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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

JLA: Trapped in Time

It's the Justice League of America vs. The Legion of Doom! This is...JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time!

We first mentioned this brand-new, United States Target-exclusive animated movie a few weeks ago, and now the Shrine has had a chance to see it. So let's dig in!

JLA: Trapped in Time wears its love and inspiration from the Super Friends (and Challenge of the Super Friends, specifically) on its sleeve, with an opening that recreates that classic heroes-and-villains-running-at-each-at-full-speed intro but with a modern sheen: Superman! Batman! Robin! Wonder Woman! Aquaman! Flash! Cyborg! Dawnstar! Karate Kid! Wait, what?
Yes, as the title suggests, this is a time travel story. I'm not going to give away any plot points, other than to say this story involves the Justice League (featuring a slightly redesigned Aquaman, seen above--I'd like two tickets to the Gun Show, please!) teaming up with two young heroes who are in training to join the Legion of Superheroes, Karate Kid and Dawnstar.

Our two, young, Wonder Twin-ish charges accidentally free a frozen-in-ice Lex Luthor, who enlists longtime Legion baddie The Time Trapper to change history and prevent Superman and, subsequently, the Justice League, from ever existing. Involved in this plot are Legion of Doom stalwarts Black Manta (yessss!), Gorilla Grodd, Toyman, The Cheetah, Bizarro, Solomon Grundy, and Captain Cold, all of whom get to square off against our heroes.
On the Aquaman front, the Sea King (voiced by Liam O'Brian) gets a good amount to do--brief but fun fights with Black Manta and Cheetah, plus a classic moment where he uses his telepathic powers to summon one of his finny friends. After being so unceremoniously dumped from almost all of the previous DC/WB animated movies, it's great to see him as a main part of the team here.

The movie's story focuses mostly on Karate Kid and Dawnstar, so how much you'll like this movie will depend on your fondness for those Legion characters. They are well done here, with some good gag lines highlighting their unfamiliarity with the past (like when they take a cab, but have no money to pay for it). And they are involved in the film's cliffhanger ending, which suggests that there will be a Part 2 to this story!

And let me say, I sure hope there is! I found JLA: Trapped in Time to be completely delightful, free from all the grim baggage that (IMO) have weighed down other animated efforts aimed at an older audience. This is a flat out modern day episode of Challenge of the Super Friends, with plenty of action, some nice bits of characterization, and some genuinely funny moments (Bizarro's decision what to do with stolen money, Grundy and Cheetah's attempt to appear as a real Corn Fed American Farm Family, etc.). And at a brisk 52 minutes, it moves at a Barry Allen-esque pace.

As we mentioned in the previous post, this is being done as a "stealth release", which means there's little to no advertising to let people know this exists. So if you're a fan of the Super Friends, pick up a copy of this film in your local Target store (for some reason, it's not even available on Target.com) and let WB/DC know we want to see more of these!

One final note about this movie: one of my favorite bits is in the end credits, where every character gets a "created by" credit:
I think this is the first time Paul Norris has ever been credited for his (co-)creation of the Sea King outside a comic book, and it made this Aquaman fan quite happy.

Seriously: if you're a miserable old codger comic book fan like I am, endlessly bitching that "comics were better in the old days", then pick JLA: Trapped in Time up, and see if it doesn't make you relive those long ago days when the Super Friends was a Saturday Morning staple.


David J. Cutler said...

I loved this movie. Loved it. Can't say enough good things.

Being that it was an unadvertised Target exclusive I kind of expected budget animation, but it was beautifully made! Loved the Superfriends feel and the inclusion of Karate Kid and Dawnstar to diversify things a little for a modern audience. I hope this makes it into the DVD players of as many people (especially kids) as possible.

Earth 2 Chris said...

I'm going to have to trek to the big city and stop by a Target this weekend. Weather be damned!


Jorge PR said...

Thanks for this, Rob! Definitely it's nice to see Arthur as part of the main group again. I was really afraid they'd leave him out "for a change".
Even when I like GL, especially Hal Jordan, it's nice to see he -or another member of the JL for the matter- was the one out instead of Arthur.

MetropolisKid41 said...

I loved it, I've watched it 3 or 4 times now and it's just a blast. It has that innocence and fun of Super Friends, mixed with the stronger plot and characterization of the Batman Brave and the Bold cartoon (it was also great hearing Bader reprise his role as the Caped Crusader). It was pretty much the perfect balance of story telling, characterization, and action all wrapped up in one fun adventure. I really wish DC put out mainline super hero comics that had this same feel and aesthetic.

I really hope this gets the support it needs to see a sequel made.

-Kyle Benning

Jorge PR said...

Karate Kid looks like a young, modern version of the Super Friend Samurai.

Unknown said...

Based on this review...I picked it up today, and will be watching when I get home from work tonight!

Unknown said...

how much $$$ at target?

Designer Daddy said...

My 4 yo loved it — we've watched it several times already. Aquaman has a younger, very kick-ass feel. And I like this version of his costume.

Favorite scene is where he cuts Manta's gun in half in slo-mo!

Also a quick cameo by some other Superfriends sidekicks...

Bleak said...

Can't get this up here so I had to watch it online. Aquaman doesn't do much but it's still one of the most enjoyable animated DC features I've seen in a while.

Russell said...

I really liked it, too. And I *really* liked that Dawnstar got a creator's credit (Paul Levitz & Mike Grell), but was surprised that Karate Kid didn't...he was clearly created by Jim Shooter, so I don't know why he wouldn't get one.

And how about we start a movement to get a Robin: Created by Bill Finger credit out there? :-)

Earth 2 Chris said...

^It could be that Dawnstar was created during Jennette Khan's reign, when DC began creator participation, whereas Karate Kid started in the Silver Age, and for some reason, very few Silver Age characters get "created by" credits.

Robin's origins are a bit trickier. You have Finger, Kane, Robinson and I think even Sheldon Moldoff claiming some amount of input into his origins. I say just list them all.


BBNETMAN said...

This is awesome and a surprise! It shows in stock at my local Target! My sons and I would go right now to get it if the store was not closed for the night!

Joseph Brian Scott said...

Really enjoyed it too; the best "episode" of the Super Friends I've ever seen. It moves along, isn't overly complex but also doesn't seem dumb. A good job was done of creating something appropriate for younger viewers without making it juvenile.

A revival of the Super Friends tv series with this kind of treatment would have a better chance of holding a younger audience than even something like Young Justice, which I think was maybe handicapped a little bit by being too densely plotted.

The sequence in the corn field with the baby carriage was like a Bugs Bunny routine with superheroes, and yet it worked! I was laughing, not cringing.

Craig said...

Sounds great! (But when will DC finally man up, and give Batman the "Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger" credit that has always been needed?)

Darrin and Ruth said...

Bought this when it was first released as a Target exclusive and enjoyed it. Good family oriented fun. I hope to see more of these specials.