I am not exaggerating when I say that this movie will probably be the best film I see all year, animated or not. I'm taking my chances and betting that Watchmen will probably disappoint me just a tad. Fortunately, there is nothing about this new Wonder Woman that isn't terrific -- from the script and story by Michael Jelenic and Gail Simone (respectively) to the wonderful direction of Lauren Montgomery. It doesn't hurt that Andrea Romano also works her magic here with a perfect voice cast, including a turn by Oliver Platt that threatened to steal Nathan Fillion (Steve Trevor's) thunder.
It comes out on DVD and BluRay March 3rd. I implore anyone who is a fan of stuff in general to purchase the movie, if not at the very least rent it (if you have OnDemand.) If you have young kids in the house, especially young girls, it will not disappoint. (It'll be a cartoon you won't mind watching over and over, too, so you might thank me if your kids like it.)
I had a chance to sit down with Bruce Timm before the early screening at New York Comic Con this year. He had a lot to say about the character, and seem genuinely delighted by how this film turned out. Interview and trailer for Wonder Woman after the jump.
Why did it take so long to get to Wonder Woman?
Timm: It didn't take that long! It's only our third -- okay, I guess fourth, including Gotham Knight. We knew early on when we started doing these projects that Wonder Woman was one that we not only wanted to do, but we needed to do. She hasn't really had her own animated series or anything. She's an obvious choice: Batman had his own series, Superman had his own series, then we did Justice League -- which she was in, but she wasn't the lead character -- so, we though she definitely justified having her own movie.
How did you choose which version of Wonder Woman you wanted to use in this film?
Timm: That's the thing, we didn't just pick one. As we have always done for all these characters, we looked at the history of the character, and ask: "Of all the different versions of this character, which parts do we like?" We'll pick something from the tv show, something from the comics. It's not really based on any one specific version of the character. It's really not based on the George Perez run -- there are elements of his run in it, but it's not specifically based on his storyline or his version of the character.
How different is this version of Wonder Woman than the other DC Animated versions of Wonder Woman?
Timm: Well, just by the nature of it, the fact that she's the lead character of the movie, it's the same as when Batman's on the Justice League and he kind of acts a little bit differently than when he's on his own -- he's a loner, so it changes the paradigm of the story. It's kind of same thing. Wonder Woman, on the face of it, lends herself to this kind of scale of a Justice League story moreso than Batman does, naturally. But the fact that the movie is more about her means you have to get a little bit deeper in to the complexity of her character.
The trickiest thing about her, unlike Batman and Superman who are very very clearly defined by their iconography and by the different versions of them you can point to Frank Miller's Batman and say "Oh, that's Batman," or point to Christopher Reeve and say "That's Superman," Wonder Woman: Not so much. You can't really look at the Linda Carter version -- as much as I and a lot of people like it -- and go: "Yeah, that's Wonder Woman!" There's a lot about that show that we like, but it isn't really relevant to the modern day.
In the comics, there have been really well respected runs by Greg Rucka, Gail Simone, and George Perez -- but they kind of conflict with each other. There's things about Gail's version that are really different than what Greg did and are really different than what George did. Wonder Woman fans are really, really passionate about Wonder Woman, so I'm not sure I'm gonna please every Wonder Woman fan. There really are these conflicting versions of her; if you go on the DC message board, there's a whole controversy going on now about whether she should fly or not. She doesn't fly in the movie, and people are pissed off about that. Like "I'm not even gonna go see that movie if she doesn't fly!" Then there are the people who say she should never have flown anyway, that's a Superman thing. "Wonder Woman is not about flying!!". So you can't win.
Specifically to this movie, it's her origin story. She's young, she's a little bit naive, but not stupid. She's certainly not the dumb girl in the big city for the first time. There is an element of that when she goes to see "man's world" which she's heard so much about from her mother who really dislikes men, and some of it's true but it's been exaggerated a little bit, so she wants to go see for herself. Some of what her mother said turns out to be true and some doesn't. It's really her journey to see what man's world is really about, and maybe there's a compromise between her mother's vision of what the world should be and the way man's world really is.
Why is it taking so long for a live action Wonder Woman project?
Timm: She's a tricky character. She's one of the big three, she's right up there with Superman and Batman in terms of media profile. But she's a woman, and comic book fans for the most part are male. There's a perception -- whether it's true or not -- that boys aren't interested in girl superhero characters. So that, more than anything else, has been a big stumbling block into why a Wonder Woman live action movie hasn't been made yet. When you're talking about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a Wonder Woman movie that at the end of the day they might say "Well, that 'Catwoman' movie tanked, so, I dunno..."
That might have been for... other reasons.
Timm: Well, yeah. But still, with an animated film there's a lot less cash outlay than for a live action film, so we can take a bit more of a chance. We're hoping that boys come out and buy this movie just as much as girls do, though I think there's a lot there for either sex.
I dunno, she's just a tricky character. She's kind of an inflexible person because she's strong, but she's compassionate. She's a vicious fighter, but she's nice. She's wise. She's almost too perfect. That doesn't help with the drama. You want to have a character that's flawed, but "You can't make her flawed! She's Wonder Woman! She's perfect!" So it's the same problem we have with Superman, frankly, when we write Superman stories.
The fact that she is the most iconic female superhero in the world, means there's a lot more expectation of what she should or shouldn't be. If you go too far one way, then she's Xena, she's not Wonder Woman. If you go too far the other way then she's Barbie. So you gotta find that balance and still keep it interesting. Hopefully we have.
What did Keri Russell bring to the character?
Timm: Keri is just a wonderful actress. She's great. But the thing that was unexpected was that we didn't think she was gonna sound as contemporary as she does. Ultimately we came to embrace that because it dovetails into the nature of the story where's she's a little bit of the iconoclast in terms of the Amazon -- all the other Amazons had a life before they went to Paradise Island. She's the only one who was actually born on Themyscira and doesn't know anything else about the outside world. So she's different, but she's of an age where she's starting to rebel against her mother a little bit. She's starting to doubt that everything her mom tells her is true. It's a little bit contemporary and it actually works for the character. She's a lot less the regal high and mighty princess -- even our Justice League version was a little bit snooty. Keri's not like that at all. So it was definitely a fresher take on the character.
What elements did you make sure to include in the movie?
Timm: There are certain things going in to it that you want to hit: Bracelets. Hippolyta. Steve Trevor. Etta Candy. Invisible plane. Lasso of truth.
Was there anything you wanted to include but had to cut?
Timm: Depending on which version or which era of comics you read, her powers change all the time. There was a bit in the comics where, if she were bound, she would lose her powers. Obviously that's the whole bondage thing that people are really uncomfortable with these days. But I actually really liked it just thematically. It just goes to -- not that she defies men, but she's man's equal -- so I like the whole "if she's downed by a man she loses her power." It's kind of a metaphor for the brutish nature of man. But anyhow, DC comics said "Nooooo... we don't do that anymore. We'll skip that if you don't mind." That was really the only thing that we couldn't do, which is no big deal.
Who's your favorite character in the movie besides Wonder Woman?
Timm: Hippolyta. The movie starts with a pre-title sequence which actually takes place way back in ancient times. Hippolyta is the Wonder Woman if the ancient day, and she's kickin' ass in this huge, heroic fantasy adventure, like a mini-movie. It takes about ten minutes of screen time. It's hard to top it -- the rest of the movie is really good, but that opening is like, "Wow." She's great, and Virginia Madsen plays her and she's dead on.
But Steve Trevor is a great character, too. We had Nathan Fillion playing him, and he's so awesome and so funny and so warm and so charismatic that he really brought Steve to life. Even though [Steve] can be a real jerk as a man, Nathan brings such an element of likability to him that you can't help but adore him.
Do you think there's a chance that you'll do more with Wonder Woman in the future?
Timm: Maybe. A lot of it comes down to sales figures. If this movie sells really really well, I think we'd be crazy not to do Wonder Woman 2. It could happen. I'd be up for it. I'd do it.
Why does it seem like you're the only one who's able to take on the challenge of Wonder Woman?
Timm: It has nothing to do with me, I think it's just the luck of the draw. I was in the right place at the right time when these things came up. But I don't really know. It's pretty well known that Joss Whedon was doing a version of the Wonder Woman movie which got rejected. Frankly, I read the script, it thought it was a really good script, and I don't know why it got rejected. I read and thought: "Wow, this is gonna be a good movie. I'd like to see it." So why it didn't get made, I don't have any idea. I've heard that someone else submitted a completely different version of Wonder Woman at the same time that the executives liked more than Joss's version, but then nothing ever happened with that version, so I don't know. It's all happening way above my pay grade.
[I'd like to note that I had no idea Joss Whedon insisted that he had never written an actual script, just an outline. I found this out AFTER the interview, when Laura and Rania bemoaned my lack of a followup to this question. Sorry! He could've said "script" but meant "outline"! --Ed.]
But you've been taking a lot of chances, like with Justice League, New Frontier, and Gotham Knight. You haven't been playing it safe, but the fans are very appreciative.
Timm: Well, good. I do like to mess with people's expectations. On one hand, you want to give people what they expect. I joked about the things I had to include for Wonder Woman, but it's true. With Batman, you know it's not just Batman. You have to include the Batmobile, the Batcave, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon... all the paraphenelia is all part of it. So it's the same thing with Wonder Woman, and on the one hand you have to do that, but at the same time that stuff is so familiar, you don't want it to be just about that. You don't want to be "Hit that note, hit this note, hit that note, we're done." You want to put in twists, and go someplace different than the audience expects.
Sometimes we've taken chances with characters and not pleased the fans. Like with the Green Lantern and Hawkgirl storyline on Justice League -- a lot of fans were disappointed with how that wrapped up. We thought that we gave that story enough closure. It might not have been the ending everybody wanted, but it felt true to the characters for us, so we felt we'd done what we needed to do. I'll quote Joss, he said: "you don't want to give the audience what they want, you give them what they need." We try to do that. Sometimes we get it right.