Justice League: Throne of Atlantis continues DC/WB animation’s shared movie universe, picking up where Justice League: War left off. Earth’s heroes (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Cyborg and Shazam) have united to protect the planet – but they’re not quite a team yet. A worldly threat once again presents itself when a submarine is attacked by unknown terrorist assailants – an incident that angers both military forces around the world, and the armies of the mystical undersea city of Atlantis.
Caught in the middle of the conflict is a man named Arthur Curry, who has no idea that his strange powers are the key to bringing peace to both Atlantis and the surface world. Arthur is a prince of Atlantis, but before he can take his rightful place in the kingdom, the Justice League (and other allies like water-warrior Mera) must help him acclimate to his heroic destiny as Aquaman, and stop the plot to usurp his throne.
By now the DC Animated Universe has become a well-oiled machine, dropping Justice League storylines inspired by DC’s New 52 comic book reboot in alteration with Batman animated features inspired by the Caped Crusader’s more recent comic book or video game adventures. It’s a strategy that works, yet at the same time, with each new animated feature, the movies feel more and more like one long story instead of unique entries, each full of different potential. Such is the nature of a shared universe; while nothing in Throne of Atlantis is any worse than the previous films, there’s also little to no improvement on the more criticized aspects of recent DCAMU offerings.
The DCAMU is basically being crafted by two directors: Ethan Spaulding (Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Jay Oliva (Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox). Spaulding has handled some of the less-loved entries (Son of Batman), but after collaborating with Oliva on the well-received Assault on Arkham, Spaulding is taking the Justice League reigns, while Oliva will concentrate on the upcoming Batman vs. Robin feature.
As stated, the look and directorial composition of these DCAMU movies has become a standard – and it really doesn’t get any better or worse with Throne of Atlantis. Days of Bruce Timm / Paul Dini animation styles are long gone, replaced with a sleek anime-influenced style meant to pop in HD format. Throne of Atlantis adds some nice colors to the visual palette, thanks to its partially-aquatic setting; there are also a suitable amount of fight sequences on a bigger team scale, though in general the action in the film is just that: suitable. There are only one or two distinct moments of combat worth remembering – both of them drawn from iconic panels of the “Throne of Atlantis” comic book story.
Speaking of story: DC Creative Chief Geoff Johns wrote the comic book version, which was then adapted to the screen by JL: War and Assault on Arkham screenwriter, Heath Corson. At this point, Corson, too, knows how the WB conveyer belt runs, and therefore his script work carries the same hallmarks as the previous few films: effective streamlining of the DC Comics storyline and animated movie mythos; good focus and development of a central, linchpin character (Aquaman); but also marginalization of other secondary characters, and some story threads that never get suitable development or conclusion. Depending on your opinion of the previous films, Throne of Atlantis will fall on roughly the same plane – unless the Aquaman character or mythos are particularly appealing to you.
Aquaman is brought to life by the voice of Matt Lanter, best known for voicing Anakin Skywalker in the Clone Wars animated series. Lanter has the experience necessary to give Arthur Curry some nice dynamic and subtle inflections, which make the character have a unique identity and lively attitude. He’s not cheesy, not too edgy, but a nice mix of both, with some wit and good comedic timing mixed in. In short: he’s a good central character, and voice actress Sumalee Montano (Transformers Prime) is a good foil for Lanter as Arthur’s love interest, Mera.
Sam Witwer (Being Human), Sirena Irwin (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and Harry Lennix (Man of Steel) have a nice Shakespearian drama to play out as Aquaman’s half-brother Orm, his mother Queen Atlanna and Orm’s lieutenant (and future Aquaman nemesis) Black Manta. Considering the amount of attention the movie gives their subplot, they make the time worthwhile.
Really the Justice League is just a backdrop in this film, but it seems that the rotating cast of voice actors has settled into a nice lineup of regulars, with Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore and Sean Astin all returning as Superman, Batman, Flash, Cyborg and Shazam. Meanwhile, fan-favorite Nathan Fillion returns to the fold as Green Lantern, and Rosario Dawson (Sin City) steps in to do a better job as Wonder Woman than the very miscast Michelle Monaghan (True Detective). If this is the Justice League voice cast going forward, it’s a solid lineup all around.
In the end, the DCAMU experiment rolls on, continuing to demonstrate both positive and negative aspects of a shared universe approach. Looked at on average, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis is solid DC superhero entertainment and a great introduction to the Aquaman character, whose revamped origin and attitude are yet another successful sell, which Warner Bros. can then use as the blueprint to shape their upcoming Aquaman movie – which is now much easier to envision with Jason Mamoa in the role.
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis is now available on DVD/Blu-ray and through On Demand, iTunes and other Digital Download services. It is 72 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action throughout.