Release Date(s)2015 (January 27, 2015)
Studio(s)DC Comics (Warner Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B+
I am a pretty big comics fan, a very large animation fan, and as I’ve gotten older, my love for DC has grown. I grew up a Marvel kid, but as I’ve learned more about mythology and storytelling, DC comics are where I spend most of my time and money. That’s why it hurts me to say I’m not a fan of these new DC Universe animated original films. I really want to like them, but I simply don’t. The voice work is stiff and not very good, the animation is spotty and cheap looking and the deviations they take from the original source material doesn’t make too much sense. Some of them have been pretty good (Crisis on Two Earths), a few have been great actually (Under The Red Hood and the two-part adaptation of Dark Knight Returns) but the rest really are forgettable. And that kinda sucks, because this is the one thing that should be a no brainer. Animated comic book films should be waaaaaay more creatively successful than the live action films. They can get more accomplished believably and the sense of wonder should be that much more palpable. But instead, they tend to be stiff, dull and derivative. Marvel doesn’t even get it right, in all truthfulness. And I scratch my head on why this is constantly.
Following up on 2014’s Justice League: War (which kicks off DCUAO’s adaptation of DC’s hard reset The New 52), Throne of Atlantis is all about Arthur Curry and his journey to becoming Aquaman, but not in any way that seems fresh. I say this, because the set-up for this iteration is wholly original to this animated universe’s story. In the New 52, Aquaman is a core member of the group from the start (though the Atlantis war with the human race is covered in the comic) – here he’s sorta what Green Arrow was in the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee comic. It works in a small way, but in another larger way; it’s just a safe bet. Here’s how it goes. A submarine is attacked in the ocean depths and the Justice League is called in to investigate. They discover the world of Atlantis, but Atlantis is in the midst of a civil war being fashioned by Ocean Master and Black Manta against Queen Atlanna (mother to both Ocean Master and Aquaman). Meanwhile, Arthur Curry is a landlubber who’s dealing with the recent death of his lighthouse operator father. It would seem that his dad had an affair with Atlanna (not knowing she was essentially a mermaid) resulting in Arthur being born, but she abandoned her child and her lover to take the throne of Atlantis unbeknownst to them. Stewing in raw emotion and developing super powers, he has no idea he is half Atlantian and the hand-chosen heir to the throne. Of course, all this Shakespeare 101 stuff takes a backseat to the impending war, Arthur’s place in it and the Justice League’s involvement. Filled to the gills with a who’s who of mid-level actors: Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Jason O’Mara as Batman, Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman and the fan cast Nathan Fillion as Green Lantern – you’d expect Throne of Atlantis to fly; but instead it fizzles, and it’s a damn shame.
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis looks pretty good on Blu-ray. There are some amplified animated movie shortcut issues at play, you’ll see a bit of aliasing, some overly soft shots filling in for “underwater” effects and a few moments of excessive pixels – but I likely this to faults in the animation more that the presentation. For the most part, this film presents nice. It’s 1080p/AVC-encoded, with solid colors and heavy blacks and pleasing detail. Sound is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track with thrilling music and nice immersive soundplay (there is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 music-only track). Not much can be said negative about the sound on this set. Which, speaking of, brings us to the special features and a reason why I think you may want to check this set out.
For the most part, these DCUAO discs are more promotional than anything else in terms of the extras. There’s usually a preview of the next release in the series (in this case it’s Batman vs. Robin, which adapts the new classic Son of Batman by Snyder and Capullo which introduced the DCU’s Illuminati the Court of Owls) and a scholarly look at some aspect of the DCU (which, also, is on board with the fascinating Villains of the Deep which looks at Aquaman’s villains and how they have been inspired by the Bard and King Arthur alike). The thing that really got me with this set is Scoring Atlantis: The Sound of the Deep. This thirty-minute featurette, for my money, is on the list for one of the best extras of 2015. It starts out as a look at the making of the score for this film, but quickly heads into an overall how-do-they-do-that look at scoring films in general. Composer Frederik Wiedmann with his producer James Tucker take through different philosophies, theory and put it all together. We get explanation about instruments Wiedmann chose to represent characters or moments and then on through the recording process where things are tweaked in the room with the musicians. It’s incredibly fascinating and well-worth the journeying through the lackluster film to get to the featurette. Also included is a quick deleted scene featuring Robin and Nightwing, a 2014 NY Comic-Con Panel and a selection of DCU animated series episodes from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Aquaman and Justice League Unlimited.
As a big fan of everything this film is trying to accomplish, I wish it were better. But the good thing is, there are some things on this set that are worth your while, so I wouldn’t say it’s a total wash. If you like comics and DC, it’s worth checking out and sticking around for that great featurette on the score and Aquaman’s villains. I’m hoping soon we get a kick ass DCU animated movie. I’m holding out hope that it’s soon.
- Todd Doogan