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Friday, 30 January 2015

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.

Wow, good thing this came out today, I was stumped on what to do. 

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I do deeply enjoy the DC Animated films. They tend to be very well animated, they're short enough that I don't lose interest, they have solid plots, and they have good voice casts. This is the second in an ongoing series of Justice League films about their incarnations from the accursed New 52 continuity, following on from Justice League: War.

While War was an ensemble piece, Throne of Atlantis is very definitely Aquaman's story, following him from being a drunk lighthouse owner mourning the death of his father and getting into bar brawls over lobsters, to becoming embroiled in a brewing war between Atlantis and the Surface World, and the machinations of his evil half-brother Orm (or the Ocean Master, as he's usually called in comics continuity) and Orm's right-hand man, Black Manta. Meanwhile, the Justice League, still a very new team, is investigating the destruction of a submarine near the Marianas Trench.

What a pretty Aquaman.

In that regard, it works a lot better than War did. War's main issue was that as an ensemble origin story, it felt rushed and was unable to provide appropriate focus for each of its individual characters. I won't say that Aquaman's story doesn't feel a little bit rushed, as the entire film is only slightly over an hour long, but it feels a lot better balanced than its predecessor, and Aquaman, played by Matt Lanter, makes for a far more charismatic character than some of the rest of the Justice League in these films. Superman and Wonder-Woman, I'm mostly looking at you here.

Speaking of Superman and Wonder-Woman, they have a romance in this film, and it's both totally unbelievable (as it materialises from nowhere) and a little bit creepy (as Clark always seems to be the one pushing for it, with Diana never seeming to reciprocate so much as just go with it - not the best impression for your film's romance to make). I realise it's a feature of the New 52 continuity, and I hate it there as well, I really do. 

Stop that.

It's odd, because this film does execute other romance subplots, and it does so well. Mira and Aquaman have a romance subplot that feels a bit forced, but not jarringly so; and Cyborg is given a romance with a scientist which also doesn't feel forced, even though it has probably about twenty seconds spent on it. 

The preponderance of romance subplots in this film is a little odd, actually, and one supposes that it ties in to the attempt to be 'adult' that leads to things like a pun about how well-hung Aquaman is being slipped in (good to know, but not really necessary) and Black Manta dramatically exclaiming mild swear words mid-monologue. It doesn't really work - I'm off the fairly firm belief that major comic book properties should be accessible to all ages, and attempts to make them 'adult' always carry a slight stench of desperation to them. It didn't jar me out of the film, but I noticed, and I was a bit irritated. 

The attempt at an adult-ish tone is also odd because this is a lighter and fluffier version of the same storyline from the comics, which involved a lot more politicking and a somewhat more anti-heroic Aquaman, and which was also completely and unremittingly awful, so kudos to DC for changing that here. 

Don in distress Aquaman.

As was the case with War, the animation is all rather gorgeous, although I did find myself wearying of the permanent soft filter at times, not least because they seemed to add an extra soft filter, making everything look like I'm having a sudden attack of a hypoglycemia. I was getting very annoyed with it by the end, to say the least. I'm not sure why anyone would feel the need to layer their gorgeous, colourful animation with a filter that washes it out and blurs the edges - I can only assume there's some manner of self-hate at play here. 

The voice acting was also very strong, mostly. I didn't think much of Superman's voice actor, and Wonder-Woman's voice actor is working with some terrible scripting, but everybody else is fine. Sam Witwer as Orm and Harry Lennix as Black Manta pretty much steal the show, with Witwer hamming things up and gnawing his way through whatever scenery happens to be to hand, and Lennix doing the same Harry Lennix thing he does in everything, which is very effective and which I like very much.

The film ends on a post-credits scene introducing Lex Luthor, as played by Steve Blum, who apparently has some kind of diabolical plan, so there is obviously going to be a sequel. What it could be, I don't know, but I'm looking forward to it. Mostly. I mean, it'll kill an hour, you can't ask fairer than that, can you.

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