Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
In Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, Cyborg discovers an imminent threat in the depths of the oceans so powerful that it rallies together the newly formed Justice League. Meanwhile, wandering thousands of feet above the ocean floor is drifter Arthur Curry, a man with strange powers who may be the last chance to bridge the ancient Atlantean world with our own. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League must band together as they face off against warmongering Orm, an army of sea creatures, otherworldly weapons and perilous odds. In this all-new epic adventure from the DC Universe, mankind’s only hope of escaping from the darkness lies with the guiding light of a man – Aquaman!
Film (4 out of 5 stars)
DC Comics have had a great run with the animated projects that include the original Batman: The Animated Series and the Justice League series. Moving on to direct to video features, that quality has continued for the most part. Although Marvel may trump DC Comics in the live action arena (at least for now), in animation it's DC Comics who has the lead. Not only has the animation gotten better, but the stories themselves and the action within them have gone in a more adult direction. Throne of Atlantis, set in the New 52 era, continues that tradition with a James Bond-like opening that shows a U.S. submarine get attacked by unknown assailants and sunk with all hands killed. It's the catalyst for Colonel Trevor (George Newbern) at S.T.A.R. Labs to call in Cyborg (Shemar Moore) to investigate the wreck. 

Continuing the story from Justice League: War, Cyborg at this point is unhappy with his rapidly dwindling humanity is replaced with robotic accessories, which makes him too insecure to ask out the pretty technician that's rebuilding him. Frustrated and negative, he decides to investigate the wreck alone without calling in the nascent Justice League - a decision he will later regret when he is attacked by the same foes that sunk the sub originally. He manages to escape and return to their headquarters where Flash (Christopher Gorham), Shazam (Sean Astin),  and Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), help him round up the rest of the team: Batman (Jason O'Mara), and Superman (Jerry O'Connell) and Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) who happen to be dating in this New 52 timeline.

Over at Mercy Reef, Arthur Curry (Matt Lanter) is getting drunk at a bar while he tries to forget about the death of his father. Arthur gets in a fight with a group of men over a lobster and is able to defeat them, all the while being watched by a woman in the waves named Mera (Sumalee Montano) who has been sent to watch over him by Arthur's birth mother (and Atlantean Queen), Atlanna (Sirena Irwin). The fight is also observed by Dr. Shin (Matthew Yang Kim), an expert on Atlantis who is there to confirm the letter stating that Arthur is half Atlantean that he received from Arthur's father before he died. When Dr. Shin tries to talk to Arthur about his research and the letter he received, he is killed by the same assailants that attacked the submarine. 

Below the ocean waves in the city of Atlantis, Queen Atlanna is trying to quell the growing dissent being sown by her son Orm (Sam Witwer) and Black Manta (Harry Lennix). Orm and Black Manta argue that the surface dwellers are damaging the ocean and want to take the fight to them, while the Queen feels that Atlantis should remain invisible to the rest of the world and live in harmony. It's not long before Orm and Black Manta stoke the fires of discontent even more when they stage an attack on Atlantis that makes the surface world appear to be the aggressors. Taking advantage of the unrest, Orm takes control of Atlantis and the Queen's magical trident that is powerful enough to hurt Superman. With a full scale war about to happen, it will be up to the newly formed Justice League to stop Orm's destructive plans.

While Aquaman is one of my least favorite characters, I did enjoy Throne of Atlantis a lot more than I thought I would despite not being a huge fan of the New 52 era. The characters are all well cast and I liked how Aquaman's origin story was layered into the overall plot and not the sole focus. So many movies nowadays seem to be bogged down with having to deal with the hero's origin that they never match the fun of the usual sequel that doesn't have to worry about it. By treating Arthur's story as just one story thread of an overall tapestry, Throne of Atlantis doesn't fall victim to the usual trap. It was also good to see the team be challenged as it's really hard to hurt Superman unless you have something magical like the trident. I also liked that this isn't the "SuperFriends," as these team members don't always get a long and they are still trying to find their groove as a unified whole. It also really helps to have Nathan Fillion in the mix as he's the perfect Green Lantern. If you enjoyed the Justice League series, then the odds are good that you will enjoy this outing as well.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
This 1080p transfer offers an above average presentation that may not be as strong as some of their earlier efforts, but it's also affected by the shimmer effect for the underwater scenes. Colors when allowed to, are bright and distinct and the black levels are suitably dark and inky. There are some minor issues like banding and a few soft looking shots, but overall this is a fairly good transfer.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis' DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is also very good, with a strong surround mix that captures the action well. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand even with the various explosions and fighting. The mix really kicks into gear once the film heads to Atlantis as that's when the surround speakers really deliver the action with accurate directionality and precision. Frederik Wiedmann's score is also well utilized and it blends with the dialogue and action well.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
These extras follow the same pattern as the previous DC Comic/Warners releases for the most part, which is ok with me although I always would like more. Here's what you will find on this disc:

  • Scoring Atlantis: The Sound of the Deep - Every great film needs a great musical score. Filled with emotion, music takes us on a dynamic journey as we adventure with the hero. Throne of Atlantis takes us on that quest through the eyes of Arthur Curry. I was a little surprised to learn that this thirty minute featurette was devoted solely to the film's score by Frederik Wiedmann. This is a great behind the scenes look at how Wiedmann came up with the score and how it was layered onto the film. 
  • Robin and Nightwing Bonus Sequence – Producer James Tucker provides video commentary for this exciting bonus sequence where Robin and Nightwing join forces. I'm glad that this was included as an extra, but I don't like how they did it. Instead of offering viewers two choices like usual - one with optional commentary from James Tucker before the clip and one without it, instead we are forced to watch the clip with Tucker talking over it the entire time and then the clip itself. This should have been separated or at least have Tucker talk without the clip playing in the background. I'd prefer the two options from the outset. Despite that, two of my favorite characters are Nightwing and Robin so I was happy to see some footage of just them.
  • Throne of Atlantis: 2014 New York Comic Con Panel – The entire, lively one-hour panel discussion between actor Matt Lanter, producer James Tucker, screenwriter Heath Corson, character designer Phil Bourassa and dialogue director Andrea Romano. This is your usual Comic-Con type of panel which is fairly superficial but gives you a glimpse into the movie being discussed and the people behind the effort.
  • Villains of the Deep – From Ocean Master to Black Manta to King Shark, each villain operates from his own deep sense of conviction, presenting an incredible challenge for the hero in Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman. This documentary goes into the biographical details of the villains. This featurette is pretty good and offers a nice overview of the villains. It's always good to see more Black Manta.
  • A Sneak Peak at Batman vs. Robin – An advance look at the next DC Universe Original Movie with the creators and cast. I always enjoy these sneak peeks into the upcoming movies and this one looks like it will be a good one. The Batman releases are always my favorite ones so I'm looking forward to it. 
  • Bonus cartoons from the DC Comics Vault - Another favorite extra of mine are these cartoon episodes in high definition. This time the following cartoons are included: "From Batman: The Brave and the Bold" we get "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure,""Evil Under the Sea," from the Aquaman show from the 70s we get "Menace of the Black Manta and The Rampaging Reptile-Man," and from the more recent "Justice League Unlimited" we get "Far from Home."
  • Isolated Score Track - This is a feature length isolated music track in Dolby Digital 2.0.
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)
Justice League: Throne of Atlantis is a fun movie that delivers on the action and humor that DC Comics fans have come to expect. The roles are very well cast and the Blu-ray offers some good video and audio quality and the extras are pretty good too. I hope there will be more Justice League movies down the road as it's always great to see the team together and we have a long way to go before we will see them on the big screen.

Order your copy today!

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