JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time Surprise Release | Fanboys Anonymous

JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time Surprise Release

Posted by Jeff Penner Tuesday, January 28, 2014
JLA: Trapped in Time is a direct-to-DVD release that came out this week to absolutely no fanfare and no huge marketing strategy. It seems DC and Warner Bros. think Beyonce was on to something when she stealthily released a new album without announcing it. This new DC heroes release also came as a surprise to most fanboys and girls when it hit shelves as a Target exclusive. This new "JLA"-labelled series is a soft reboot of DC's old Super Friends franchise (and it's obvious from the first few seconds of the opening credits, as the heroes and villains zoom towards each other in classic fashion).

Justice League Animated DVD cartoon
Justice League "Limited" vs. "The Select Members" of Doom.
The story is directed by Green Lantern: The Animated Series guru Giancarlo Volpe, who was asked to offer a more kid-friendly adventure for our heroes. The most recent DC offering, Justice League: War, features 80% action violence as well as a shot of Cyborg dropping an "S-Bomb" in a moment of panic. The films were getting "grittier," as Volpe puts it, and his original fear when asked to do this story was making it too kid-friendly. It was described that they wanted something much closer to his work on GL:TAS, which gave him relief and brings us a story of time travel and paradoxes.

And this is where the movie surprised me the most. In a film clearly put out there as a reaction to these more and more adult-oriented movies DC has been releasing, JLA: Trapped in Time starts with 20-30 punches to the face. Literally. If you watch the old Super Friends cartoons—which, again, this is a soft reboot of—one thing you will never see is any character punching any other character in the face. You're more likely to see Batman throw a batarang at a bucket, have that bucket scare a bird, then have that bird's flapping wing distract a villain to walk onto some marbles, making him fall onto his bum… defeated.

The movie opens with the above-mentioned credit sequence showing the heroes and villains racing towards each other, telling any veteran animation fan in no fewer words, "This is Super Friends 2014!!" The opening of the story jumps right in, with the Legion of Doom at the north or south pole accelerating glacial growth via some fancy satellites built by Captain Cold. Why the villains would want to be standing at ground zero at the beginning of their planet-altering plan is anyone's guess. In any case, the JLA appear, skip any chance at diplomacy—which they often attempted first in the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited cartoons, setting a positive example—and immediately begin punching faces. However, they do throw in a few classic Super Friends tropes. Superman vocalizes he could stop the villain "… if I could just reach him," and the opening sequence features the classic, "It's our only chance." These classic lines of dialogue always let the viewers know exactly how high the stakes were when the animation couldn't do it justice (pun intended).

The story of time travel takes me by surprise, especially if this is geared towards a younger audience. The main plot depends on the space-time continuum's hatred of paradoxes and its self-repair. It's hard for intelligent adults to get their heads around these stories, let alone a 5- to 7-year-old kid. Super Friends dealt with time travel in a much simpler way; The Flash would spin really fast while Superman shot him with his heat vision and they would all instantly go back in time and meet George Washington. Simple.

Justice League Batman Wonder Woman
"Can't I just spin the planet and fix everything?"
The story focuses on Karate Kid and Dawnstar from the Legion of Superheroes in the 31st century. The two accidentally set this adventure off when they allow modern-day Lex Luthor to get control of a omnipotent being called the Time Trapper (a recurring Legion villain). The two are played as the aspiring heroes, wanting to be accepted into Legion but not quite making the cut. The rest of the movie plays out as their chance to prove themselves.

Admittedly, some of the character choices are strong, albeit poorly chosen at times.

Superman barks orders. It's nice to see a strong, confident Man of Steel taking the lead and having his orders followed immediately. So many Superman stories use his self-doubt as a crutch; that is simply not the case here at all. However, if I were a kid and this was my first introduction to Superman, I definitely see his powers but I don't see any of his heart.

Batman (voiced by Diedrich Bader again, as he was on Batman: the Brave and the Bold) is way too overprotective of his sidekick Robin, treating him almost like a stray dog that he is stuck transporting across the country back to his real owners. He introduces us to their partnership by telling the Boy Wonder to "Stay put and don't touch anything."

Robin, the Boy Wonder reacts negatively towards Batman, his mentor and father figure. I personally have always loved the character of Robin and his aspiring to be as good as Batman himself. This version, however, carries a chip on his shoulder with an "I'll show you" attitude that he carries throughout the episode. The intention of the original sidekick, if we check our history books, was to inspire the young readers of these stories to aspire to greatness through inspiration, respect, and valour. This version seems to emote that grown-ups are stupid and anything they can do, we can do better. There is a good fight scene for Robin, though, as he holds his own against Karate Kid and Dawnstar (when he assumes they are intruders in the Hall of Justice).

Justice League Adventures animated series
Everybody on screen got a cape? Ok, good. Let's do this.
The Flash in this story mimics the Wally West version of the Animated Series genre; the more he runs, the more he eats. Always a fun character to watch, as he jokes when he can but when the chips are down, he shows us his stuff. In this story, after slamming down a plate of burgers fit for Jughead Jones-level stomach capacity, "Wally" (I'm assuming) single-handedly stops a volcano from destroying a city.

Green Lantern is not in this story, for reasons I don't fully understand but haven't cared enough, honestly, to look into.

Wonder Woman is presented as she always is now, ignorant but warrior-born and ready to fight.

Cyborg is still being pushed on us by DC, and here is he used as a souped-up Inspector Gadget, always having just what is needed at the time. Luckily, this version comes with no chips on his shoulders or bad attitudes, so I actually liked him.

Aquaman is absolutely useless in this movie. While I'm usually a big supporter of his, I can't help but notice that he managed to save just a single boat during the story's ultimate crisis. However, it was labelled—and designed after—the Starship Yamato, so it was a welcome addition. I was waiting for them to fire up the wave motion cannon and save the day!
Star Blazers Battleship Yamamoto Aquaman

Overall, the movie was very epic by the end of the story, though I found it focused very highly on Karate Kid and Dawnstar for a DVD cover featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman so prominently. I would be open to seeing more in the series, as I think it would be nice to highlight other characters. (Give Aquaman something, please.)

So, did any of you run out and pick this up like I did? What are your thoughts on it being a soft reboot of Super Friends? How did they do?


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