JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS is unfortunately another big miss from the DC Animation studios stable. For a team that started so fiercely with straight adaptions of The Dark Knight Returns and Flashpoint: Paradox, they have steadily diminished in quality as they’ve increased their frequency.
In the frenzy of Darkseid’s carnage in JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR the king of the Atlantis was killed. Since that time his son Orm (Sam Witwer – voice) has been plotting a way to disrupt the magic that keeps the underwater world hidden from the surface and invade. With his mother Queen Atlanna (Sirena Irwin – voice) barely containing Orm the Justice League; Superman (Jerry O’Connell – voice), Batman (Jason O’Mara – voice), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson – voice), The Flash (Christopher Gorham – voice), Shazam (Sean Astin – voice), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion – voice), Cyborg (Shemar Moore – voice); must go under the sea with a new recruit Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Matt Lanter – voice) to restore balance.
Screenwriter Heath Corson has taken one of the stories by DC Comics head honcho Geoff Johns’ recent Justice League run of stories and instead of the great character moments and insights that differentiate it from the flagrant Avengers (film) rip off that it is (Orm stands in for Loki, as the wicked step brother that does bad stuff, while the team of Superheroes struggle to get their shit together and stop him); it retreats into the styleless background. There are moments of dramatic conflict that stream by like a highway wall; Cyborg coming to terms with his inhumanity and the elephant in the room that his father’s accident resulted in his inhumanity; a sequence where the relationship between and Superman and Wonder Woman begins to flourish as he’s teaching her about how to live in this modern world and use disguise to retreat from their towering god like statuses into the shoes of the humans they’ve sworn to protect. These feel like token moments that the filmmakers have timed out to not overwhelm the average attention span of a thirteen year old to watch a scene of exposition before creating another explosive distraction. The introduction of Arthur Curry (Aquaman) shows him drunkenly conversing with a lobster and then beating the hell out of patrons who want to eat it. I suppose that the filmmakers were attempting some kind of Hancock vibe for the character but instead it played out like watching a super strong, drunken douchebag.
Director Ethan Spaulding must orchestrate the action in front of backgrounds and locals that have been “prepared earlier.” Again and again Metropolis could double for Gotham, could nearly double for Atlantis for all that it matters to the story. When you think of truly incredible animated features, the setting is integral to the story. The Incredibles, Spirited Away, Aladdin each have strikingly different aesthetic sensibilities but each have incredibly vivid and vibrant settings that are reflections of the characters. The comic properties from which these films are being based should be providing the aesthetic guiding principle, even if only for tone. To put it with the bluntness that it deserves, the animation looks on par with the most basic show on the Cartoon Network.
The voice acting highlights are, as you’d expect, Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern. Fillion has a lot of fun being peeved with Batman’s leadership position at the head of the JL. Rosario Dawson gives a strength and distance to Wonder Woman that conveys how different she is from her human counterparts.
There was a time when people could say that the DC Animated films where outshining their live action counterparts. Hopefully JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS being as terrible as it is, is a positive sign for the live action future.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Ethan Spaulding
Written by: Heath Corson (screenplay) from a story by Geoff Johns
Starring (Voice cast): Christopher Gorham, Matt Lanter, Sumalee Montano, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Sam Witwer, Steve Blum, Patrick Cavanaugh, Sirena Irwin, Matthew Yang King, Juliet Landau, Harry Lennix, Sean Astin, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Shemar Moore