Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
The latest original animated DC Universe direct-to-video movie is much like the others: mediocre animation, lots of fighting, and little to interest anyone looking for more than yet another superhero battle. I found it so tedious I couldn’t get all the way through it. But then, I’ve never been much of an Aquaman fan, due to the flavor of fantasy ruler he carries.
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis tells the origin of Aquaman (voiced by Matt Lanter). Before he realizes he’s heir to the undersea kingdom, he’s a roughneck-looking dude who lives in a lighthouse, gets in a fight rescuing a lobster from being dinner, and doesn’t understand why knives break on his skin but doesn’t seem to care much about it either. Here’s a clip where Mera, Atlantean warrior (Sumalee Montano), saves him from an attack:
The Atlantean queen Atlanna (Sirena Irwin) wants to reclaim her son Arthur because “the only hope for peaceful existence with the surface dwellers is the one of both worlds”. Her other son Orm (Sam Witwer), who becomes Ocean Master, is too warlike. Much battle ensues when the Atlanteans attack the non-water world.
But before that, Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), on a date with Superman (Jerry O’Connell), has to have the concept of a secret identity explained to her, and Lois Lane (Juliet Landau) shows up and gets all possessive of “Smallville”, as she calls him. (That love triangle is the movie *I* want to watch!) Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion) is an adolescent, wise-cracking, idiot skirt-chaser who can’t figure out why Batman (Jason O’Mara) might not want help (he’s got a longer-range secret plan). All these characterizations are two-dimensional shortcuts to things you’ve seen before. So are the plot events.
The art design is rough, generic, static, and low-cost-looking. Simple designs are easier to farm out to countries where cartoons are cheaper to make, but they don’t make for attractive viewing. The voices are less distinctive than they used to be in these films, particularly Batman (who sounds like he’s trying too hard), except for the fun of hearing Nathan Filion as Green Lantern. You can hear Batman here, along with the Flash and the character they’ve renamed Shazam:
I can’t figure out why Warner Bros. keeps putting these films out. I guess they sell enough to make it worthwhile. I suspect these projects have found their audience and it’s not much different from the folks buying the comic books. That may be why the movies are coming to resemble their print inspirations more and more.
The extras are not particularly interesting. “Scoring Atlantis: The Sounds of the Deep” is a half-hour on the sound portrait. It’s an unusual choice for a superhero cartoon movie featurette, but not one I found particularly interesting. It ties into the option to run the entire film with only the background music, though. That replaces the usual commentary; this edition has none.
“Villains of the Deep” (11 minutes) is about Black Manta and Ocean Master, in which a professor talks about how Shakespearean it is to battle one’s brother for control of the throne. Excerpts from the Throne of Atlantis panel from the 2014 NY Comic-Con run about 27 minutes. I miss the in-depth explorations of the comic sources they used to do as extras, but filming writers and artists costs extra money. (And it might give them the idea that they’re valuable as creators!)
“Robin and Nightwing Bonus Sequence” is a four-minute short introduced by James Tucker, executive producer of DC DTV line of DVDs, about a 45-second cut sequence that helps connect the Batman and Justice League animated movie lines. Speaking of which, a ten-minute Batman vs. Robin sneak peek points out how it follows up from Son of Batman. (The publisher provided a review copy.)