Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

“JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS”

Yes I promised I was going to review all the DC animated movies this year and that is definitely a promise that I am going to try my best to keep, but expect this to be the only one of these films that I am going to review in the week of its release! As I mentioned in my top ten best films of 2014 list, last year was a pretty mediocre year for DC animated, which is a shame as these really are some of the films that I look forward to in the year. Pretty much all the DC animated films prior to 2014 I really enjoyed. Batman under the Red Hood is still my favourite Batman movie! DC feels the need to insist that its old continuity has gone and wants everyone to read the new 52, so as a result last year they decided that two of the three movies released each year would connect with one another, similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and they would be based on story lines from the new 52 Universe. I don’t have too much of a problem with the new 52 as some of its story lines have been really good, but it seems weird to have a continuity that not that many people are on board with as a basis for a group of Movies. The previous films were based on Classic Comics. These comics haven’t been around long enough to become classics yet. Also this film is also serving as a sequel to Justice League War, which wasn’t that brilliant to begin with. Fortunately a large majority of changes have been made for this film. Were these changes enough to save the franchise and keep the DC animated movies going? This is especially an interesting and necessary question, as after Marvel got their cinematic universe going, they dropped their animated films and with DC about to start their cinematic universe in full force next year with Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, will they be about to get rid of these movies?

The plot itself is based on the Justice League/Aquaman crossover event Throne of Atlantis written by Geoff Johns , which I did read prior to the film, as I am largely following the Aquaman new 52 comic series. For a large portion, the film does follow the comic story line, however, it does make a few changes to the story and it borrows a lot of the elements from earlier comics that detail Aquaman’s origin, since Aquaman was not introduced in Justice League War in the way he was introduced in the Justice League Origins comic. I can’t go into too much detail on the plot considering DC animated films are just over an hour long and I don’t want to give too much away. The plot details Arthur Curry aka Aquaman discovering his Atlantean heritage and trying to prevent a war between Atlantis and the surface world lead by his brother Orm aka Oceanmaster, whilst also trying to create a peaceful co-existence between Atlantis and the surface world. Now as I mentioned the plot does follow the comic very similarly, except quite a few characters from the comic who were very important were really under-used, especially Dr Shim who plays a large role in the Aquaman new 52 series. As I mentioned this movie has to introduce Aquaman, his world and his origins story to this film series, which it has to do very quickly and does do it efficiently, it just doesn’t do it as well compared to the comic, but at the point that Throne of Atlantis came out there had been 14 issues of Aquaman solo series to introduce us to the characters and to Aquaman’s world and origins. As a result it does feel slightly forced to try and get all this out in a short space of time! It probably could have benefited from DC doing a straight Aquaman Movie and then do the Throne of Atlantis story line. However, the one thing the film does get right from the comic is that this is a major turning point in the Aquaman Mythos, as least in the new continuity.

 Now this is a Justice League Movie and the Justice League were involved in the comic, though, not with this line up of superheroes. So obviously the film has to balance those characters with the Aquaman set of characters. The characters do relatively well, though the Justice League kind of took a back seat to Aquaman and this film does go through a similar thing however the Justice League characters just aren’t as interesting. They ‘re better than they were in Justice League War but this sequel doesn’t exactly improve on them too much. That being said Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, is drastically better than he was in Justice League War. Batman’s definitely been written better for this film though I do think he was written better in his solo Batman movie last year and probably will be written better in the upcoming solo Batman movie coming out later this year. Cyborg is also a lot more interesting than he was in the previous film, he’s a lot less dull and a lot more interesting and the film does a lot more with the whole being half man half machine aspect of his character. The Flash is still pretty good and I will say the rest of the supporting cast is done pretty well. I especially enjoyed Lois Lane as briefly as she appeared in this film, but some of these characters still aren’t being characterised too well particularly Superman and Wonder Woman and especially Shazam. I know the new 52 went for a new take on the character, which I actually really enjoyed and I recommend going out and picking up Shazam Volume 1 to see how this new version of the character should be done right, however, this incarnation is just terrible and annoying. He’s a bit better than he was in Justice League War, and gets some decedent moments, but “Please” give Shazam a solo movie where we can actually enjoy him! Hopefully things will improve before the live action film that DC has planned. Also, like most people, I’m not too crazy on the fact that Superman has now been partnered up with Wonder Woman. I’m starting to get more into the idea of it with the series the new 52’s released, but this film doesn’t do it too well and they really don’t have good chemistry at all.

This film decided to focus more on Aquaman and his characters and they are portrayed pretty well. I did like their portrayal of Aquaman, but I thought there were a couple of better voice actors that they could have got for the character. Mera is completely in character and takes no nonsense and kicks ass wherever she goes and I did enjoy the interpretation of Black Manta even though he is not on screen that long. Orm aka Oceanmaster is done OK in this film even though he does come across as a bit of a petulant child sometimes, but he still feels threatening enough and does get some good villain lines. Though you do question if the people of Atlantis are complete idiots for not seeing that he is a lying creep!! I would also like to say that this film is not for kids. There are some pretty gruesome scenes in this film, which I must be honest, does not detract from my enjoyment of the film, but I think it might impact on other peoples enjoyment. I also think this was written by people who confuse something being more violent equalling something being more mature, it doesn’t quite work like that but I wont go into that as this review will go on too long!!

My only real problem with this film is the fact that Orm came across as a much more sympathetic villain in the comic and in this one he is just a straight up villain. It’s not too bad and I much preferred him as a villain in this film than Dark Side in Justice League War and I will say that overall the plot was passable, it just could have been a bit better, and I am definitely warming more to this Justice League. Hopefully the next film will get me more into it and make me like this incarnation of the league. This film also definitely made me believe that there is a wider universe for the DC characters especially as we are seeing more side characters, like Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson. Overall, decent plot, just could have been a bit better.

Now that we are moving on to the cast, we can get into the fact that a large majority of Justice League War’s cast has been replaced for this film and I will say for the most part these replacements are better. As much of a fan as I am of Alan Tudyk I didn’t think he was that good as Superman in Justice League War so seeing him replaced by Jerry O’Connell who previously played Shazam in the Justice League animated series is a welcome improvement. I don’t think Sean Astin is as good as Shazam but I would like to see him have a better written movie to see if he could do a decent job with the character. Rosario Dawson is probably a better Wonder Woman for this film, but she is no Susan Eisenberg or Kerry Russell who I still think are the best actresses to play this role. Thank goodness we have Nathan Fillion back as Green Lantern Hal Jordan he practically was made to play this part! If DC is planning to have Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern of their cinematic universe, please call Nathan Fillion and give him this role!! Christopher Gorham and Shemar Moore are fairly decent as Flash and the Cyborg respectively and I will say that Jason O’Mara I think, is starting to come into his own as Batman, but I will probably comment more on that when I review Batman vs Robin later this year. I do think he is better in a film where Batman is the focus rather than the Justice League. Matt Lanter is ok as Aquaman, however, I think if it were up to me I would have cast Crispin Freeman in the role. His anime voice acting has been really good and he has played a lot of characters that seem similar to Aquaman in their characteristics. I also thought that Sumalee Montano really captures Mera’s attitude from the comics. Sam Witwer, who previously played Aidan in Being Human is taking on the role of Orm for this film and he does a decent enough job when the writing is at it’s good points, but he can ham up this role a bit too much and as I mentioned it does make Orm come across as a bit childish. However, he is fine enough for the most part and I think he could work in future roles as Orm and the ending of the film does indicate that he could be used in future movies. The only other cast members to talk about really are Harry Lennix playing Black Manta and George Newbern playing Steve Trevor. I must be honest, as good as George Newbern is as a voice actor it is very weird seeing a guy who has played Superman so many times in the role of Steve Trevor and it was so difficult to separate out the voice from the character, it just felt like Cyborg was talking to Superman. I’d suggest a re-cast for future movies, and as good as Harry Lennix is a Black Manta he’s not given enough to do and the ending of the film doesn’t indicate he is going to turn up again in the role. Also in the post creditit scene there is an appearance of an iconic DC villain played by one of my favourite anime voice actors but obviously I can’t discuss it too much for fear of spoiling the movie but I will say I think the casting will pay off in future movies. Overall better cast than Justice League War but some recasts might be necessary.

Now onto presentation. For this review I watched the blu-ray version and it is the version I recommend though if you don’t have access to a blu-ray player then I’m afraid you’re going to have to go with the digital version on iTunes or Netflix’s as no DVD release for the film is available in the UK. I can safely say one of the things the DC animated films keep consistent with all their films is Action and animation and it is no different here the action sequences and fight scenes are well choreographed to take advantage of the characters individual powers and look amazing whilst keeping in the typical comic superhero style. It’s films like these that make me think more action films should be animated

As for the animation. The art style of DC animated films always tends to reflect the artist that was drawing the comic. That being said, however, with these movies connecting with one another the animation had to be the same each time, so it always has to reflect Jim Lee’s art style when he first worked on the Justice League New 52 comics. That’s not too much of an issue here considering that every artist who has now worked on Justice League has really being trying to imitate Jim Lee’s art style, in fact most of New 52 has really been replicating Jim Lee’s art style, so shots from the film look enough like the comic. One bit of the art design that I am not too much of a fan of is some of the costume designs. None of these costumes are perfect replicas of the New 52 costumes which didn’t change too much, but some of them just seem a bit weird and perplexing to me. Particularly, Superman’s costume feels like it could have been a bit brighter than it was and Wonder Woman’s just seems a bit strange in its colours. It is strange, but Wonder Woman having her hair in a ponytail slightly bothers me, considering the characters iconic design has her hair down. It’s just a small nit pick, but it just doesn’t always sit completely right with me. Other than that I did enjoy Aquaman’s design and the rest of the Justice League does seem pretty good though I will say I think Mera’s has received the worst translation from comic to film in her costume design. I don’t get it, her costume design in New 52 is really good, what went wrong here! I will say that Orm’s costume is a lot better than his New 52 version, and if they plan to have Orm finally return in the comics (like they suggested he would be at the end of Aquaman volume 4 which was ages ago) )then I definitely welcome them going with the design similar to the film.

Overall my thoughts on this film were that it was okay. It wasn’t great but it’s a vast improvement over Justice League War, although I wouldn’t jump on the band wagon and see this film unless you’ve seen Justice League War and Son of Batman prior to this. I’d also recommend if you really want to get into these characters, get Aquaman Volume 1,2 and 3 first. The comics are really good reads and they do a pretty good job of introduction Aquaman to newcomers very well and the story-line has gotten pretty good even after Geoff Johns stopped writing the book after Volume 4. I would also say that I’m not sure that this film will be for everyone and it’s definitely not a film that you can buy for kids. If you want to get a DC film for kids you will probably be better off with JLA Trapped in Time. I’m hoping the DC animated films will continue as there is still something enjoyable about these films, but with them not reaching the heights that they did before, and the DC Cinematic Universe about to begin, I’m not sure how long we are going to have these movies. Hopefully the up-coming Batman vs Robin will do a better job and convince DC that these films should continue. Though I reckon we will have a better chance with the upcoming Justice League Gods of Monsters being written by Bruce Tim.

Well what are your thoughts guys? If you have seen the film or read any of the comics I have mentioned, please feel free to comment in the comments section. We will take any opinions and you do don’t have to be from a particular part of the country or have an account to do so.

My question is pretty easy for this week. With DC Cinematic Universe coming up next year, and with Marvel also about to do their Cinematic Phase 3 I would love to know, are there any Super Hero’s from any comic company you think need a film made???

On March 6th I am back in the Cinemas. If you checked my review of Selma last week you will know its going to be “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and I am also going to be getting comments on the film from Dr. Buchan and some of her colleagues. It only leaves me now to say thank you for reading this review and if you want to write your own reviews send an email to calvin@axia.co.uk (all in lower case) along with an attachment and the name of the film you are reviewing. If you want remain anonymous we will be happy to oblige, though we do ask that you state your name in the email itself.

If you get some time this week check out the first of our user reviews from our good friend Dream, who has reviewed one of his favourite films “The Blues Brothers”. I’ve read it and it’s a fantastic read. It’s available on our Film Society User Review sections of the site.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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