Superhero Shorts: Wonder Woman
Welcome to another edition of Superhero Shorts, where I feature a superhero themed short film and ask a few questions of its creator. It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long ago since I featured Jesse V. Johnson’s version of Wonder Woman, but this time around Rainfall films with co-owner and director Sam Balcomb shows us his action packed take on Wonder Woman. As usual, you can watch the short below, or you can visit Rainfall film’s official site where it is currently featured on their main page, or you can visit their YouTube channel.
I really like this Wonder Woman short, and I do have to take a moment to compare it to the Jesse V. Johnson short from back in April. While I like Johnson’s inclusion of the Nazis and making it into a bit of a period piece, I also really like Balcomb taking it all the way back to Themyscera. They both boast some nice special effects, from Johnon’s dive bombing Nazi plane to Balcomb’s giant Minotaurs. Here, Wonder Woman is played beautifully by Rileah Vanderbilt. As a quick side note, this isn’t the first time she’s played Wonder Woman. She is also part of Team Unicorn FTW who did a SuperHarmony short where she also played Wonder Woman. (side side note, I tried unsuccessfully early on in this site to contact them to feature it here) This short sets a great tone for Wonder Woman. It’s not the super-fast paced heavy action, but it does include some great action beats in it. It’s more of a tone piece that the music really accentuates, especially the moment at the end when she lifts up off the ground. It’s an interesting touch to have the cityscape behind her in flames, hinting at a story that we don’t fully know about. And while I can tell that the Minotaurs are done as very low-budget CGI, they are utilized in the right way, having them be a more unclear threat in the distance that also helps hide some of the flaws due to the budget. Going back to the Johnson short, I couldn’t say which one I liked better as they are both very different beasts, but I would love to see a full length version of either one of them. But enough from me, let’s hear what director and co-owner of Rainfall Films, Sam Balcomb has to say.
Bubbawheat: What do you think are some of the most important qualities about Wonder Woman that you wanted to come across in your short?
Sam Balcomb: The primary inspiration for doing the short in the first place was being exposed to Wonder Woman’s re-imagining by George Perez in 1987. I hadn’t read those books before, and when I saw how amazingly they tied in her origins with Greek mythology, I thought, “why haven’t we seen that in live action yet?” I loved seeing her balanced between the old world of Themyscira and the new world of man, fighting both men and monsters. It was really important to show her being able to exist in both worlds believably.
BW: There have been a lot of fan films that are presented as more of a concept trailer than a short film, what angle were you going for with this short, was it intended to be more of a concept teaser trailer, or do you think of it as more of a short film?
SB: I tend to think of it more as a short film, or a “mood piece” on her character. There’s no dialogue, or a story beyond “she fights,” because I was mainly interested in how a Wonder Woman character could feel in live action. The tone, the atmosphere… these were the aspects most people generally consider unfilmable with her, so that was our main challenge.
BW: If you were to expand this short into something feature length, how would you address some of Wonder Woman’s standard powers/accessories/origins? What would you keep (like the flight), what would you change (like her birth from clay?), what would you toss out completely (like her invisible jet)?
SB: Well, I doubt I would ever get that chance, but I could make a guess. I think the key is taking some of the more heightened mythological aspects and keeping them mysterious. You don’t have to necessary say if the “born of clay” phrase is literal or allegorical, but it’s fascinating to hear. I think we’ve already got a really good blueprint of how to adapt her character, from what Perez and Gail Simone have done over the years, you just gotta stick to it. With all the Gods, Demi-Gods, epic battles and mythic creatures, her story is one of the MOST cinematic in the whole DCU. But yeah, lose the jet.
BW: Who came up with that giant fur-lined cloak in the beginning? Was that something intended to be a tease, or does it have a more interesting origin?
SB: We made a 3D animatic of the whole short ahead of time, and the cloak was always something I really liked. It teased the character at first, and made for a nice entrance. It was originally more of a tattered cape, but our costume designer Heather Greene turned it into a stunning work of art. All the costume pieces look amazing, even in closeup.
BW: I agree with that, the cloak, both versions of Wonder Woman’s outfit, and even to a lesser extent the other Themyscerans look amazing. There have been more instances lately of companies shutting down these fan-films, often some of the best looking ones. Was there concern at any point during your production that you would be shut down?
SB: It wasn’t a huge concern, as long as it was clear we weren’t making a profit. The words “Wonder Woman” don’t even appear in it, and we designed our own logo. We wanted to play it safe.
BW: And finally, what is your favorite superhero movie?
SB: I’m always going to have a special love for Burton’s first Batman film. I had just read Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, and the whole notion of “postmodernism” was creeping into my ten-year-old brain. Going back to an earlier point, I just loved the mood of the film. Everything from Danny Elfman’s score to Anton Furst’s production design was incredible. I wanted to live in that world, and soak up the atmosphere.
The atmosphere really is a big selling point of Burton’s film even to this day and is always a great choice. Thanks again for talking with me and I know I would love to see Wonder Woman on the big screen or even the small screen sometime soon if it looked anything like this. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.