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VIXEN: THE MOVIE ANIMATED FEATURE REVIEW

Vixen: The Movie
Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Release Date: May 2, 2017 - Digital; May 23, 2017 - Blu-ray, DVD

Synopsis: Originally from Africa, Mari McCabe grew up an orphan after her parents were killed by local greed, corruption and wanton violence. But Mari refuses to succumb to the terrors surrounding her. Inheriting her family’s Tantu Totem, Mari can access the powers of animals – anything from the strength of a gorilla to the speed of a cheetah. As Vixen, she fights valiantly to protect the world from threats like those that claimed her family.

Vixen: The MovieVixen: The Movie combines the first two seasons of the CW Seed digital series into a single uniform story and includes 15 minutes of all-new, never-before-seen content. The special features include a brand new featurette and two Vixen-focused episodes of Justice League Unlimited handpicked by super hero animation icon Bruce Timm.

Vixen: The Movie is produced by Blue Ribbon Content and is based on DC characters. Executive producers are Greg Berlanti (Arrow, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Supergirl), Marc Guggenheim (Arrow, DC's Legends of Tomorrow) and Andrew Kreisberg (Arrow, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Supergirl). James Tucker (DC Universe Original Movies, Batman: The Brave and the Bold) is the producer; Tucker and Curt Geda (Beware the Batman, Batman Beyond) are the directors. It was written by Wendy Mericle (Arrow), Keto Shimizu (Arrow, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow), Brian Ford Sullivan (Arrow), Lauren Certo (The Flash), Nolan Dunbar (Arrow), Sarah Tarkoff (Arrow) and Marc Guggenheim, with Guggenheim and Shimizu serving as story editors. Vixen Season 1 debuted on August 25, 2015 on The CW's online streaming platform, CW Seed. Season 2 debuted on October 13, 2016.

BLU-RAY & DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
· Vixen: Spirit Animal featurette
· Bruce Timm’s Top Picks:
o Episode from Justice League Unlimited, “Hunter’s Moon
o Episode from Justice League Unlimited, “Grudge Match


Vixen: The Movie Review
By Andrei Logigan

Breaking out into her own animated movie, Vixen takes center stage in this animated feature, one that not only gives us a very close at Vixen's world, but it also provided a different spin on one particular universe that fans have really grown attached to over the last few years - The Arrowverse! More than a few surprises await fans who pop in this fun, finely animated adventure starring one of DC Comics' best characters!

Vixen: The Movie is a compilation of the twelve short episodes released online on the CW Seed between 2015-2016, with around 15 minutes of extra content mixed in, especially during the second half of the movie, to help the story flow better. Those who followed the series online as it was released will most likely spot the small but effective changes the movie has to offer, and will probably enjoy it a lot more. The movie isn't perfect but I think is a very entertaining and it manages to provide a good introduction to the character of Mari McCabe/Vixen, a character I don't think too many people (myself included) knew that much about prior to this. It's also worth mentioning the story is set in the same continuity as the super-hero shows airing on the CW such as Arrow, The Flash and DC's Legends of Tomorrow (and occasionally, Supergirl). As such it shouldn't surprise anyone some of the characters from these series pop up in animated form here, with the actors who portray them in live-action voicing their respective alter-egos. Likewise, I don't think it's mandatory to be up to date with either live-action series to watch and enjoy this animated movie.

The first part of the movie collects the first six shorts which were made up the first season of the Vixen web-series, without any changes. The main character is Mari McCabe (voiced by Megalyn Echikunwoke) and the movie reveals more about her background and her transition into becoming the Vixen. When we first meet her we see she's struggling to find a place where she belongs, and to learn her purpose in life. We also encounter her foster father Chuck (Neil Flynn) who is a pretty good character though I think he could have been developed a little more as the story progressed. Mari has inherited a mysterious Tantu Totem from her birth parents at a young age, an artifact which seems to be what sets the events of the movie in motion. When she's attacked on the street by some thugs who want to steal this Totem, Mari manages to access its powers and mimic animal abilities to defend herself and beat up her assailants. However she has no idea what actually happened, so she visits Professor Macalester (Sean Patrick Thomas) hoping to learn more about the Totem. Macalaster is also kind of under-developed but he's pretty much the closest thing Mari will have to a love interest in this movie. He's also apparently working for the mysterious woman who wants the artifact from Mari, which adds some more tensions between the two.

Adding to the shared universe concept, we find out Mari using the Totem's powers was detected by Cisco Ramon (a.k.a. Vibe, played by Carlos Valdes), from STAR Labs in Central City. In keeping with the tradition, Cisco is the first one to come up with the nickname "Vixen", a pretty nice touch. This leads Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) and Flash (Grant Gustin) to leave and investigate this new meta-human activity in Detroit. What follows is a cool action sequence with Mari being chased by the two heroes and managing to evade their attacks. It's not that surprising this was all a misunderstanding - continuing the trend that heroes have to fight each other during their first encounters, usually because they never stop to explain their actions. When the chase ends, Mari agrees to listen to the two and understands they only wish to help her; however she still rejects their offer because she doesn't trust them.

The villain of the movie's first half is a woman named Kuasa (Anika Noni Rose), who is revealed to be Mari's sister and claims that the Tantu Totem is hers by birth-right. Mari apparently is glad to get rid of the artifact but is unable to remove it from around her neck. As a result she is then taken to the abandoned Zambesi Village in Africa, the same place where she was born. Kuasa explains how the village was destroyed and mentions that she was chosen to wear the Totem and wield its powers. After managing to take the Totem away from Mari, she attempts to sever the bond it has formed with her. Mari is awakened by manifestations of the animal spirits within the Totem, which tell her she is the true wielder. They help her defeat all of Kuasa's henchmen, and eventually Kuasa herself, after a short but well-staged fight scene. In the end, Mari reclaims the Tantu Totem and returns to Detroit thinking she has discovered her purpose in life - becoming the protector of the city.

Vixen: The MovieNext we have a nice portion of entirely new animation, a sequence that is meant to bridge the gap between the two seasons of the web-series. I admit it wasn't what I expected or hoped for, but I found myself enjoying it. It showcases Mari's first few less than successful attempts at leading a super-hero life. Wishing to learn how to control her animal powers, she gets a job at the Zoo, working with an animal behavioral specialist, named Doctor Vargas (Maria Canals-Barrera). Mari starts forming a bond with one of the gorillas in the Zoo, but it doesn't take long for her to get mixed up with some smugglers who were threatening Dr. Vargas. Mari helps out and everything seems to play out fine by the end as she not only stops the crooks but also feels like she now has more confidence in her powers. I thought this smaller-scale story worked well, it made sense to have a moment or two showing Mari coping with her new-found abilities rather than jumping right into the season two batch of webisodes.

The last part of the movie contains the web-series second season, but with a few minor changes. The story plays out pretty much the same, nothing major was changed but most of the short scenes they added at times are effective and just makes things flow better. This second part is a little more complex than what came before. I liked how they touched on the mythology of Mari's Totem and explained how it's not the only one out there - there are others, each one controlling a different classic element. The movie only manages to bring the Fire and Water ones into action, but I can't really complain. The story begins with Macalaster returning from an expedition (founded with the money Kuasa payed him with previously) where he uncovered the Fire Totem. However that night the Totem is stolen from the museum and Mari sets out to investigate this case.

A new character named Eshu (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) is also introduced, who has obtained the Totem and manages to defeat Mari pretty easily during their first encounter. Once Mari finds out about Eshu's connection to the destruction of the village, naturally, things get a little personal! Mari realizes she needs help in stopping this new adversary and reluctantly agrees to bring Kuasa with her, trying to obtain the Water Totem. It's not that surprising Kuasa tried to double-cross her sister once she gets powers, but Mari saw it coming and brought some more reinforcements with her in the form of Atom (Brandon Routh) and Black Canary (Katie Cassidy). The story soon turns into an all-out fight with Eshu, with each of the heroes present there getting a chance to show off their powers. It's a cool way to connect this series to the Arrowverse and actually works pretty well, though a little clunky. Kuasa also gets a good scene and a neat send-off, with her confronting Eshu and refusing to surrender. In the end, Mari is more comfortable with the idea of being a hero and helping others. She proves this by joining Green Arrow and the others as they prepare to take on a new threat.

There's also a neat scene during the end credits, which makes another connection between this and the Arrow TV series (specifically, Vixen's live-action appearance in the episode "Taken" which aired in 2016). It would have been nice if this release also included that episode, if only to cover Vixen's most notable appearances in media at this point, but I understand they wanted to keep it limited to animation only. Hopefully, there will be more stuff like this in the future. I think there is enough material for another season of the animated series. Finding the remaining Totems, more flashbacks to what happened to Mari's mother, more Mari and Macalester scenes, more heroes from the live-action shows appearing, plus whatever else the writers can come up with. Mari's development throughout all of this has been pretty good, but I presume they can still do more with her in the future.

Overall, I found the movie very entertaining. The story was good and coherent, the action scenes and more dramatic moments are handled well, the animation and voice acting is solid and the interactions between the characters are fun. The comedy works pretty much every time, and is perhaps even more enjoyable in animated form than it is on the live-action shows. It was cool seeing some of the characters from the so-called "Arrowverse" animated, and having them participate in some nicely staged action scenes, like the fight with the Weather Wizard. Well, except for Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), but they still managed to add her into the movie as well. It's a little disappointing we didn't get to see the fight that was being set up towards the end, or at least learn who this new threat was, but other than that I don't really have any complaints.

It's also worth noting the Blu-ray home video release comes with a cool little bonus featurette offerig details on the comic book origins of Vixen, along with two excellent Justice League Unlimited episodes. The packaging is also worth noting, as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment gives the Blu-ray release a very solid cardboard slipcase.

Vixen: The Movie definitely comes Recommended, especially since it features new animated content you won't find anywhere else. Even if some followed the web-series as it was released, this "movie" format is more entertaining and helps bridge the seasons nicely. There are probably people out there who would also like to actually own the movie rather than have it available only on the CW Seed, or some who didn't even get a chance to watch it because it wasn't available in their countries. Whether you've already watched the series, or want to finally own it on physical media, you won't be disappointed.

Andrei Logigan is a regular conributor to The World's Finest.

Check out a clip in the player below:


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