Wonder Woman: Bloodlines
"Wonder Woman: Bloodlines" finally reveals the origin story for Wonder Woman in the in-continuity line of movies from the DC Universe direct to video line after her first appearance in "Justice League War" back in 2014 and ties into the contemporary conflict threatening to destroy her birth home of Themyscira. But more importantly, it's another solo Wonder Woman story in a criminally short list and we get a more complete picture of the character, namely her unswerving compassion for others.
The first 20 minutes or so is a flashback that goes back five years and reveals how Steve Trevor and Diana met, a conflict between her mother Hippolyta, and how she brought up to speed on Man's World with the Kapatelis family. It also sets up the parallel conflict Diana and Vanessa grapple with in the movie, deciding what they want to do with their life as well as the target of the story's villains. The flashback also provides insight into what led to the debut scene of Steve and Diana on their way to meet the President of the United States in "Justice League War." The movie then shifts to present day, conceived to be after the events of this past summer's "Batman Hush" movie. Wonder Woman breaks up an armored car heist and is recalled to the rebuilt Hall of Justice to meet with Julia Kapatelis, who is worried Vanessa is in trouble. Things take a turn for the worse and Wonder Woman inadvertently pushes Vanessa into the arms of Villainy, Inc. after Julia is killed. It then becomes a race against time to re-discover the location of Themyscira to save Vanessa's life but it only aids the villains who mount an invasion but things get even worse...
"Wonder Woman: Bloodlines" presents both sides of Wonder Woman and not just the powerhouse warrior in the Justice League. There's also the part of Wonder Woman who never stops caring for others whether be her friends and family or a civilian she saves from a desperate masked bandit. From the start, Diana empathizes with Vanessa over having a strong mother and reassures her things will get better. Or instead of beating a minotaur to a pulp, Wonder Woman uses her wits and frees him then pledges to take care of him. Even against a giant-sized Medusa, Wonder Woman tries to plea with her to abandon hostility with the Amazons. But don't get me wrong, I'm not against awesome action sequences. And this movie has them but done in new ways, not just the same old choreography, angles, and staging. There's also some nice little touches like Wonder Woman running up Giganta and later, Medusa's arm to sock them or her using a piece of floor to take out armed goons. The balance of emotion and action can no doubt be credited to the co-directors of the movie, Sam Liu and Justin Copeland.
In addition to exploring a new side to Wonder Woman, I did enjoy that this movie also has the long awaited return of Steve Trevor who disappeared after a quick appearance in "Justice League: Throne of Atlants" and we were left wonder if he quit as the League's liaison or not. There's also the nice little details to flesh out the continuity like the arrival of Parademons, a newly rebuilt Hall of Justice, or Wonder Woman acknowledging she's no longer dating Superman. Plus, if you ever wondered about the pretext to the drive to the White House in War like I have, we finally got an answer. I also liked how they didn't shy away from Etta Candy's more modern interpretation - her plus size, being more than a desk hugging secretary, her sexuality, and serving as a foil to Steve. There's also some sampling of two great runs from the Wonder Woman comics, the George Perez and Greg Rucka eras. Ferdinand, I believe, and most of the villains are from the Perez run (and I totally welcome the notion of a minotaur living in the Hall of Justice) while the supporting cast are mostly Rucka. I felt a little robbed there was no Blue Snowman though. Hey, if "Young Justice" modernized Sportsmaster... and speaking of, yes, Phil Bourassa got busy working on "Young Justice: Outsiders" so Steven Choi stepped in and led the character design charge. It was a bit of fresh air to seem him both emulate Bourassa's style but also throw in his own touch. But to be fair, I'm not ready to kick Bourassa out the door just yet. But he's gonna be busy again with Young Justice's fourth season.
However, the story itself has some issues. Whether the script needed just one more round of polish or a restructuring to fix the odd pacing is moot. You could even argue it should have been two separate movies. One in this 5 years ago era, flesh out the 20 minutes to a whole movie and build things up. Then have the pay off in the second movie set in the present. The 20 minute origin story makes a sudden time skip to the present and the audience is left to fill in a bit too many blanks that Vanessa was manipulated and nudged towards a rather extreme choice when all we really see is 'teen step sister jealousy syndrome.' I'm on the fence if the movie should have been shifting between past and present until the final act rather than all of the past in one chunk. Ultimately, I'm not all convinced four movies a year from this line is better than three. I suspects the constraints of the production schedule and budget might have been a bit too much. Or a little like "Batman: Bad Blood" or "Batman: Hush," a whole ton of rogues march out to oppose Wonder Woman -- and it could be a bit much to some or are totally expendable and forgettable chess pieces if you don't already have some comic book knowledge of them. Then Villainy Inc. kinda just putters out and are replaced with a big monster battle with no real stakes because we know about the healing ray from the start... and then the real culprit is left standing as a bit of an afterthought in a teaser scene as the credits heat up. Some of the dialogue comes off a bit flat and could have used polish. The Qurac delivery scene comes to mind. It was also a bit of a shame that Giganta and Cheetah have just one scene and aren't there to the end. Still, it's progressively a meatier role for Cheetah compared to her appearance in "Justice League vs. Teen Titans" fighting Wonder Woman.
Rosario Dawson. Wonder Woman. Need I say more? Jeffrey Donovan takes over as Steve Trevor. I can't say anything bad about Donovan because I loved "Burn Notice." Adrienne C. Moore was a hoot as Etta and all three of them together in this movie was a real treat. Moore brings a real balance to Dawson and Donovan. We've seen the Wonder Woman-Steve Trevor pairing so many times already, Moore brings something new to the table finally. Kimberly Brooks pulls double duty as Cheetah and Giganta. With DC Super Hero Girls almost halfway into its first season, it's amusing to hear Brooks voice Giganta instead of Bumblebee. A total role reversal. For the most part, there's a lot of new names in the cast I was totally unfamiliar with that nail it but still a few ones I do that are criminally underused, in my opinion like Constance Zimmer, Michael Dorn, Cree Summer, and Nia Vardalos. For goodness sake, how often will you get to hear Dorn voice a minotaur who turns out to be a good cook? I would commend Marie Avgeropoulos for having the task of integrating teen angst, jealousy, and misguided anger all together and becoming Silver Swan.
The DC Showcase line continues in Bloodlines with a 19 minute short starring Death from the classic Neil Gaiman created Vertigo series, The Sandman. I loved it. It is excellence in animation. Poignant. Bittersweet. J.M. DeMatteis and Sam Liu really found the correct emotional core of the tortured artist in Vincent Omata as he rediscovers pure joy and overcomes his inner demons before moving on, thanks to meeting a mysterious girl that inspires his creativity after a long drought. And naturally she is none other than Death. Jamie Chung voices Death and Leonardo Nam as Vincent Omata both command the screen and make you forget it's a very, very small cast. And ending the story on what the firefighters think is a miracle was just a beautiful touch. I really, really hope shorts out of the Sandman series are on their way. I mean, name dropping the Book of Destiny? Please more. For the DC fans, there are some amusing references like the inclusion of Noonan's as the bar Vincent frequents as well as being fired from painting gates at Arkham Asylum. Noonan's originated in the 90s in an Etrigan the Demon annual by Garth Ennis as part of a line -- wait for it -- titled Bloodlines. Coincidence? For a hot second, I thought Vincent was going to see the barkeeper as Baytor but I guess that would have been too self-indulgent. Vincent's last work was also done by famed artist Jae Lee. On a more serious note, this movie does have one of the closest depictions, if not the closest, to drug use I can recall in DC animation. But even with Death and souls being ferried away, it still felt like a story any adult could really relate to or at least one of the elements of it. I think we've all dealt with people who grind us down with their words day after day, relatives telling you you're not good enough, loved ones who give up on you, hitting rock bottom, or trying to recapture what you once had. Or simply, what we have here is a story that sympathetically depicts a mentally ill character and for once doesn't turn him into a psycho costumed supervillain, rather ending his story in a redemptive tone. This is without a doubt my new favorite story of all time in DC animation. Not all DC stories need costumes in them.
This release's featurette, "The Cheetah: Ferocious Archenemy," is an abbreviated history and commentary on the two main figures to hold the mantle of Cheetah. Clocking in at 10 minutes and 50 seconds, there is a mix of talking head segments, including screenwriter Mairghread Scott, host of DC Daily Amy Dallen, Ames Kirshen from DC Entertainment, and Rosario Dawson, comic book art, and footage from the movie and from the classic Challenge of the Super Friends. The conversation how Cheetah went from the analogous villain in Priscilla Rich to the current incarnation Barbara Ann Minerva through the use of magic, myth, nature as well as a costume vs. a literal transformation then the themes Minerva came to represent like taking power and using it incorrectly, inner ugliness and brutality made manifest, and using animalistic features as an excuse in contrast to Wonder Woman's heroism and compassion. The featurette ends with a brief hype over the upcoming Wonder Woman 84 live action movie. While it is a good primer on the villain, I was left wondering why the featurette didn't also focus on the other villains of the movie. Especially with Wonder Woman, the general public doesn't have a deep knowledge of her rogues gallery compared to Batman and Superman so a featurette about all who appear in the movie seems like slam dunk of an idea. Granted, perhaps this featurette was finalized before the story shifted from Cheetah to Villainy Inc. in the drafting phase.
The 11 minute 21 second Sneak Peak is for next year's first release, Superman: Red Son which is an adaptation of a popular Elseworlds story that centers on a what-if scenario of Kal-El landing in Russia instead of Smallville. Finished footage, animatics, comic art from the source material, and a combination of cast and crew highlight the sneak peak, including Bruce Timm, Comrade Krieg, Ames Kirshen, Wes Gleason, Amy Acker, Jason Isaacs, Diedrich Bader, Paul Williams, and Sasha Roiz. They help to set up the premise of Red Son, the question of nature vs. nurture and how society dictates behavior. Especially with Superman, is he inherently good or not? Time is also spent on introducing the new versions of Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern. The sneak peek ends on a note clarifying this movie is no parable, it's a sociological study on how absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The two classic DC Vault episodes are from Batman: The Brave and The Bold, "Triumvirate of Terror!" and "Scorn of the Star Sapphire", the previews of past releases are for Justice League vs. The Fatal Five and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, and the trailers that play before the menu are Batman: Hush and The Death and Return of Superman. The trailers played at the menu are for Joker, The Kitchen, Gen:Lock, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, and the Commemorative Edition of the 2009 Wonder Woman direct to video animated movie. The special features for Wonder Woman: Bloodlines is decent. While lacking a commentary track or a featurette on the larger cast, the sneak peek and DC Showcase Death short more than make up and are the gems of the release.
It's been 10 years since we had a Wonder Woman solo animated movie. Let's hope it's not another 10. I want to get to a point where we're tired of seeing Wonder Woman movies like we keep complaining when another Batman movie gets announced. I want, and I know I'm not the only one, to see a genuine solo Wonder Woman animated series before I turn gray and senile. While it did suffer from a faulty script and from trying to do everything at once, "Wonder Woman: Bloodlines" is proof positive such a series of movies and animated series can and will work. She doesn't have to just keep appearing as part of a team! She has just as interesting a supporting cast as Batman or Superman, an really untapped rogues gallery, and a rich mythology that's been explored in animation off and on and not enough. "Wonder Woman: Bloodlines" is a recommended purchase.
Main Feature: 3 out of 5
Special Features: 3 out of 5
Average Rating: 3 out of 5