Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (2019)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/3/19
Cast: Rosario Dawson, Marie Avgeropoulos, Michael Dorn

It's been ten years since the last animated "Wonder Woman" movie, and once again we get another origin story. Ugh. Upon leaving Themyscira, Princess Diana (Rosario Dawson) loses her memory of its location and moves in with an archeologist named Julia and her neglected teenage daughter, Vanessa (Marie Avgeropoulos). Vanessa's sadness and frustration quickly turns into bitterness and resentment towards Diana, and she gets involved with a criminal organization that mutates her into a cybernetic killing machine. Wonder Woman feels responsible and dedicates herself to saving and curing Vanessa, but she needs Amazon technology to do that, and her search for Themyscira leads the bad guys right to the Amazon homeland. An epic battle goes down between the Amazons and a resurrected Medusa, and Diana pledges her life to defeat the monster.

It's a slow starter and the narrative stumbles quite a bit due to cringe-inducing dialog and forced drama. The animation suffers from awkward looking CGI vehicles that don't match the perspective and movement of the 2D environments that they're in, which is a constant irritant and distraction. The character design is pretty good for the most part and Wonder Woman looks great, except that her shoulders are way too sharp and pointy. I get that she's an Amazon, but some softer edges and curves would have been nice. Rosario Dawson gives an excellent performance, and Diana is very much a stranger in a strange land who is still trying to adapt to modern culture and society. Similar to Thor, her awkward speech patterns are both endearing and naïve, but genuine and sincere. Marie Avgeropoulos also gives an excellent performance as the emotionally wounded Vanessa, and her teen angst is palpable. The other supporting characters aren't particularly engaging, and Steve Trevor continues to be annoying.

Where the movie really shines is in the action scenes. Wonder Woman is a serious force to be reckoned with, and she dishes out and receives an astonishing amount of abuse. It's interesting to note that all of her foes are women (Cheetah, Giganta, Dr. Cyber, Dr. Poison, Silver Swan, Medusa, Veronica Cale), which levels the playing field and eliminates the need for Diana to prove herself against men. The fight scenes are vicious and brutal, and full of kinetic energy. The final showdown with Medusa is both intense and over-the-top, but it's a serious letdown that the effect of her stone gaze goes away after she's dead. It's a major cop-out for the sake of a happy ending.

The disc also comes with an animated short featuring Death (Jamie Chung), which is an amazing and heartbreaking piece of work. A down-on-his-luck artist gets fired and ends up spending his last paycheck on drugs and alcohol. The demons of his past call him out as a failed son, a failed artist, and a failed lover, and a glimpse of Death at a local bar triggers a sense of wonder in him. He asks if he can paint her portrait, which ends up being his greatest accomplishment. Except for one slight problem... The tragedy is overly predictable, but it hits all of the right notes and is extremely effective. Vince's troubles are all too relatable, and the story really struck a nerve with me. Death's character design is superb and Jamie Chung does a good job of embodying the character's charm and underlying sadness. It's definitely an adult-oriented piece of work and takes some surprisingly grim detours.