I remember hanging out at a local bar back in the day during one hot summer with a bunch of buddies. We were intensely discussing everyone’s favorite Justice League member and how they ranked in the overall comic hero universe. Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman were usually the most popular and debated. I don’t think anyone ever mentioned Aquaman…at all. Let me put my cards on the table here, I was not a Aquaman fan growing up.I just felt he was always a bit of a lame hero.
When compared to the Dark Knight sitting upon a rooftop gargoyle on a rainy night in Gotham, or Green Lantern and his super galactic space adventures, how could Aquaman truly compete? A hero with a costume that just screamed “aquarium dolphin show entertainer”. A hero who’s stomping ground was the peaceful ocean floor with zero crime. A hero who communicated with dolphins, sea turtles, and the rest of the “Little Mermaid” underwater “Finding Nemo” residents. Nope. That wasn’t much of a universe I had any interest in.
Wasn’t just me either. Aquaman was pretty much a long running joke for years. Even HBO’s Entourage series took a jab at Aquaman when one of the characters on the show played the role of the Justice League member for a summer movie…that comedically flopped. It was if DC told the HBO network, “Sure, you can use the character on your show. It’s not like we will ever use the property for a live action film”. That said a lot to me, especially in a time where every super hero, including his or her next door neighbor, were getting a feature film.
Then two things happened that gave a rebirth of the character for me personally. The DC Injustice: Gods Among Us fighting game, and the DC animated film, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Both revitalized the character for me. After spending countless hours kicking ass with Aquaman using his trusty Trident in Injustice and watching the character almost steal the show in Flashpoint Paradox, Aquaman was suddenly a bad ass super hero that I now had interest in. Which is a good thing since the latest film from DC Universe Animated Original Movies , Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, is the first true Aquaman spotlighted movie that actually makes the character interesting, cool, and entertaining.
The film begins with a bit of mystery as Justice League member Cyborg is attacked by several underwater warriors from the shadows while investigating the location of missing missiles from a sunken Navy sub on the bottom of the mid Pacific ocean. Forced to retreat, Cyborg recruits the other members of the Justice League to investigate further. This sets up the audience for the usual Oceans Eleven style character introductions that we have seen before. Hal Jordan/Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) is a ladies man,naturally. Superman (Jerry O’Connell) and Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) romancing while enjoying the view in Greece, and of course the twelve-year-old mind of Shazam (Sean Astin) irritating Cyborg (Shemar Moore) and The Flash (Christopher Gorham) while working in S.T.A.R Labs. Batman’s (Jason O’Mara) introduction in Gotham stood out the most I thought, as he was chasing down some of Scarecrow’s goons in typical cool Batman fashion.
Meanwhile at Mercy Reef, allow me to reintroduce Arthur Curry/Aquaman (Matt Lanter). He is a depressed alcoholic who is mourning the recent death of his father. Since his mother ditched his dad and him at birth and has no friends or girlfriend, his only social life consist of talking to a silent lobster in a tank at a bar or picking fights where he is outnumbered seven to one over protecting Mr. Lobster. Very similar to Henry Cavill’s portrayal as Clark Kent in Man Of Steel, Arthur has a lot of depth in sorrow and bitterness. I can’t imagine how a live action Aquaman film would ever translate to the big screen, but I really enjoyed this perspective that director Ethan Spaulding took with Throne Of Atlantis.
The third layer to this complex story onion takes place in the mythical realm of Atlantis. It is there that we learn that Queen Atlanna (Sirena Irwin) has her hands full dealing with keeping her people secret and safe from outsiders and keeping her power-hungry son , Prince Orm/Ocean Master (Samuel Witwer), in line as he continues to convince that the time for war against the surface world is at hand. As always, I will not spoil any key plot points for you, but the rest of the film ties everything together fairly well that takes us all the way to the usual climatic battle where the armies of Atlantis declare war on the surface dwellers and it is up Aquaman and the Justice League to save the day.
It is hard to not sub subconsciously compare the Justice League to the Avengers in terms of chemistry. The majority of the voice cast from Justice League: War returns for Atlantis and it pays off. Every voice actor plays each icon nicely. Everything just feels right. I also enjoyed the individual relationship/chemistry and dialogue between the Justice League members. The Flash and Green Lantern as they trade witty one liners, Batman and Superman working together in typical Batman/Superman competition, Shazam and Cyborg getting on each other’s nerves. Even a love triangle scene between Diana Prince, Clark Kent, and Lois Lane (Juliet Landau) was voice acted with a perfect blend of comedy and sarcasm. The animation is just as much of the star in Atlantis as well. Be it the bright stars overlooking the nightfall landscape of Athens, Greece or the beautiful and mysterious depths of the ocean floor. I spent just as much time gazing at the colorful and crisp HD eye candy as I followed the actual storyline.
However, Throne Of Atlantis is sadly no masterpiece. It feels at times a bit cruise controlled on auto pilot. Never do any of the Justice League members every truly do anything new or amazing that we haven’t seen before. There is plenty of solid DC action once the film shift gears a half hour in. However, none of the Justice League ever had a moment that truly wowed me. In fact, Prince Orm practically defeats the entire league towards the climax in a stereotypical “no one can stop me” story arc that left a taste in my mouth of the super heroes not being very super. In addition, there are a few head scratchers as well. When the Atlantis army has the advantage of a giant tidal wave that would kill millions and easily win the battle, Prince Orm pulls back to let his army do the dirty work. Felt that was a bit odd considering Prince Orm would risk the lives of his soldiers when he clearly had the battle won in one tidal wave swoop. I would have been more surprised and impressed if writer,Heath Corson, had that tidal wave actually hit Metropolis and level half the city in destruction. Also, for some reason, rather than evacuating as many people as possible , there is instead a full USA army with tanks waiting to greet the tidal wave.Surely they did not know there was a mythical Atlantis army invasion on the horizon. I usually just go with the flow, but I felt it was a bit odd and worth pointing out.
Thrones Of Atlantis is a fun and solid film that deserves credit for long at last giving Aquaman the spotlight. It was nice to sit back and enjoy Aquaman’s very cool back story and unique universe.Ultimately, his character had more awesomeness to him in Flashpoint Paradox, but Throne Of Atlantis has officially made me a believer and fan of Aquaman.Special Features are impressive. A cool documentary titled ” Villains of the Deep” which takes a look at the villains in Aquaman’s universe, a Sneak Peak at Batman vs. Robin, a few episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold featuring Aquaman, and the 2014 SDCC panel interviews. The violence has been taken down a notch from the recent DC animated offerings, but in no way takes anything away from the film.There is plenty to like here, but unfortunately feels a bit rushed. DC Universe Animated Original Movies has delivered another solid and entertaining DC flick that continues their legacy as the best in the animated comic films arena.
I give Justice League: Thrones Of Atlantis 2 1/2 out of 4 Ninja Throwing Stars