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Reviewer:   Jim "JR" Rutkowski
Directed by:
Ethan Spaulding
Written by:
Screenplay by Heath Corson, Based on the DC Comics characters.
Starring the Voices of:
Sean Astin, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion
Length:   72 minutes
Released:   011315-direct to dvd
Rated PG-13 sci-fi violence and action throughout.
"Throne of Atlantis is best summarized with a single, beautifully succinct syllable: meh"

Forget the words "Justice League." The New 52-inspired JLA is on deck, but only so that their miserable failure against Ocean Master and his hordes will allow the under-appreciated Dweller of the Depths, the once and future King of Atlantis, Arthur Curry, to swim in, save the day, and maybe, just maybe earn a little respect from the Robot Chicken crowd. Throne of Atlantis is Aquaman's movie (rightfully so!) and it pulls out all the stops. Insurmountable odds? Selfless heroes? Powerful villains? A diabolical scheme that threatens the world? Legions of masked henchmen? High stakes? Large-scale war? It's got it all... except everything that counts. The animation is hurried and underwhelming, the voice-work spotty, the Justice League's involvement rather dull, Curry's rise to power one 70-minute cliché, the action stocky and unexciting, the script middle of the road, and the dialogue dangerously hit or miss. I could go on -- there's more -- but Throne of Atlantis is best summarized with a single, beautifully succinct syllable: meh. This is not the Aquaman showcase diehards have been so patiently waiting for, nor the movie destined to silence the skeptics, defuse prevailing shoulder shrugs and eye rolls, or bring any new fans to the Atlantean fold.

Darkness, mystery, legend. These are the whispers that echo through time regarding Atlantis. A kingdom long since forgotten to surface dwellers, it is here that a hidden empire, ruled by Queen Atlanna (Sirena Irwin), teeters on the brink of war. When a military submarine traversing this remote domain is attacked, Cyborg (Sean Patrick Thomas) plunges to the murky depths to investigate the wreckage. What he encounters is a threat powerful enough to rally together the rest of the members of the newly formed Justice League: Superman (Jerry O'Connell), Batman (Jason O'Mara), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), The Flash (Christopher Gorham) and Shazam (Sean Astin). Meanwhile, thousands of feet above the ocean floor wanders a lone drifter named Arthur Curry (Matt Lanter), a man with strange powers who may be the last chance to bridge the ancient Atlantean world and our own. Fighting alongside the JLA and fellow aquatic hero Mera (Sumalee Montano), Arthur must face his half-brother, Ocean Master (Sam Witwer), the villainous Black Manta (Henry Lennix), and an army of Atlantean soldiers who believe they've no choice but to attack the surface world.

Like the divisive "New 52" DC Comics title-wide reboot, the most recent DCU animated original movies -- Justice League: War, Son of Batman, Batman: Assault on Arkham, and now Throne of Atlantis -- are struggling to connect. (More and more with each passing movie it seems.) Blame the comic stories upon which they're based; you certainly wouldn't be the first. Blame the changing of the voice-actor guard; Conroy out, O'Mara in. Blame DC's less than exacting approach to shared-universe animated movies. Blame whatever and whomever you'd like. There's a bigger problem coursing through Warner Animation's veins, though. A cancer that's growing. For all the effort that's been invested into creating new, more relevant versions of iconic characters, these "fresh" iterations of Superman, Batman and company tend to be unlikable, too simplistic, and quite flat for what should be dynamic, imagination-defying demigods. (At least as they've been represented in the DCU animated movies thus far.)

Throne of Atlantis finally introduces Aquaman into the JLA mix, but does so haphazardly, woodenly and without much in the way of a hook. (Pun intended.) We've seen this tale many, many times before. And seen many, many superior takes on the same material. The conflicts, the betrayals, the unlikely hero's reluctance and eventual acceptance of his destiny. It's all so familiar, and not just from decades past. Justice League: War covered much of the same ground with multiple characters. Throne of Atlantis trains its focus on Arthur Curry, rehashes the formula, and heads to lunch early. That's a wrap! It's strange too. Pay close attention to producer James Tucker, director Ethan Spaulding, writer Heath Corson and other decision-makers in the pipeline when watching the disc's special features. They get it. They get Aquaman. The allure of Ocean Master and Black Manta. The things that should and could make Throne of Atlantis exceptional. So why is the final product so removed from their passion and grasp on the characters and story? A failure of execution, yes, but not a simple failure of execution. The Dark Knight Returns, Parts 1 and 2 demonstrated how talented Tucker and his directors, writers and animators are. But it also offered nearly everything Throne of Atlantis doesn't have the luxury of counting among its assets. Well over two hours of screen-time, a more captivating source comic, stronger animation, a more striking visual style, on and on and on. A smaller, more affordable voice cast. Above all, a budget suited to its ambition.

The inevitable misperception here will be that the Throne of Atlantis team is content with mediocrity, when, really, the likelihood is that the movie didn't have the development timetable or schedule necessary to tighten, polish and fine-tune the writing and animation. Its script is more akin to a rough draft than a sharp screenplay, with plot holes, dead-on-arrival jokes and wince-inducing dialogue squeaking through far too often. (The opening submarine attack is one of many groan-worthy scenes.) Its runtime leaves almost no room for complex character arcs, compelling relationships, or exchanges that aren't waterlogged with thick, wet exposition. The movie's budget appears to have been stretched to the point of snapping, with the animation leading the charge one minute and lagging behind the next. And the climactic super-powered showdowns are anything but. Aquaman and the Justice League's run-ins with Ocean Masters' minions aren't creative, gripping or thrilling, and the ultimate lead-up to war, the battle with Black Manta, and the final clash between Atlantis and the JLA amounts to all sound, no fury. Worse, its utterly and terribly predictable. Is there a riveting movie lurking in Atlantis' depths? Absolutely. This one, unfortunately, only skims the surface.

I've found that no reviews draw more hate than a comic-book movie review, so feel free to rally or dismiss as you see fit. In the world of comic-book films and even in the realm of DCU animated original movies, Throne of Atlantis lacks staying power, lasting personality, killer showdowns, memorable set pieces, clever dialogue, and jaw-dropping animation. Aquaman fans will reap the biggest rewards (obviously), yet still be disappointed that their beloved undersea Atlantean isn't likely to win over any new fans with a weak showing like this. Aquaman detractors will continue to, er, detract, and those on the fence will be left right where they were found, wondering what all the aqua-fuss is about. For too long, Aquaman has been the butt of the JLA joke, but there's a reason Atlantis' king has so many followers. I only wish Throne of Atlantis demonstrated what some of us have long known about the Justice League's most ridiculed member: he's not to be trifled with.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THRONE OF ATLANTIS © 2015 Warner Premiere Home Video
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2015 Alternate Reality, Inc.



"Naming a movie about the Suicide Squad- Batman: Assault on Arkham is disingenuous at best and false advertising at worst..." (JR)


“.... Batman fans should be pleased, and admirers of Nolan's version of the character should definitely check this out." (JR)

“War simultaneously asks you to forget everything you know about the JLA and lug everything you know to the table."   (JR)