If you take it at face value, you could say that DC is speedily attempting to play catch-up with Marvel. Every movie that is released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is well received by fans and critics. DC on the other hand, not so much. I liked Man of Steel a great deal, but it wasn’t as well received as anything Marvel has put out recently. Now DC is trying its best to incorporate the characters into an Avengers-style universe (I know, I know, it’s the Justice League).
But what most people forget is that there also exists an animated universe of films, and in this realm, DC has the upper hand. Sure, most of them are Batman centered (some aren’t), but the positive of the situation is that they are, for the most part, pretty entertaining pieces of work. But even the studio that is leading the charge can fall. That is the case with DC Animation’s latest feature, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.
But believe me, the main issue of the film isn’t Aquaman. I’m not going to ramble on and on about how silly the character of Aquaman is or how he doesn’t deserve his own movie. The New 52 has proven him to be a competent character with some potential for awesomeness. I mean, Jason Momoa is playing him in Batman v Superman, and anyone who has seen Game of Thrones can attest to him being the furthest thing from silly.
So then, what is the issue with the movie? It seems to believe that the character isn’t compelling enough to power a feature. A good portion of it takes place below the ocean, following the remaining colony of the long lost city of Atlantis, but not enough of it. Instead, the movie opts to allow the Justice League to share the screen with Arthur Curry, a.k.a. Aquaman, thus always falling back into a typical Justice League movie instead of a character origin story.
This proposes an interesting question. Why is it that Warner Premiere Studios can make an animated movie documenting the origin of the bigger characters like Batman or Superman without having any major involvement of the minor supporting JL members? They are much better and more intriguing as literary characters, but while watching this movie, I kept wanting the attention to shift toward our titular hero instead of dwelling on the relationships of the team.
Even when the more popular but irrelevant characters were on screen, I just couldn’t get into it. Batman is my favorite comic-book protagonist (I avoided the term “superhero” for a reason), but even he isn’t given much in the film and the voice work from Jason O’Mara is so bland and unfitting that it just makes us long for Kevin Conroy, or dare I even say Will Arnett. Oh, and I can’t possibly continue without mentioning Superman’s costume, which succumbs to the “dark-and-gritty” trend by eliminating the red tights (it worked in Man of Steel, not in animation or comics). Also, for some reason beyond my intellectual capabilities, these animators have decided to give Superman’s suit a turtle-neck collar. It’s astonishingly awful.
But there is some kind of plot that is interesting. It’s all about the Throne, as the title suggests. The queen’s son wants war with the surface dwellers (that’s us, folks) while the queen wants to live in harmony. The queen has some things in common with Arthur (who am I fooling? The queen is his mother), and this is the start of the character of Aquaman. It has some similarities to the Thor/Loki brotherhood, only in this one, one of them doesn’t know that he is royalty. Murder and betrayal play key roles later on, and this eventually leads to a battle in the streets of Metropolis.
As you could guess, this is where it comes back to the Justice League. I remember one moment that I enjoyed very much, and in it Green Lantern is going to recruit Batman for the Justice League’s meeting. Batman is chasing down a group of criminals under the control of Scarecrow and Hal Jordan interferes. It was fun, but it was the only fun moment with the Justice League characters. The best moments are those that focus on Aquaman. It’s true to its title. It’s a Justice League movie, and if that’s what you’re expecting, you may be pleased. But it would’ve worked better if it had simply been titled Throne of Atlantis and gave Batman, Superman, Cyborg, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Green Lantern the boot.
1 hr. 13 mins.
Starring Matt Lanter, Sam Witwer, Jason O’Mara, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Christopher Gorham, Rosario Dawson
Written by Heath Corsdon
Directed by Ethan Spaulding