REVIEW: Vixen the Movie
It’s hard to imagine Vixen as a member of the DC Universe for over 35 years now, an early victim of the DC Implosion before arriving as a guest-star in Action Comics. She’s been a constant presence if not a major one, but was exactly in the range of secondary characters ripe for development for television since her powers were not entirely special effects-laden.
Interestingly, she was brought to The CW through their CW Seed website, a way to expand the Arrowverse with original content. In 2015, there were six short animated episodes that performed well enough that a second season arrived last October. The dozen episodes have now been edited into a 78-minute feature, Vixen the Movie, out now from Warner Home Entertainment.
The series is only kinda sort of close to the source material as we learn of Mari Jiwe McCabe’s (Megalyn Echikunwoke) upbringing in the African land of Zambesi, but raised in Detroit by her foster father Chuck Neil Flynn). The series opens with Mari wanting to learn the truth about her birth parents and the origins of the Tantu Totem necklace she was given by her birth mother. People are now after it and she discovers it imbues her with animal powers, bringing her to the attention of Flash (Grant Gustin) and Green Arrow (Stephen Amell). She rejects their offers of help and instead turns to college professor Macalester (Sean Patrick Thomas) for answers, leading her back to Africa and a confrontation with Kuasa (Anika Noni Rose), the sister she didn’t know she had, and one who wants Mari dead so she can possess the totem.
The second season went way beyond the comics and introduced the notion that there were five powerful totems – air, earth, water, fire, and spirit. The fire jewel has been found and comes into the possession of Benatu Eshu (Hakeem Kae-Kazim), a general who has been seeking any one of the jewels for years. He appears too powerful for Vixen until she digs deep and finds a way to persevere. Along the way, she demonstrates how comfortable she has gotten with her powers by aiding Flash, Firestorm (Franz Drameh/Victor Garber), Atom (Brandon Routh), and Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) during an attack from Weather Wizard.
The animated story suffers from the same weakness of its live-action colleagues, an inability to effectively write team action or proper use of powers. In this case, Eshu uses fire much as Heat Wave does, as some sort of force rather than something that burns. The dialogue has the same snap to it, though, which is welcome.
The animation is adequate if a little stiff and angular in character design while the live-action actors needed far better direction for their animated counterparts. Thankfully, Echikunwoke does a far superior job, which earned her a guest spot on Arrow last year and would be most welcome back for a third season or another live-action appearance.
The movie comes on a Blu-ray with Digital HD code. The lone special feature is “Vixen: Spirit Animal” which has comics historian and ComicMix contributor Alan Kistler, series executive producer Marc Guggenheim, Victor Garber, and Carlos Valdes weigh in on how her magical background fills a gap between the super-hero and the vigilante in the Arrowverse. Not much about her comic book origins are ever discussed, though. Additionally, there are two episodes from Justice League Unlimited included – “Hunter’s Moon” and “Grudge Match”.