I suppose it was inevitable after how much I enjoyed Batman vs Robin that reality would come over and give me firm slap in the face because Justice League: Throne of Atlantis was absolutely terrible. I knew beforehand that people didn’t really like it but silly me, I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt after BvR was so entertaining. Oy, what a blunder that turned out to be. You don’t miss anything if you just skip this in the DC animated library.
There is just no way around it, this is just bad, period. And I don’t even mind that they basically butchered the comic’s storyline in the adaptation process and I can also see the logic in wanting to use a big story like this when telling the origin story for Aquaman in animated form, but dear God, the execution is so damn shoddy! It’s like a bunch of headless chickens directed this. I really mean that. There’s far too much plot being tried to jam into the movie and just about nothing really works in the final product that they released. This is barely a story, it’s more like a list of scenes where people awkwardly jump from plot point to point point. I was bored to death half the time while watching this.
The movie is essentially a prime example of how not to do the comic oriented adaptations that DC is currently putting out as their animated feature films. The scope is once again far too big here to make a coherent, well paced and well told story in the minuscule time frame that they had at their disposal. If you really had to incorporate Aquaman’s origin into the plot and use one of the New 52’s storylines as the frame over with you did your movie, you probably should have adapted something like the Trench story that was the first arc in Aquaman’s own relaunched book. It would have been far simpler plot to adapt, and wouldn’t have needed so much set up for the story to work, giving more time for character development and the Justice League working together as a team and perhaps play more with their internal chemistry. Aquaman could have also only learned of Atlantis in the very end of the movie, setting up a possible future sequel in which to properly adapt Throne of Atlantis.
They like to say that a good story is only as good as its weakest link, and in this case, that weak link is Orm, Aquaman’s half-brother and soon-to-be supervillain known as Ocean Master. In the comic, Orm’s relationship with his brother is far more interesting because it avoids the cliché where he’s simply evil for the sake of being evil set up that is used in the movie. In the comic Orm has entirely understandable motivation to do everything he does and his relationship with Aquaman is quite complex and thus compelling, where as herein the movie he’s just a generic xenophobic warmonger caricature. It’s boring and doesn’t really do him justice as one of Aquaman’s biggest villains. It’s also entirely laughable how badly everybody jobs to Orm in the movie, only for Aquaman , who has no martial arts training what so ever, to be the hero who takes Orm down in the climax. You can understand the thematic need to do so, and it’s not like Aquaman just slaps Ocean Master into submission, but there should have been a better way of accomplishing that without having the entire Justice League job in the process so badly. This is a Justice League story after all, they ought to get moments to shine as well. It would have been far more satisfying if defeating Ocean Master had been more of a direct team effort with Aquaman used as the League’s trump card in the battle against Orm or, and this is how I personally would have wanted to see it played out, have the League simply be too busy saving the city from Atlantis’ invasion force and/or stopping other weaponized tidal waves that were about to crash against populated cities around the world, leaving it up to Aquaman to step up, confront and beat Orm in battle, thus establishing his role as a superhero and somebody who would deserve a seat in the Justice League.
Another thing that annoys me is the way they use Black Manta in the story. He’s just a glorified cameo who works as a convenient plot device to manipulate the war between Atlantis and the surface world. I wouldn’t really mind that if he had gotten at least some kind of a sub-boss treatment and maybe a cool looking fight scene before it was time for Aquaman and Ocean Master’s final combat, but he doesn’t even get that. He just spills out his evil plan in true mustache twirling cartoon villain fashion and is immediately afterwards eaten by a shark, the end. That’s incredibly lame, just like the entire movie as a whole is. Even now as I write this I feel so frustrated by this movie, it’s like an annoying itch that won’t quit bothering you.