JLA Trapped in Time Review
So along with Justice League War there was another DC animated film released, but it got no marketing whatsoever; so much so that even the people working on it weren’t allowed to talk about it till about a week before its release. It was also only released in Target in America and not given a wide release, at the moment at least. It’s clearly a “how much money can we save vs. how much we’d earn” situation given they’ve spend no money on marketing, and less on the feature than a regular one. Regardless of all that hopefully this does well and they get to make more, because JLA: Trapped in Time was a really good animated feature.
This is what happens when you stick Superfriends, the 2000s Justice League cartoon, and a pinch of Batman Brave and the Bold, in a blender together. It definitely feels like an exceptionally good JL episode, but one that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s light-hearted, but never going too far into comedy territory, it has serious moments, but never gets “dark” or too serious for its own good. It’s got the right balance to mix and match both sides perfectly. Directed by Giancarlo Volpe (Green Lantern TAS) and written by Michael Ryan (Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated).
It starts off with Lex Luthor leading the Legion of Doom in a mad scheme to freeze more of the polar ice caps, raising the water levels and creating more land, which they will own. It’s a crazy plot that I’m not sure is more or less crazy then the live action movie Luthor plots. It naturally doesn’t work and Lex ends up getting frozen in ice for a 1000 years (
the spell can only be broken when the castle rises above the clouds wait, wrong show). He accidentally gets thawed out in a Superhero museum where he finds out Superman’s origin and gets a mystical artefact containing the Time Trapper. Which he uses to go back to gather his Legion of Doom and get them to alter the past so Superman never exists and therefore the Justice League never forms. Two not-quite-yet heroes, Karate Kid and Dawnstar, tag along to stop Luthor.
It gets sillier from there when half of the Legion and half of the League go back to when Kal-El first landed (leading to a “I’m not in Kansas” reversal joke) and they have to play keep away with the baby. It’s hilarious to watch, and poor Aquaman gets one moment “you fail” that’s just worse because he’s Aquaman.
The real stars of the piece are Karate Kid and Dawnstar. They get the most attention and development in this feature, which is a good thing. They’re two new characters for the audience, they aren’t ones we’ve had stories told about for decades in animation. They play off each other well and don’t take any action away from the League. All of the League gets something to do in this, even if some of it is minor. So the two future kids don’t end up stealing the show but end up adding to it and creating a much better story than if they weren’t there. Due to the run time and the two leads the League itself doesn’t get many character moments, but they still get things to do. It’s just not as much as other JL movies.
The League member that gets an actual arc, of sorts, is Robin. He’s there on missions but Batman refuses to let him do anything because “it’s too dangerous” and by the end he earns that trust and respect from Batman. It’s a small thing, but it helps give things a little more depth. It makes the League feel a little less perfect. There’s also a fun moment where Robin’s on monitor duty and gets bored and goes to buff up his stats on his social media games. I wish there was a lot more moments like that, because that was one of the problems with the short runtime. The lack of depth in most of the League was disappointing, they all have personalities but some of them are a bit one note. Flash is give a large appetite to joke about, Cyborg was given sports references to say, but they were only a few moments and not overused jokes.
The character designs were a bit weird and different than what we’re used to, but they’re hardly that much weirder than the overly muscular designs from Phil Bourassa. It might take some time to adjust to them but I liked them once that happened. This is probably one of my favourite designs for Wonder Woman. She looks great and I wish they’d use it in other things. The animation as well was great. With the lower budget and small release I expected it to look awful but it really doesn’t. The animation is as fluid as most modern shows and DTV’s, the action was as stand out as its bigger budget cousins.
There’s an interesting little thing that they’ve done with the time travel plot. As usual there’s paradoxes happening and time changing, but in this one it’s a little different. The Time Trapper gets to control what paradoxes gets erased and what he lets past. So he erases some people from history, but ignores others, and he decides it all. Things are left untouched because he didn’t will it to change. It wasn’t spelled out to the audience, but it’s in there if you look at it closely. It’s probably one of the few time travel plots that has a reason for these paradoxes existing.
It’s not perfect; it’s like a good episode of Justice League but not a standout great one, and also not the best of the DC movies. But it’s a very serviceable feature that is a fun watch. It’s also really good to get to fun DTV again that isn’t trying to earn a PG-13 rating by having lots of violence, death, and gore. There’s nothing wrong with that but getting it all the time is a little dull when the family friendly stories can be just as good, if not better, and they’re not being done. I’d recommend it and it is a good watch. If you’ve liked any of the DCAU shows then you’ll like this. I hope there are more of these made. Maybe if they cut out one of the three DC movies they do a year and make two of these a year. I don’t know if that’s possible but I’d definitely be down for more.