In just 75 minutes you can learn how to go from depressed drunkard to underwater warrior king!

I finally sat down and watched Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, and you know what that means: it’s time for a review.

The Source Material

This film is an adaptation of the New 52 Justice League and Aquaman crossover “Throne of Atlantis” by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Ardian Syaf, and Paul Pelletier. It was the fourth Justice League storyline in the New 52 and, I think, they’re first really great one. It truly was an epic with a complex conflict at its core and I think it’s evident that the filmmakers felt the same way since they skipped right over the arcs featuring Graves and then Cheetah. You can read my review of the original book HERE and I highly recommend you pick up the book yourself as it’s quite different from what you see on film. Surprisingly, it’s one of the first instances in which the comic was actually more violent than the DC animated film!

Aquaman

Take it in folks! With Jason Momoa playing the role in Batman v Superman, it looks like comic books and animated film are the only places where you’ll see a blond Aquaman in action. Of course, we all knew this was coming after Blonds used their first-round pick in the 2005 Hero Hair Draft to select James Bond in a move that shocked everybody, but I digress. Let’s talk about the movie…

The Movie

If you read Justice League, Vol. 1: Origin and then watched Justice League: War, you quickly noticed something missing: Aquaman. Particularly this scene…

Sharks

To make up for Aquaman’s absence, the follow-up to the abysmal Justice League: War would be both an adaptation of the New 52’s Justice League: Throne of Atlantis and Arthur Curry’s origin story, and the end result does a disservice to both portions so we end up with a film that falls more into “that was okay” territory than the “hell yeah, let’s watch that again!” area. Still, it’s a sequel that far exceeds its predecessor and a big part of that is that while we’re trying to cram two big stories into one 75-minute movie here, that’s far better than the complete lack of story that Justice League: War, which was basically one long action scene, had.

Not only will you see a guy down on his luck discover his true destiny and refuse the call of the hero until the film’s climax forces him to save the day, but the film features a number of other elements that give the rest of the Justice League (except Flash) something to do. Cyborg has his struggle to find balance between being machine and man. Superman and Wonder Woman have a low-key romance that actually plays quite well. And Batman and Green Lantern have a fun rivalry with Nathan Fillion getting all the best lines. Shazam, who wasn’t featured in the source material (just like with Origin/War) just kind of chimes in from time to time to let the audience know how to feel or just to crack a joke so… at the end of the day I feel like the filmmakers should’ve just used Aquaman in War and we could’ve got our damn shark scene the way we wanted it and this movie could’ve focused more on the twists and turns that the original Throne of Atlantis story had AND maybe this would’ve felt more like a Justice League movie. As it stands, this is an origin film with a bunch of other potential protagonists struggling to seem relevant.

With so much origin to explain the movie had to dumb-down the Throne of Atlantis aspect by over-powering Arthur’s brother, Orm, and cutting the catalyst for the action and most interesting character of the source material, Vulko. Vulko is instead replaced by a villain with easier to digest motivations, Black Manta, who has his own origin story rewritten entirely while Arthur’s plays out more or less exactly how we’ve all seen in other animated features. Orm’s manhandling of the Justice League will have many viewers giving sideways glances to the comic book reader in the room as if to say “Is that for real?” and, if you’re like me, the hammy way that actor Samuel Witwer delivers Orm’s lines will make you snicker because it reminds you of The Mighty Monarch from Venture Bros. Most surprising, however, is that while these DC animated films typically highlight the violence of the comics, this one reined things in considerably.

Spoiler
With so many deaths from tsunamis in recent years, I can’t help but wonder if some higher-ups put the kibosh on Ocean Master’s big wave attack because they figured it would come off as insensitive. It just seemed really weird for them to bring in this giant wave and then stop it at the shore in lieu of moving in as one big ground attack. In the comics Ocean Master used tsunami. It was super effective.
Unfortunately, by not following through on the conflict the same way the book did, the film’s finale looks all too similar to what was going on in Justice League: War– empty city by the shore, hordes of alien-looking soldiers, one big bad guy to punch.

The animation looks great and I actually enjoyed the grittier bar fight at the beginning of the film more than any of the superheroics at the finale. It had a nice score as well and the voice acting, for the most part, was much improved and many of the weak links from the last film were replaced. However, despite the more recognizable name, Rosario Dawson, taking over as Wonder Woman, you won’t see Diana getting too many lines and most of the movie’s female butt-kicking is handled by the Atlantean Mera, who steals the show in many of the action sequences. The rest of the voice cast is quite good and, as I said, Nathan Fillion gets the best lines as Green Lantern. Jason O’Mara’s bat-voice will still be divisive though since he sounds like an old man whenever he attempts the Bale bat-gravel. Personally, I would like to see Beware the Batman‘s Anthony Ruivivar voice the Caped Crusader in these animated films instead. Speaking of which, since this is Batman News, I should say that Batman probably has the smallest role he’s had in a DC Animated picture in ages.

 The Mistake

Be on the lookout for a scene where Superman and Wonder Woman are both breathing and speaking freely underwater.

Is There An After-Credits Scene?

Yes, there is an after-credits scene and it wasn’t what I was expecting.

Bonus Material

Scoring Atlantis: The Sound of the Deep Featurette

Robin and Nightwing Bonus Sequence

  • A short that begins with Batman’s voice on the radio calling in backup to finish up the Scarecrow case (what Batman was involved with when he was interrupted by the Justice League). It would have been cool if you weren’t forced to watch several minutes of commentary spoiling everything that would happen in the 45-second short before you get the chance to watch it for yourself.

Throne of Atlantis: 2014 NY Comic-Con Panel

Scoring Atlantis: The Sound of the Deep

Throne of Atlantis Soundtrack

Villains of the Deep Featurette

  • Learn about Aquaman’s rogues gallery

4 Bonus Cartoons

  • Brave & The Bold: Aquaman’s Outrageous Adventure!
  • Brave & The Bold: Evil Under the Sea
  • Aquaman: Menac of the Black Manta and The Rampaging Reptile-Men
  • Justice League Unlimited: Far from Home

A Sneak Peek at Batman vs. Robin

  • Sequel to the awful Son of Batman movie and apparently a bastardized adaptation of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Court of Owls. I hated Son of Batman and judging by the featurette it looks like they basically just stripped Court of Owls for parts so I don’t have high expectations for this one. However, I will say that it seems like they’re actually making The Court’s motivation clear in this movie, which is something the book lacked.

Buy, Rent, or Skip

Aquaman fans should enjoy it and find it a worthy purchase, but I would recommend it only as a rental to anyone else. If you’ve already seen the likes of Justice League: The Animated Series’ “The Enemy Below two-parter or Batman: The Brave and The Bold’s “Evil Under the Sea!” then you’ve already seen this story told better. I liked it, but I don’t see it as something I’ll want to watch again and again like TDKR or Under the Red Hood. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @AndrewBatReview where I’ll have a Batman trivia contest for a chance to win an Ultraviolet download code for the movie.

Overall

Its greatest flaws are that there are too many characters and the filmmakers took the gripping source material “Throne of Atlantis” and watered it down (no pun intended) with an Aquaman origin story that many viewers will have already seen before. If it’s your first time witnessing Aquaman’s origin then it should be pretty captivating. For any other DC fan I think the movie will be just entertaining enough, but ultimately a retread of elements we’ve all seen play out better in other animated shows, or at least at less rushed pace. The action is great, the animation is top-notch, and the writing is a big step up from Justice League: War (it was especially refreshing to see a more thoughtful resolution beyond just pummeling the problems into submission) but it’s my opinion that they missed their chance at telling a great Justice League epic and instead told an “okay” Aquaman origin.

SCORE: 6.5/10