Feb 23, 2015

[Movies] Justice League: Throne of Atlantis (2015)

As much as I'm not a huge fan of DC's New 52 revamp of all of its comic book titles, the direct-to-video adaptations of those stories remain more entertaining. And while not all DC Universe Animated Original Movies are of the same caliber, on average they all remain quite good. I'm looking at you Marvel.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis wasn't a story I was expecting to see turned into a movie, but then again I suppose that's really more because of how Aquaman is ridiculed online time and time again. He's one of those heroes that has been struggling to adapt to the times and the shifting interests of folks, but admittedly a lot of the "evolutions" of the character have generally been worse than the original.

This isn't quite my favorite DC movie, but it's still a decently fun one. There are a lot of great action moments captured here and various characters have nice spotlight moments.

Synopsis: Justice League: Throne of Atlantis is a direct-to-video 2015 animated movie directed by Ethan Spaulding.  The screenplay was written by Heath Corson as loosely based on the Throne of Atlantis story arc written by Geoff Johns and is a sequel to Justice League: War.  And I've just realized that I still haven't written a review for that prior movie.

The movie begins with a US submarine, the USS California, being attacked by unknown assailants. The entire crew is killed and the submarine's payload of missiles is stolen. Colonel Steve Trevor (George Newbern) reaches out to the group that is generally to become the Justice League, although all he finds at their headquarters is Cyborg (Shemar Moore). Cyborg investigates the wreck and in turn is attacked by mysterious figures who can fight underwater with ease. This leads to Cyborg calling in the rest of the League to discuss the matter and determine a plan for recovering the stolen missiles.

Elsewhere, we meet Arthur Curry (Matt Lanter), who is drunk while mourning the death of his father. He ends up getting into a bar fight where it is revealed that he's far stronger than he average human and is also able to take a lot of punishment. He is observed by two figures - one revealed to be Mera of Atlantis (Sumalee Montano) and the other being a Dr. Shin (Matthew Yang King) with his own agenda. At the same time, Queen Atlanna (Sirena Irwin) of Atlantis struggles to keep the peace while her son Orm (Sam Witwer) and Black Manta (Harry Lennix) urge that they take a more aggressive stance in dealing with humankind on the surface. But she insists that Atlantis will remain secret and will find a way to live peacefully with the surface world.

So the story was plotted out as a bit of an origin piece for Arthur Curry as Aquaman, and I suppose the movie worked our fairly well in that regard. Here you have a guy who knows he's not quite the same as everyone (given his ability to rant to a lobster), yet he has no idea why he is the way he is. You have various factions that approach him and either try to get him on their side or kill him and in the heat of the moment he has to try and tell apart friend from foe. That's quite a challenge for anyone, even with super powers.

And this is also a story of the early days of this incarnation of the Justice League, as stressed by the early scene with no one at Justice League headquarters keeping watch. Thus it really got stressed that they're not automatically a team and are far too used to dealing with their respective criminals in their local areas and just focus on that for the most part. Thus the growing pains of any team and we see how they do get around to working as one just given enough time.

Bringing everything together, the bulk of the movie has Arthur trying to figure things out while the Justice League track down the stolen missiles. Naturally their investigation eventually leads them to Arthur and their paths do eventually cross, although not before some collateral damage is experienced. And we have Arthuer joined by Mera (Sumalee Montano) quite early on and she's as badass as you'd expect given her depiction in the comics.

Part of me wants to complain about the whole Atlantis sub-plot and the stories behind Black Manter and Orm / Ocean Master. But the rest of me recognizes that the whole betrayal bit and efforts by forces to start a war between Atlantis and the surface world are all pretty old tropes that everyone seems to have embraced. And when I say everyone, I'm not just talking about everyone who has written Aquaman stories, bu almost any instance of merman-style heroes. Just look at how Marvel handles its own version of Atlantis and we're back to forces trying to instigate war between Atlantis and the surface world. Again. I guess this is a really classic story concept for Atlantean tales.

The movie has some interesting action sequences that really keep things fun. And there are fun moments of heroes still trying to get along with one another, best personified by Green Lantern's (Nathan Fillion) efforts to get along with Batman (Jason O'Mara) as a pretty great scene and a reminder of just how different each hero is versus all the others.

This movie also laid it on a bit think when you look at the whole Superman (Jerry O'Connell) and Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) efforts at starting something romantic despite everything else going on. I recognize they had laid out the seeds for this arc in the prior movie to a limited degree but things accelerated really quickly in this movie. But then they had bigger fish to fry given the main plot, so I guess this limited how much time and effort could go into this angle. It still felt really alien to me, but I suppose this is also because I wasn't in the best of moods at the time of watching. Let the writers do what they will.

Justice League:Throne of Atlantis is another solid addition to the DC Universe Animated Animated Originals Movies collection. I think they did a great job telling the story they out out to tell  but could have been a bit more attention to individual character needs in terms of development. Still the movie gets 4 surprise Atlantean attacks out of a possible 5.

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