The film seems to be made in a similar vein to Teen Titans Go! It’s done in a rather silly, cartoony style, with a healthy dose of self-awareness when it comes to the world of the film and its conventions, and how ridiculous they seem at times. Taken in that spirit, there’s plenty of fun and a fair amount of humor to be had throughout. On the other hand, it’s difficult to sustain that kind of energy for that amount of time.
We open with Aquaman (Cooper Andrews) having just defeated his half-brother, Ocean Master (Dana Snyder), and taking his rightful place on the throne of Atlantis. Born and raised on the surface, he still has a lot to learn about Atlantis and how it works, but with his girlfriend Mera by his side, not to mention his trusted but pedantic advisor, Vulko, hopefully, he’ll get the hang of things pretty soon and win the hearts of the rather apathetic Atlanteans.
Mera (Gillian Jacobs) has hydrokinetic powers (i.e., she can control water). In the context of this film, that basically makes her an Atlantean Green Lantern, using water instead of light. Mera can manipulate water into absolutely any form, including a variety of weapons, tools, and more. Vulko (Thomas Lennon) is much less useful, but he’s loyal and sincere, and that’s what counts.
But first thing's first: Before Aquaman can get to ruling his new kingdom, the day needs saving in a number of different ways, and only the King of Atlantis can do what needs to be done. First up, Aquaman and Mera go looking for an Atlantean outpost that’s mysteriously gone missing. When they get there, they find that the waters have literally been parted, and past a certain point, the ocean floor has become dry as a desert. So now, their job becomes not just to rescue the lost outpost, but also to get the ocean back where it belongs.
No sooner do they return from this adventure than they must immediately go out on another one. It seems Ocean Master has escaped once again and stolen Aquaman’s royal trident. Aquaman and Mera need to retrieve it and hopefully capture Ocean Master in the process, so he can go to jail and quit bothering them. Along the way, however, they come across a living island who may just pose a far bigger threat than Ocean Master ever could.
Finally, for their third adventure, Aquaman and Mera must deal with a mass jailbreak from the Atlantean prison, followed by a villain in a mechanical suit with enough power to rip the world in half. And through all three adventures, Aquaman must also deal with Ocean Master continually escaping and trying to reclaim the throne, as well as a bunch of subjects who don’t seem all that enthused by Aquaman or his abilities as a leader.
There seems to be a bit of incongruity on that front, in fact. In the first chapter, several people pointed out that at least Aquaman isn’t as bad as Ocean Master, who was a tyrant and literal villain who oppressed Atlantis for years; however, in the second and third chapters, suddenly the Atlanteans all like Ocean Master and even cheer for him, as they continue to be unimpressed with anything Aquaman says or does. It’s a bit jarring. But then, if you’re looking for logic and consistency, you’re definitely watching the wrong movie—as the characters in it will likely be the first to tell you.
I definitely recommend watching the movie a chapter at a time, rather than all at once. Even at that, though, it goes on a little long at times. I compared the film earlier to Teen Titans Go!; however, it should be noted, most of their individual episodes were 11 minutes long. Each of the three chapters in Aquaman: King of Atlantis is about 45 minutes. This includes a fair amount of tangents and sidetracks in each one, not to mention some absurdly long fight scenes. By the end of one of them, I had actually forgotten why they were fighting in the first place.
To be honest, I was fairly underwhelmed with this movie in general. It wasn’t bad, but when it comes to combining silly, cartoony self-awareness with high-stakes superhero action, I much prefer Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans. I was also more than a little disappointed that, unlike most other DC animated movies, this DVD doesn’t have any special features on it at all. Whenever I review one of these movies, one of the highlights is always seeing the featurettes, previews of coming attractions, episodes of old DC animated shows, etc. Aquaman has nothing. But I digress.
In fairness, I’m not really the target audience for this movie. It’s very much aimed at young kids (middle school or younger), and young kids will probably like it. The humor can get a little juvenile sometimes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There’s definite fun to be had here, and a healthy dose of silliness.
All in all, while I think it works better as a mini-series, this is still a fun movie, and if you’re looking for a bit of cartoon silliness with your superheroes, Aquaman: King of Atlantis is not a bad choice. But do yourself a favor and also watch Teen Titans Go! Vs. Teen Titans, if you can. The same basic vibe, in a much more satisfying package. And its Blu-ray has the decency to come with special features.
Creative Team: Victor Courtright (story), Marly Halpern-Graser (story and teleplay), Bryan Condon (teleplay), Keith Pakiz (director)
Released By: HBO Max, Warner Brothers Animation
Stream on HBO Max or click here to purchase.