Vixen: The Movie
"Vixen: The Movie" is a 75 minute feature length release that combines the first two seasons that were released online in 2015 and 2016 as a CW Seed digital series and 15 minutes of new material into a theatrical cut. It stars Mari McCabe and is set in the same continuity as the live action CW television series Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. It focuses on her journey of self-discovery as she learns the truth about her family heirloom and birth parents and becomes the costumed hero Vixen. For fans of Vixen or just the CW universe, "Vixen: The Movie" is a must-have! Released on Digital HD on May 8, 2017, and on Blu-ray (including Digital HD copy) and DVD this coming May 23, 2017, $19.98 and $18.94 respectively.
"Vixen: The Movie" opens in the middle of Mari McCabe being chased through Detroit by the Arrow and the Flash then steps back to three days ago when she's bailed from jail from her first foster father, Chuck, after she stabs her perverted would-be employer in the hand with a pen. They're accosted by a bunch of hoodlums after her necklace but she turns the tables and uses the abilities of several animals to take them down. In search of answers about her necklace, the Tantu Totem, McCabe seeks out the help of a local professor Adam Macalester. However, like the hoodlums, Macalester is also being paid off by McCabe's long lost older sister Kuasa. McCabe's skirmish with the hoods draws the attention of Cisco Ramone and soon the Flash and Arrow try to approach her to talk, leading to the chase. When things come to a calm, they realize she doesn't have super powers but still offer to help her learn her abilities. She opts to figure it out herself. Kuasa makes her move but the totem is bonded to McCabe. Things literally come to a head and McCabe wakes up in Africa in the village of her birth. Kuasa explains their fateful origins and she steals the totem to fulfill her status as the chosen protector. The animal spirits and her ancestors think otherwise and implore McCabe to fight back and embrace her true calling. She returns home to Detroit and decides to protect it as Vixen.
The first half of the movie, or season one, is unchanged. The bulk of the 15 minutes of new content follows. The story continues with Vixen dealing with street-level crime but is having issues with mastering her abilities on her own. She decides to seek out the help of animal behavioral specialist Dr. Vargas at the Detroit Zoo who just so happens to be her foster dad Chuck's ex-girlfriend. Mari bonds with one of the gorillas, aptly named Caesar, and becomes embroiled in a smuggling case. Naturally, Vixen and Caesar help Dr. Vargas take on the smugglers. More assured of her powers, Vixen continues to take on Detroit's criminal elements and sees a news segment about Professor Macalester's return during a botched bank robbery. The new content smoothly transitions to the season two section. The season two content in this movie format was a vast improvement over the original airing. The pacing and narrative is a lot more smoother and re-edited for a present structure rather than going back and forth with the stifling in media res format that haggled season two. Standing against the original episodes, season two looks like some errant choices were made during editing for the 5-6 minute episodes.
The second half begins with McCabe confronting Macalester after his presentation of the Fire Totem, and the Monument Point battle with Weather Wizard. A few new scenes are added such as showing how the Fire Totem was stolen and Vixen doing a little investigating then to her first battle with Eshu. The story then continues pretty much as it original aired, with McCabe seeking out Macalester's help with Eshu which in turn leads them to recruiting Kuasa and the search for the Water Totem then the final battle between Vixen, Kuasa, Atom, Black Canary, and Eshu. Some time later, a couple heroes gather in Coast City to take on a new threat. Mari McCabe joins them and fully embraces her codename, Vixen. While the majority of the new content was a boon to the movie, the one exception I make to that statement is the insertion of Chuck during the final battle against Eshu. Another new scene during the final battle was a hilarious Atom joke that made me wonder why it was cut from the original airing or if it was thought of after the fact. If you're hoping to see who the mystery villain in Coast City at the end of season two is, sorry, it's not revealed here but stick around after the credits for one final new scene. It's an unexpected and cool treat for those who sat through Arrow Season 4. An added boon is it's a 'full circle' moment with the overall story and opening scene of the movie in mind.
One key component to the success of "Vixen" is the combination of crews from both animation and live action. Animation veterans include James Tucker the supervising producer and director, Curt Geda also directs, and Phil Bourassa is lead character design. Executive producers are Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim. The writing staff includes Wendy Mericle ("Arrow"), Keto Shimizu ("Arrow", "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. Digital emation's animation of Bourassa and Abell's character designs and of Detroit was amazing but still somewhat inconsistent. Long time animation fans can see when the A-team or B-team is working what scenes. Overall, it doesn't detract too much for seeing the series in its 1080p glory. In terms of the CW continuity, utilizing "Vixen" in animation was a smart move. The prevalence of magic from assorted abilities of the three Anansi Totems is presented in all it's glory unencumbered by some pitfalls of live action. But on the other hand, most of the FX is totally possible as the live action shows continue to push the boundaries of TV special effects. Trying to do it all with a digital mini-series budget might have been difficult though.
The CW shows have been flawless in their casting and that extends to "Vixen" as well. Megalyn Echikunwoke was made for the role, hands down. No argument. In both animation and live-action. The use of guest stars Stephen Amell (Green Arrow), Grant Gustin (The Flash), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak), Carlos Valdes (Cisco Ramon), Katie Cassidy (Black Canary), Victor Garber (Martin Stein) & Franz Drahmeh (Jax) collectively as Firestorm, and Brandon Routh (The Atom) wasn't jarring and never felt forced. They appeared naturally as the narrative required and never stole the story from Vixen. You're never felt thinking it's turning into an episode of "Arrow". In fact, they add to the overall enjoyment of the story by providing some great nods to the canon and callbacks for fans of the other series. Personally, a fun part of watching "Vixen" was taking all the clues and figuring out when each season took place relative to the timeline of the live action series. But if I had to pick one, we could have used a bit more Carlos Valdes. Voice director Wes Gleason continues to have probably one of the coolest jobs ever.
The special features include a new featurette "Vixen: Spirit Animal" and two Vixen-focused episodes of "Justice League Unlimited", "Hunter's Moon" and "Grudge Match". The Spirit Animal featurette is a general discussion about the themes of the series, such as Mari's issues with identity and her Zambesi heritage. If you followed "Vixen" as it aired on CW Seed and watched the featurettes that were posted on their YouTube account post-airing, then it's more of the same talking heads format and indicative of the special features you would see on other direct to video lines such as DC Universe. It was disappointing there wasn't a commentary track or more in-depth behind the scenes look at the creation of the series, shaping new characters, expanding the CW continuity with Vixen, and her live action debut. The packaging was a nice surprise. Instead of just a simple Blu-ray case, it comes with a slipcase like a live action TV show release would have. It was rather confounding there wasn't a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo like the other direct to video releases and instead you have to choose between one or the other or get both.
"Vixen: The Movie" is a masterfully done character driven coming of age story that raises the standard of excellence set by CW's DC live action television series. Although it's not a straight forward origin story much like "Arrow" and "The Flash", "Vixen" quickly differentiates itself in her quest of identity and uncovering the mystery of her origins across the Atlantic in Africa. Mari McCabe is I think more relateable to audiences than Oliver Queen or even Barry Allen in today's climate -- a 20-something year old in search of a job but hampered by a nagging feeling that she's out of place wherever she goes. Oh yeah, and y'know... there's magic, too. Infusing the standing canon with a new set of characters led by Vixen, new locations, new threats, new powers kicks the door down on and this universe keeps on growing. I sincerely look forward to seeing what's in store next for Vixen in the upcoming CW digital series "Freedom Fighters: The Ray" and fingers crossed for a "Vixen Season 3" and more live action appearances. "Vixen" and "Supergirl" adds to the body of proof that we should be seeing more superheroines in title roles. I'm looking forward to June 2. "Vixen: The Movie" a very highly recommended purchase. Stop reading this and go get it!
Main Feature: 4.5 out of 5
Special Features: 3 out of 5
Average Rating: 7.5 out of 10