Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! Interestingly enough, I call my toilet the throne of Atlantis.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis – 3 out of 5

Gawd damn, I was excited for this one and for numerous reasons! First off, DC just decimates when it comes to their animated films. Secondly, this one is about Aquaman and that man deserves his own film. And since it is going to be a few years before we get to see Jason Momoa wield the trident and make fish do his bidding, we’re going to have to settle for an animated feature. However, the trailer looked cool and it was based on a pretty badass story arc from The New 52. So, like I said, I was pumped for this one…and then it went ahead and disappointed me.

I should probably start this review with a photo of Aquaman but I decided to show
The Flash where he's losing his dignity instead.

While the Justice League is busy trying to get themselves together and act as a cohesive team, the oceans are boiling with turmoil. The Atlanteans are restless and the royal son Orm (Sam Witwer) is begging his mother; Queen Atlanna (Sirena Irwin), to declare war on the surface dwellers. Meanwhile, a mysterious man named Arthur Curry (Matt Lanter) is mourning the death of his father and soon finds himself swept up in the growing turmoil between the two lands. An Atlantean by the name of Mera (Sumalee Montano) takes Curry and shows him the truth that he was born of Queen Atlanna and a land-dwelling man. However, before Curry can take in his birthright and become the legendary Aquaman, Orm assassinates the Queen and he and his co-conspirator Black Manta (Harry Lennix) convince his people that she was killed by the surface and calls his people to war. Now, Aquaman must team with the budding Justice League; Superman (Jerry O’Connell), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), Cyborg (Shemar Moore), Shazam (Sean Astin), and Batman (Jason O’Mara), in order to stop his brother and bring peace to his people.

Why so serious?  Did your parents die or something?

Too soon?

While I didn’t think Throne of Atlantis was bad, it just didn’t live up to what I was expecting for an animated feature that contains one of the most made fun of (but is really badass) superheroes. DC is still the king of animated features and this one is heads and tails better than the last few Marvel have farted out. However, the problem comes with the lack of epic action that was promised in the trailer, an inconsistency with voice acting, and a really messy story.

Also, the film focused a lot on Cyborg.  While I like Cyborg, I came to this parade
to see Aquaman....also, since I'm on the subject, Shemar Moore does the voice
of Cyborg and does anyone else think he should play John Stewart in the new
DC movieverse?

First off, the film is very light on the action. Fresh off their last two features, The Flashpoint Paradox and War both offered up the great action that you would expect from the iconic DC heroes. Throne of Atlantis does contain fight scenes and the superheroes doing their superhero stuff but it felt so light and way too much of it is quick and goes by in the blink of an eye (I guess I could have did some reference to The Flash there but what are you gonna do?). For example, when war is unleashed (if you can call it that), Aquaman and Black Manta go toe-to-toe. Black Manta plays a huge role in why this war started and, additionally, he’s one of Aquaman’s most iconic enemies. With Aquaman’s torn loyalties between where he spent most of his existence and the revelation that he is of royal blood from underneath the waves, this fight should have been emotional, gritty, and all kinds of badass. Too bad it ends super abruptly and is easily forgotten within seconds of its ending. Even the battle between Aquaman and his brother Orm feels like it has no sense of urgency to it and that there is no emotional turmoil within it. The biggest appeal of this story arc was the fact that Aquaman was torn between his loyalties and, with changes made to the feature to fit with the direction the animated features are going, this tearing could have still been evident but it just wasn’t.
Mera could play some great pranks in public restrooms if she puts her powers
to juvenile use.
Granted, not all the action is terrible and there are some badass moments, like the Justice League each having their share of the spotlight stopping the Atlantean army or the part where Shazam electrocutes the Trench but these are just droplets in the ocean of potential this film wasted. There could have been some truly epic moments that showed those unfamiliar with the comics and showed off the true version of Aquaman and maybe expose them to how truly badass the man is capable of being. On the flipside, however, even already established badass characters like Cyborg, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and Superman aren’t even given their time to show how tough they are. Granted, this isn’t a bad thing because it is suppose to be an Aquaman feature with the Justice League playing second fiddle but when you can’t even make Batman do anything memorable in a battle sequence, you have failed.

Awesome job, Captain Marvel--or Shazam or whatever the fuck we're calling you now.

Voice acting is very important in an animated film and, for the most part, DC hasn’t had many problems with that department. Sure, it took some time for me to get use to Jason O’Mara and not having Kevin Conroy as every animated Batman to exist and it is something I’ve finally come to terms with but, overall, their choices in voice acting haven’t been that bad. Sure, in War I thought Justin Kirk wasn’t a great choice for Green Lantern and Alan Tudyk might not have been my first choice to play the Man of Steel but they weren’t super distracting. However, this time, there were some casting choices that I just didn’t dig.

"Batman said something mean to me...this was the blackest nights they were
talking about."

Michelle Monaghan doesn’t return as Wonder Woman and is replaced by Rosario Dawson. Monaghan was one of the choices in War that I really enjoyed but Dawson taking over isn’t that bad…but, in fairness, it’s hard to tell because WW barely speaks. Also, Jerry O’Connell comes in to play Supes and I can’t help but think he’s an even less likely actor to portray the Big Blue Boy Scout than Tudyk. However, just like Wonder Woman, Superman barely speaks so you would never know that the guy from Sliders was playing the Kryptonian.

Wonder Woman got her hands on the trident and began her impression of Atlanteans...
It was very racist.

Additionally, I wasn’t a fan of Matt Lanter as Aquaman. He wasn’t a bad voice actor but he just didn’t stand out. This was Aquaman’s movie and you needed an actor to take the character and demand attention with him. Maybe not as grandiose and cartoonish as John DiMaggio did with Aquaman in Batman: The Brave and the Bold but you still need someone who sounds like both a superhero and a member of royalty for an underwater kingdom. Lanter didn’t really capture that for me. While he was adequate as Arthur Curry, he wasn’t exceptional or really standard setting.

I was also a little upset that he never gave his own rendition of "Under the Sea."

One thing I really liked about the cast, however, was the return of Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern. This isn’t the first time Fillion has provided the voice for the man who wields the green ring of Will and he once again proves why they keep bringing him back. He captures Jordan so well and he’s Nathan Fillion, for crying out loud. And, once again, I really liked Sean Astin as Shazam. He really captures the child that is, literally, inside of that superhero. Finally, Sam Witwer has already established that he is a great actor (both in the voice acting realm and the realm that requires using more than just one’s voice) but he definitely was a great choice for Orm. One thing Witwer is excellent at is his ability to capture the emotion needed from the character and he shows that in spades with Orm.

"I look so cool...but I can't see shit out of this thing..."

Finally, the story is pretty sloppy in this film. I think the real issue comes with the fact that this film is trying to juggle making this movie something that is continuing to evolve the DC animated universe while being an outing that brings Aquaman to a mass audience. When the film opens, we see things like the bullheaded nature of Batman and his reluctance to be apart of the Justice League, Cyborg struggling with feelings of anger towards his father, frustrations over the lack of being a cohesive unit in his fellow superheroes, and growing romantic feelings in his iron chest, and we also see the budding romance between Wonder Woman and Superman…and Green Lantern, Flash, and Shazam are just along for the ride. 

"Man, Wonder Woman, it sure is chilly up here.  Maybe comic artists should have
designed you wearing more clothes like they do male superheroes..."

This development, and the building blocks for keeping this animated universe from being episodic and self-contained, dominates the opening of the film. This isn’t really a bad thing but it takes away from the development needed for the war between Atlantis and the surface and takes away from Aquaman truly being the star of the film. This is extremely evident when you realize the film barely establishes that Black Manta was responsible for making the war possible through the use of deceit and deception. While the film does cover it (and then lazily just has Manta openly admit it during his fight with Aquaman), it goes by so quickly and feels like such an after thought that it makes the story feel like it is rushing to get to the end and saying to hell with any further development on any areas that so desperately need it.

What happens if Black Manta sneezes in his helmet?
He takes it off and cleans it out...duh.

I understand that Aquaman is a risky venture because he’s not a mainstream hero that is richly beloved. More comic book fans love Aquaman than your run-of-the-mill non-comic reader. To many, Aquaman is a punchline—hell, even I use to do a joke in my stand up that talked about how people wouldn’t be very excited if Aquaman showed up to the scene of a crime and would probably be heckled, accused of having intercourse with fishes, and then be humiliated when the crowd rejoiced when Namor showed up. The reality is, Aquaman is a badass but wider audiences don’t know that. Throne of Atlantis should have been a forum to showcase that but the film failed in that. I get that Batman is the real money maker for DC and you pretty much need Bats and the rest of the Justice League in an Aquaman film in order to move DVDs and Blu-rays and make that sweet, sweaty cash and I don’t begrudge having them in the film or DC choosing this arc to adapt. In fact, the limited use they tried to bring with Batman and the lot was a smart move but the film failed by having a story that crammed too much into a short time period and didn’t put enough development into the character of Aquaman.

"Alright, are we going to let the fish talker into the Justice League?"

I understand I sound like I hated Justice League: Throne of Atlantis but I didn’t. I still think this is a fun DC animated film and I love how they are creating an animated universe that is all connected and not just tossing out a single story about a single hero. The fact that the events in War had an impact in Throne of Atlantis makes this feel as large and as sweeping in scope as the comic books do. Additionally, the animation is great and keeps the standard that DC has set in the other films. However, I won’t deny that I was disappointed with the film and was hoping for a bigger venture from the king of Atlantis. 

Okay, this was cool, though.

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