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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis (2015) direct-to-video animated movie review


Overall verdict: 7.5/10

The Good: well written dialogue, exceptional action, improved art and animation,  well developed hero's journey for Aquaman, deliciously over the top villain

The Bad: Awkwardly written romance, contrived and convenient plot resolution, minor animation errors

******************************Review*****************************

Continuing the DC New 52 shared universe initiated by JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR, we have the long awaited Aquaman origin story in JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS. This movie, loosely adapts the second major arc of Geoff John's critically acclaimed "Justice League" comic run. Like its predecessor, THRONE OF ATLANTIS does some major changes to the story to fit the animation medium. The most drastic change would be Aquaman's hero's journey from a lost wanderer finding his true calling in the world.

As the newly christened "Justice League" investigate a mysterious attack against a nuclear submarine,  we get glimpse into the life of one Arthur Curry. Grieving the loss of his father, the directionless Arthur has turned to drowning his sorrows and talking to lobsters. Just another drunken bum wandering the harbour. Or is he? As a fight with some thugs show, Arthur is more than human, boasting incredible strength, invulnerability, and able to mentally communicate with ocean life. Destiny, it seems, is not without a sense of convenience.

It seems that Arthur is the heir to the throne of Atlantis, the legendary underwater city, and the death of Atlantis' king (as shown in Justice League: War) forces Arthur to realise his birthright. While some see him as the solution to peace between two worlds, his half brother Orm desires only vengeance against the surface world. As tensions mount, a coup from within sparks all out war; a war that only the Justice League can stop.

I've said it before that DC and WB Animation's latest line of movies feel like Justice League in the tone of Marvel's Avengers. THRONE OF ATLANTIS continues that but starts to carve out its own identity. The forced humour is toned down a lot but the show still keeps its upbeat sense of superhero fun. The chemistry among the cast is impeccable thanks to the voice direction of veteran Andrea Romero. 

Some of the more questionable voices from the previous movie (Alan Tudyk as Superman, Justin Kirk as Green Lantern) are replaced with better sounding actors. Nathan Fillon is definitely a welcome choice to reprise his Green Lantern role and Jerry "Sliders" O'Connell takes over as Superman. On the antagonist side is Prince Orm, voiced by Sam "Starkiller" Witwer, who may be the most deliciously over-the-top villain in animation since the 90s Street Fighter cartoon's M Bison played by Richard Newman. 

For all the natural sounding dialogue and spot on acting, THRONE OF ATLANTIS feels a bit too bloated with too much plot in too little time. Other than Arthur Curry's journey, you have the political intrigue among the royalty of Atlantis, Cyborg coming to terms with the loss of his humanity, the budding friendship between Green Lantern and the Flash, and one of the most awkwardly written romances between Superman and Wonder Woman. Superman comes across like some desperate love deprived nerd continuing his creepy obsession with Wonder Woman taking advantage of the fact that she is a stranger to human customs and romance.

As a result, the central character of Arthur Curry is criminally underdeveloped. His story takes some cues from the live action MAN OF STEEL movie but due to a lack of focus, you never really get into his head or his personality. He goes from washed out drunk barely able to hold his own in a fight without his super strength.....
...to a trained fighter, well versed in self defence and martial arts. All this within a single day.
He goes from a man whose life is in a mess, without direction or resolve, to a natural born leader with strength of character and charisma. Also within a single day. Almost as if donning that Aquaman costume bestowed those skills upon him. It would have been more natural if we saw his leadership abilities and fighting skills while he was still a drifter. More glimpses into his childhood would have also helped answer some important questions. Like why did he not become a superhero earlier? Why is he hiding his abilities instead of using it for good? What drives his motivations? We never know. 


Take away the opening and closing credits and this movie has just over an hour worth of content; Underdeveloped content, but beautifully drawn and animated content. Both artwork and animation takes a step up from the last instalment. The art is decently detailed even in the tightest action scenes.
Director Ethan Spaulding add some nice stylistic touches to the footage giving underwater scenes a slightly off-focused blurred looked and doing some marvellous work on lighting and shadows. Character designs are less exaggerated than before (Superman shaved off a few pounds) and hew quite closely to Jim Lee's New 52 look.
THRONE OF ATLANTIS earns its right to be called a movie thanks to the exceedingly smooth animation of Moi Studios in Korea. Every fight is fully choreographed and animated without short cuts. The part with Aquaman and Mera facing off against the savage "Trenchers" before the Justice League arrive is just spectacular to behold.  

It isn't perfect though and some animation errors do creep in. There is a scene in a bar where Arthur orders another drink. He raises his hand and freezes there with his mouth wide open but the dialogue carries on.
Then there is the attack on the lighthouse where the Atlantean lasers are clearly not hitting where they are aiming at.
Most obvious are the Atlanteans themselves who are portrayed in their battle armour as having face masks with their shoulder length hair hanging out the back of the helmets.
Then they remove their helmets and their hair suddenly changes to purple, sky blue and various other weird colours
And I just have to mention the aftermath of the torpedo attack against Atlantis where the smoke and debris are so badly composited on the background that they look like long floating turds.

But hey, I am nitpicking here. And it would not be fair to penalise the whole show for a few visual oversights. That being said, JUSTICE LEAGUE THRONE OF ATLANTIS may have been a more enjoyable experience had it been more focused on Aquaman and his origin story. His is an intriguing tale to tell but it ends up being rushed through.

At least DC has succeeded in bringing the Aquaman character out of the public opinion rut he has experienced since his days in Superfriends. I want to see more of Arthur Curry, and not relegated to a supporting role in the Justice League. Here's hoping that the character gets the solo movie that fans like me are dying to see.

*****************************Review End***************************


Entertainment: A-
Art: B+
Animation: A-
Story: B
Voice Acting (English): A- 
Characters: B
Music: B-
Replay value: A-
"Brains": C+

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