Today marks the birthday of Aquaman, the King of the Seven Seas and oft-forgotten member of the Justice League. To celebrate, DC Animation has released Throne of Atlantis, an animated film that loosely adapts an Aquaman-centric comic book story line.
This should be a great and timely thing as Aquaman is in dire need of some attention. While the Flash and Green Arrow have become household heroes alongside Superman and Batman, Aquaman has been biding his time. Traditionally, the DC animated films have been very impressive and lauded by fans of the characters. But there has been a decisive move for the films to more closely mirror the comic books on the shelf. This is the fourth film to follow this direction (ironic as the comic book world is set for a massive reshuffle in Convergence).
The desire to create a cohesive animated universe that follows a narrative is a noble approach and one that is long overdue. However, the ‘New 52’ versions of the superheroes are decidedly contemporary… which has been interpreted by DC Editorial as being street-level ‘dudes’ rather than the mythological icons. Therefore instead of the traditionally noble sovereign of the deep, Aquaman is a hard-drinking, bar-room fighting fatherless dude wallowing in grief with beer and a gruff dismissive attitude to the world (with the exception of a lobster).
In short, Aquaman is hardly heroic. He’s a wreck. Likewise the Justice League are self-interested thugs with all the grace of a bull in a China shop. Superman and Wonder Woman are distracted by a budding romance, Green Lantern is more concerned with dating and upstaging his teammates than saving the world, Cyborg is an angst-ridden mess who is losing more of his humanity with every upgrade to his system, Batman is a detective whose super power is for clues to fall in his lap and a super jet with the explosive power and precision of a Michael Bay film and Captain Marvel has the power of an entire pantheon of Gods and the personality of a goofy child. The Flash is the only exception to this group of oddballs with equal parts super ability, smarts, courage and humanity.
All that considered (because the film is limited by its setting, tone and characters), Throne of Atlantis is impressive. It’s not as enjoyable as its predecessor, War, but the mixture of tones (Cyborg’s drama, Aquaman’s soul searching and the insidious Orm’s war-mongering) keeps things interesting. Throne of Atlantis combines an origin story with a disaster/invasion flick as the Justice League bickers internally only to rise to the occasion in the end.
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis
Throne of Atlantis, like just about all of the DC animated films, is not for kids. It just doesn’t have an appeal or a tone that kids would find entertaining. As a parent, I’m a little concerned that these movies are placed next to Finding Nemo and Adventure Time DVDs in Target stores. Under the Red Hood, Dark Knight Returns and Assault on Arkham are all hyper-violent movies with a very specific audience and could (in my opinion) only cause trauma for kids or turn them off from comic books entirely. It’s like giving a 6 year old a Grand Theft Auto game for their birthday.
If you are looking for a child-friendly superhero movie, this is not it. I do recommend Trapped in Time (a far more fun-loving adventure). If you enjoy comic books and are open to contemporary interpretations of time-honored heroes, Throne of Atlantis is worth a look.
Personally, I’m more looking forward to Batman Vs Robin.