesis of this project and we get to meet the makers and the voice cast. And, for the sake of completeness, we also get the same thing for both New Frontier and Batman: Gotham Knight.
As is usual for something that Bruce Timm has had his hand in, the disc also comes stocked with a cluster of themed episodes from his animated TV shows - this time sporting Wonder Woman's exploits, naturally. We get the classic Justice League two-parter, Paradise Lost and Justice League Unlimited's Hawk and Dove and To Another Shore. All are encoded via VC-1 and offer audio in DD 2.0.
To be honest, this is a fine selection of features. I didn't really expect much in the way of background gumph on Wonder Woman - despite my love for her, she is not in the same league as Batman or Superman. Oh, hang on a moment ... she is, isn't she? Well, you know what I mean. But this disc does a fair job of stating her claim and validating her position in the grand scheme of escapist fantasy.
We also get a second disc containing a digital copy of the movie.
Even as a fan of Wonder Woman's tour of duty in the excellent Justice League animated show, I enjoyed this whole package far more than I ever expected to. The film, itself, is terrific. Wild action, a surprising level of violence and some knowing sexual references make this a more mature offering from DC's animated wing, but it is also the intrigue and awe of the dichotomy of a world of ancient Gods, Amazonian super-women and mortal greed and power-lust that helps this colourful fable to stand proud alongside the studio's more commonplace poster-boys and heroes of Batman and Superman. Effortlessly beating Marvel at their own game, by combining a rich and engrossing, if admittedly strictly by-the-numbers, storyline and offering surprisingly likeable characters and a situation that is eminently dark and despicable. Oedipal complexes, the battle of the sexes, Armageddon and heroic honour all vie for supremacy in a tale that moves like a locomotive, strikes as hard as lightning and displays some of the most incredible female warriors that have ever graced the screen - even if they are just animated figures. Sensibly played, with just the right amount of exposition, this cuts to the quick whilst still retaining enough core elements of the mythology to keep the fans happy whilst also providing an exciting romp for newcomers.
The disc presentation is a good one, too. The Dolby TrueHD track may be restrained when compared to a lot of other action-heavy audio designs, but there is still plenty of activity spread around the set-up. The video offers tremendous colours and a rich, vibrant palette with only a minimum of digital bug-bears. The extras are solid and extensive, DC packing in a fair bit of bonus material and a good deal of background insight into the character and her mythology. Overall, I cannot help but recommend this release. It ticked all of my boxes and left me wanting to watch it all over again. So far, I would say that DC has a considerable edge over Marvel in these animated features, and with Green Lantern's new movie on the horizon, this trend looks set to continue.
“You're a wonder, Wonder Woman!”
Go for it, girl!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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