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Justice League: The Parthenon paradox

Those of you who have been following this blog for some time must have figured out a few things about me:

  • First, I have a particular interest in the archaeology of Greece and Athens in particular (call it a professional vice)
  • Secondly, I have very high standards when it comes to the reconstruction and the rendering of ancient monuments.
  • And last but not least, I am a fan of science fiction and all things nerdy.

A film on YouTube

That’s why I was thrilled when, a few days ago, I was watching scenes from the DC animated movie Justice League Throne of Atlantis on YouTube; there, in one of the scenes, I saw something familiar – very familiar.

It was the Acropolis.

Yes, the rocky hill of Acropolis with the Parthenon highlighted in soft blue light and the silhouettes of the other monuments clearly visible. The view was from the south-west and everything seemed right, at a first glance.

Things became even more interesting when I saw that the site had an illustrious visitor: Wonder Woman, the Amazon warrior of Themyscira[1] was there, well past opening hours. I wonder if she simply wished to avoid the crowds, or perhaps the Athenians themselves, knowing that last time the Amazons came to Athens they suffered an ignominious defeat.

Justice-League-Parthenon-Wonder-Woman

I became even more intrigued when I saw that she was standing on the Parthenon itself. Being an archeologist, a tourist guide and an Athenian to boot, I could tell right away exactly where she stood: on the southern corner of the east pediment of the temple; notice the broken bit of acroterion [2]  to her left.

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She was enjoying the moonlit cityscape of lower Athens and a fabulous full moon setting in the distance over the Saronic Gulf.

Then enters Superman. The man of steel lands smoothly next to his fellow superhero.

Justice-League-Parthenon-Wonder-Woman-Superman

By then I was hooked. Two of the founding members of Justice League in my city, in a movie titled Throne of Atlantis! What would come next? Batman coming out from between the Parthenon’s columns? Or perhaps a scene full of action on the island of Santorini, a place believed to have sparked the myth of Atlantis?

Well, unfortunately, nothing that dramatic and Greek-centered followed. This particular scene ended with the two superheroes kissing, while hovering above the Parthenon.

Justice-League-Parthenon-Wonder-Woman-Superman-kiss

Okay, let me correct myself  – Kal El kissing Diana, princess of the Amazons, above Athens under the full moon is certainly a great deal more than “nothing;” but forgive me if I expected a little more in the way of action.

My big mistake

Then I made the mistake of watching this particular scene again. And I say mistake because Aristotle the Archeologist took over from the Aristotle the Nerd. And all the mistakes and the inconsistencies of the scene suddenly became apparent to me.

The first panoramic image of the Acropolis from the south was almost correct. But the devil is in the details. The site is usually lit the whole night – not only the Parthenon, but all the other monuments of the Acropolis are awash in light. This time only the Parthenon was lit, leaving the rest of the monuments in the dark. Perhaps there was a power failure somewhere. There was something not quite right about the Propylaia too, while the monument of Agrippa was nowhere to be seen.

Woe for the Doric order

But what made my eyes nearly pop out of their sockets with astonishment was seeing how the Parthenon was rendered. The scale was all wrong. The columns were shown thinner than they are and, judging by the size of Wonder Woman, the pediment too small to fit the larger-than-life statues that actually were there.

The details of the Doric order were all wrong too – the metopes (plaques bearing reliefs) and the triglyphs (the vertical elements between the plaques) were neither the right size nor where they ought to be, messing entirely the geometrical precision of Greek temples.

Collonnade to Heaven?

In the scene that shows the couple taking off from the Parthenon, the image is a pastiche of different views of the Acropolis and the Parthenon, combined. But that is not all: by far the worst eyesore is that the Parthenon has sprung a new colonnade (two columns only) jutting out from the rest of the building almost over the edge of the Acropolis, for no apparent reason.

Just a little respect

The Athens scene lasted for a couple of minutes and the Acropolis was just a backdrop for Wonder Woman and Superman. But since the makers of the film chose Athens and the Acropolis, shouldn’t they have paid more attention to the details, especially since information and depictions of the Parthenon are easily accessible? I expected more from DC comics and its artists. After all, they wouldn’t show the White House with a dome, like the Capitol, would they?

My point is that they should show the same respect for every monument and not just the ones American audiences are familiar with.

Some credit too

To give the movie its due, it is not about ancient ruins and archaeological sites, but about action and adventure. Its main theme is the Justice League and its members, the personal struggle of Aquaman and the conflict between Atlantis and the surface dwellers. And it is very good at that.

And, to be honest, I liked the fact that these two iconic figures had their first romantic moment in Athens, of all places.

If only they had got their columns right…

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[1] Corresponding to Themiscyra, the mythical kingdom of the Amazons; I wonder if the different spelling was a mistake or done in purpose to avoid getting into trouble with the Amazons over intellectual property rights …

[2] Simply put, acroteria are the decorative elements at the top and sides of a pediment.

 

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2 comments on “Justice League: The Parthenon paradox

  1. You are a nerd.

    The Parthenon does look funny in the cartoon. This would have bothered me, too.

    Years ago when Marvel Comics had Firestorm based in Pittsburgh, one issue had a small panel showing the city’s Golden Triangle–the most photographed part of the city–and it was completely wrong. The then editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, was FROM Pittsburgh!

    Hollywood calls this “artistic license.”

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