DC Animation’s new direct to DVD movie, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, focuses primarily on Aquaman discovering his heritage and joining the Justice League, but let’s face it: Nobody cares about Aquaman. His storyline was fine, albeit rather grim and grumpy. It was definitely odd to see DC Comics turning a corner in their comics with some new, lighter fare and then watch this movie that completely embodies the dark dourness of the early New 52. Directed by Ethan Spaulding and written by Heath Corson, the story is a tweaked version of “Throne of Atlantis”, a comic book crossover between Justice League and Aquaman, that throws in an origin story and a dead mother for the aquatic hero. It’s all about what you’d expect.
So let’s leave Aquaman behind and talk about the character everyone cares about. Or, at least, that I care about. Wonder Woman! While several voice actors reprise their roles from Justice League: War, Wonder Woman has a new actor behind her voice with Rosario Dawson replacing Michelle Monaghan. Dawson is decent in the role, thought she often slips into the formal, somewhat stilted delivery that a lot of actors go for when they play Wonder Woman. They hit the regalness a little too hard, and lose some of the humour and fun of the character. Dawson is a bit better at this than most, but she never really escapes it. Anyone who plays Wonder Woman in the future would be wise to listen to Susan Eisenberg in the Justice League animated show to hear how to find the perfect balance.
Wonder Woman is in an odd spot in the film, being the only woman on a team full of men. By the end of the film, she’s outnumbered on the Justice League by 8 to 1, and that’s not including the Justice League’s military liaison, Steve Trevor (who’s sporting a goatee for some reason). So what do the filmmakers do with the only woman on the team? They make her a romantic interest, of course.
Justice League: War hinted at some romantic feelings between Wonder Woman and Superman, and just like the comics it blossoms into full on romance. While a lot of the film deviates from the source material, the romance scenes are very reminiscent of their comic origins. Superman and Wonder Woman gaze out at the powerless masses and are brought together by their feeling that they don’t really fit in, and later on Clark shows Diana the wonders of using glasses as a disguise when they’re on a dinner date. Both scenes are cribbed from the comics.
There are additions, though. During said dinner date, Lois Lane stops by and has a staredown with Diana before settling in next to Clark in a very proprietary manner. The scene is a waste of two great female characters who would be better served doing pretty much anything else.
Once the action kicks into gear after Atlantis invades America, the romance fades into the background. Wonder Woman isn’t given a lot to do with the fighting. She takes out some sea creatures with her lasso, but then she’s one of several Justice League members struck down by the usurper king Orm when they visit Atlantis, and she spends the next chunk of the movie unconscious in a pod. Aquaman frees himself from his pod, then breaks out Superman, and they take down a giant sea creature together. Wonder Woman is freed only after the battle ends.
Wonder Woman does have one good moment in the final battle against Orm. He wields a trident that only Atlantean royalty can handle, and Wonder Woman’s attack on him and his powerful weapon is one of the few that has any real effect on him. She snags the trident with her lasso, and struggles mightily against all of its great power that is now working against her. Most people, even most heroes, would be instantly felled, but she toughs out it out for an impressive amount of time before Orm is able to regain control.
Wonder Woman’s limited screen time seems largely due to the presence of Mera, here presented as an Atlantean guard who protects Aquaman. She gets a lot of screen time, and is generally pretty awesome, busting up bad guys left and right with her cool water powers. But it looks like the filmmakers only had space for one kick ass lady hero, and so Wonder Woman got relegated to the background for a lot of the film.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Mera’s arc quickly turns to romance as well. In fact, all of the film’s major female characters were either involved in a romantic subplot or got killed over the course of the film. The movie really isn’t a great showcase for varied portrayals of female characters.
Overall, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis was only okay for me. It wasn’t a great outing for Wonder Woman, which is a serious strike against it, but Wonder Woman aside it was pretty standard, almost bland superhero fare. The twists were telegraphed, you knew how it would end as soon as it began, and it lacked the heart that a good Justice League movie needs; the team spent most of their time squabbling with each other instead of working together. It’s not the worst DC animated film, but they’ve made much better. Furthermore, everyone behind the scenes really needs to rethink how they approach female characters, and definitely add some more women to the Justice League. I mean, 1 in 9? That’s just ridiculous.