Trying to convince us that Aquaman can be taken seriously while introducing him drunk and talking to a lobster isn’t ever going to work in your favor. You can pretty him up, give him a tragic backstory and hide the gills behind outrageously overgrown sideburns, but I still spent the majority of Justice League: Throne of Atlantis finding Aquaman to be the pinnacle of absurdity. Sure, he’s not any crazier than any of the other superheroes on the team, and Superman coming from Krypton is just as implausible as Aquaman coming from Atlantis, but it’s not the implausibility that gets me, far from it. I love this genre and I’ve seen just about as many direct to video DC Universe Animated movies that there are available to watch. My problem with Throne of Atlantis is that while the film tries to poke fun at the character’s inherent silliness, it never achieves it. This, of course, isn’t helped by the… theatrical, to put it kindly, performance of the character Orm, Aquaman’s evil half-brother.
Set in the aftermath of Justice League: War, the world is seemingly at peace. After a U.S.S. California submarine is attacked and the entire crew left for dead, the Justice League are put on alert. Meanwhile, the Queen of Atlantis sets a mission out to find her son, Arthur Curry, who is of both earth and sea and who she believes could be the bridge between worlds to bring forth the ultimate peace. Obviously, this won’t happen easily, and Orm quickly becomes belligerent at the idea of someone other than him inheriting the throne. Drama ensues and the Justice League must find a way to get Curry to Atlantis safely, rejoin him with his people, and save the Metropolis area from an unprecedented war.
Director Ethan Spaulding doesn’t do much with the characters that hasn’t been done before, and aside from a neat shark attack there’s not much that is eye-catching. Regardless of my excitement to be submerged in this world again (and again), I can’t say that this was a story that ever truly caught my attention. Based on the story arc written by Geoff Johns, it’s interesting in theory but is one possibly better suited for the page rather than screen.
There’s an element of silliness that you always have to accept when going into a superhero movie whether it be live action or animated, and I typically do and gladly so. I love superhero films, I love good animation (and DC is on the top of its game when it’s doing serialized stories, whether it be on shows such as Arrow or movies such as Batman: Under the Red Hood), but sometimes they just fall flat.
But quickly, let’s get the elephant out of the room that is voice actor Sam Witwer, who voiced the evil step brother Orm and who maybe has too much fun with the indulgences of the craft. What makes people remarkable in the voice acting field and, more importantly, what makes them memorable, is their ability to create an identity with their voice that transcends the animation and makes it sync up with the character. Think of the greats such as Kevin Conroy as Batman or Mark Hamill as The Joker. Hell, think of much of the original Justice League Unlimited series. The cast was able to deftly perform in a manner that was comedic when necessary, emotional when necessary, and in a manner that never belittled its characters. While few of the lineup stuck out (or in Witwer’s case, stuck out badly), there are a few gems to be found such as Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern and Sean Astin as Shazam. I’ll give a pass to Rosario Dawson not being everything I wish she could have been as Wonder Woman simply because I still think she would have made a beautiful live action casting choice.
Fillion doing such a consistently good job as Green Lantern is the only reason I’ll continue to give DC Animation a pass on its persistent use of Hal Jordan when I’m a Jon Stewart girl through and through.
Just give me a feature length movie based on the JLU lineup and I’ll be set.
I also can’t say that as of late I’ve been a fan of the oddly glossy and flat animation that the studio has been producing. It worked well in Justice League: Doom and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox but has gotten a bit too stiff over time.
Which isn’t to say the movie is a total bust; it just seems that more time could have been dedicated to it. Particularly when you see what’s coming up next.
What was infinitely more interesting than the movie itself was the DVD extra that explores DC Animation’s upcoming Batman vs. Robin, which continues the storyline set up from Son of Batman. Now this is a film that I’m excited for. Say what you want about Batman hogging the spotlight, but in the DC Animation world when he continues to be one of the most interesting characters and the center of some of the better films, it’s hard to argue. (However, I’ll trade a Batman film for a Hawkgirl one… just saying.) Batman vs. Robin just looks cool. The two are at odds due to Damian’s upbringing in the League of Shadows, there’s going to be an awesome centerpiece fight scene, and the Court of Owls are involved and the animation looks suitably creepy.
Check out Throne of Atlantis if you’re a super fan or simply curious, but it’s nothing to go out of your way for. Instead, go re-watch Teen Titans or Justice League Unlimited or catch up on The Flash!