'Toon Review - Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
So my big plan was to do all these DC Animated Movies in order. Then two things happened. First, severe bat-fatigue and the next one up for review was Batman: Gotham Knight. Second, well, during the whole re-vamping of the site, I noticed that the Cartoons section was looking pretty anemic. Thus, we have here today Justice League: Throne of Atlantis…which may or may not be completely out of context for you depending on how many of these you’ve watched or whether or not you’re reading this in the future where I’ve covered all the DC Animated Movies.
Post-Flashpoint, the DC Animated Movies have begun to establish a continuity and as such, Throne of Atlantis, as one would expect, is a direct sequel to Justice League: War and occurs after Son of Batman (thank you surprise special feature that we’ll talk about more later!). You’ll notice I left one out – Batman: Assault on Arkham. Turns out the current game plan from producer James Tucker (who took over after Bruce Timm, starting with Superman Unbound) is to make 2 ‘in-continuity’ films and one ‘one-shot’. Assault on Arkham was the ‘one-shot’ for 2014, Justice League: Gods and Monsters will be the ‘one-shot’ for 2015. As much as I feel a rant percolating, I can hear the invisible internet voices saying “hey, asshole, how’s about getting to that review?”
If you stuck around through the end credits of Justice League: War, then you saw Ocean Master holding the dead king of Atlantis proclaiming, to put it in Daffy Duck/Bugs Bunny terms, “Of course you realize this means war.” As a first act to that effect, we start the film with a US submarine being attacked by forces unknown to the crew (“But knownst to us” as the saying goes…). The voice of Paul Eiding as the sub commander is definitely recognizable [Might have something to do with the fact that you were playing Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes a couple of days ago- Ed.] so much so that I found myself yelling “Snake? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!” throughout the scene. Had he actually been devoured by a giant sea snake or something…I think I’d have lost it and that definitely would have propelled this into BEST CARTOON EVER consideration.
Something else to notice…it starts here but you see it throughout the movie…is that they’re really going for it with the violence on these lately. It’s been present since Flashpoint, but Throne of Atlantis definitely spills its share of blood and certainly has no qualms about showing it off either. It’s interesting to recall back to 2009’s Wonder Woman film where the decapitations were done in silhouette, whereas heads roll here in plain sight. Granted, in Wonder Woman, they were human-like Gods and demi-gods that had their necks ventilated…whereas in Throne of Atlantis, they’re “trenchers” (fish-people-monster-thingies). To put it another way, it feels like they’ve been allowed to go ‘full-Anime’ with the violence…and I like it!
This leads us to something hinted at in Marvel’s Avengers film but displayed here beautifully…and something we’ve not really seen before. Every incarnation of the Justice League, be it SuperFriends or Bruce Timm’s DCAU, after the first episode, bam, they have a meeting place…Watchtower, Hall of Justice, whatever. In the wake of War, you have Cyborg sitting alone in STAR Labs, informing Col. Trevor that, in spite of what everyone seems to believe, this is not a League (…yet). There’s no signal or way to bring everyone together. And here’s a big thing that I have to give the movie credit for addressing, Cyborg flat out states that they’re not a team, there is no Justice League. Given that was one of my biggest problems with War, both movie and comics, I loved the fact that it’s called out right here…and naturally, it’s a point that is addressed by the end of the movie. By Batman, of course. [Hey…save that rant stuff for later, this is a review! – Ed.]
From here, we move on to Arthur Curry, not quite Aquaman…and, as one could infer from the title, this is basically his show. The movie gives us his origin in its 72 minute running time and like its predecessor it’s rooted in the New-52 continuity. I won’t go into a play by play like I have in past reviews, [yeah, let’s avoid another Interstellar, thanks. – Ed.], but I felt this was a pretty good interpretation of the source material. Granted, there are some story differences, as one should expect in an adaptation…for example, I don’t recall Queen Atlanna being in the comics, but the changes work for the most part. A bonus is that I don’t seem to remember Black Manta being in the comic story either, yet he’s somewhat prominent here. I don’t necessarily like how he got Boba-Fett-ed near the end…but I can’t imagine this will be the last we see of him either. Throne of Atlantis also faces the task of animating the Superman/Wonder Woman relationship…and the scene with Lois in the Greek restaurant/café/joint was very interesting (points to the animators/storyboard artists on this one!). Clark and Diana are out on a date when Lois enters the picture…and you see Clark immediately break hands with Diana. But Diana’s handshake with Lois does the usual intimidation/grip thing…which is typically associated with guys, so it was fun to me to see a feminine twist on that convention. And by that I don’t mean the standard criticizing appearance or catty statements, I mean Diana having “quite a grip”. I’ll be interested to see if they go as fully into the relationship as the comics have or if future animated movies will steer more toward the traditional Superman/Lois direction. Personally, I’d love to see a Superman/Wonder Woman animated movie. Hell, at the very least, it would shine the spotlight on the other two members of DC’s Trinity and take it away from Bat-Hog for a while. [What’d I say about the rant stuff, huh? – Ed.]
While this is indeed Aquaman’s film, the League itself does get some attention and by the end, you can see a team starting to emerge. There are still plenty of rough spots…but the framework is coming together. Green Lantern and Batman are still dicks, especially to each other, and Shazam is still, well, damn annoying. I will admit, in an improvement over War, at least this go ‘round, GL is watchable, if not enjoyable. Not to sound like a fanboy, but I’d say that’s probably by and large due to the return of Nathan Fillion to the role. If you listen to what GL says, he’s still as much a dick as he was in the first film, but there’s a charm in the delivery that puts him squarely in that “hey, sure he’s an asshole, but he’s OUR asshole” mold. Superman’s new voice is Jerry O’Connell and he does a fine job, as does Wonder Woman’s new voice, Rosario Dawson…which, of course it’s interesting to point out that Dawson played Artemis in the aforementioned Wonder Woman DTV [Direct To Video – Ed.] and I could go full blown nerd and point out that in the 90s Artemis took over the role of Wonder Woman for a while in the comics. [Booyakashaaa! NERD COMBO! – Ed.] Since I’ve dovetailed into the voices, obviously one has to talk about Matt Lanter, the voice of Aquaman…and he does a fine job carrying the film, making the character’s arc in the film believable, sympathetic and grounded. For those of you that pay attention to voice actors, you’ll notice that this is indeed the voice of Anakin Skywalker from Clone Wars and even if you don’t recognize the name, you might recognize the voice. Now, that’s not to knock Lanter at all, in fact I’d praise both he and voice director Andrea Romano. Sure, the two characters sound like they have the same voice (because, duh, they do), but tone, inflection and direction here feel like they give Aquaman more depth (unintentional pun…sorry!) than what Anakin had. I suppose the reason for that being is that Lanter’s Anakin had to exist and blend into a continuity that housed Hayden Christensen’s Anakin, whereas Aquaman is essentially a blank slate and as such allowed for more direction and more decisions from the artist(s).
I’ve read a review for this stating that Aquaman’s character arc felt rushed. I didn’t get that, per se, as I felt it worked well with the 72 minutes it had to play with. Instead, I’ll put forth that maybe this didn’t have to be a Justice League film. I get that the original story was a crossover between Aquaman’s monthly comic and the Justice League title, so I don’t have any beef with this being a Justice League film at all. Where my beef arises is that Warner Bros and DC, well, it just doesn’t feel like they have faith enough in their characters to carry their own films…which is really damn weird given that they’re on their way to launching their own cinematic universe. This could have been a stand-alone Aquaman origin story, yet Warners seems to be of the mind that their animated DTVs have to be either Justice League or Batman…no other character has the strength to stand on their own. And with the next two animated films slated to be Batman vs. Robin and Justice League: Gods and Monsters, that won’t be changing in 2015. Heck, even Superman isn’t trusted to support his own content any more as his last solo DTV was early 2013’s Superman Unbound. Look, I want a DC cinematic universe to succeed like nobody’s business. I’m a much bigger DC fan than I am Marvel…but credit where credit’s due, Marvel actually has faith in their characters. I remember back when I was middle school and constructed an Iron Man costume for Halloween…only to have absolutely no one know who I was. As opposed to now, in a post Iron Man 1 world, there are costumes everywhere…and not just relegated to Halloween. Marvel took a character that few outside the comic shop had knowledge of and turned it into a household name…all by believing in the strength of the character. The only character DC and Warners are willing to do that with is Batman and as the old adage goes, ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’. No matter how popular he is now and how long he’s been around, Bats hasn’t always been in the spotlight (hell, in fact at one point in the late 50s, the bat-books were on the precipice of being cancelled) and if that’s all DC and Warners want to hang their universe on, be it cinematic or animated, well, as much as I’d hate it, that way failure lies. Even more to this point, now that a stable of DC TV shows are here or coming and are doing mostly well (Arrow, Flash, Constantine…soon to be joined by Supergirl…and yes, of course, Gotham…but that’s Batman and thus really doesn’t serve my point), audiences are starting show that they are willing to branch out, that not EVERYTHING need fall under the shadow of the bat. [Oi! You’re ranting! Bring it in or put this under ‘Opinion’! – Ed.]
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it very well. It gives us an Aquaman for this new animated continuity and inches the League closer to the team it’s usually depicted as being…as well as checking a few other boxes in order to line up with DC’s current New 52. As has been the case for these animated features for a while now, make sure you stay through the credits (or fast forward through them) to catch a hint at what’s coming. Do I dare spoil it here?
Let’s just say I’ll be curious if they try to retread something already introduced in a past DTV or adapt this major storyline in a new way. I’m sure we’ll find out after some unnamed Batman DTV that’s likely in the works for 2016. [Hey! Cheap parting shot! – Ed.]