Director: Giancarlo Volpe
Cast: Diedrich Bader, Laura Bailey, Dante Basco, Corey Burton
Watch JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
On Sunday mornings, we like to watch superheroes, and one of the best places to catch comic book cartoons is Amazon Prime Video. So we’re working our way through Amazon’s collection of DC animation. We call it Superhero Sundays.
Directed by Giancarlo Volpe, this 2014 animated Justice League adventure plays like an affectionate tribute to the old Super Friends cartoons, which turns out to be both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, it delivers plenty of fun superhero action, but on the other, it’s annoyingly nonsensical and undermined by a lack of focus on the key characters.
The film opens with Lex Luthor (Fred Tatasciore, best known for voicing the Hulk) and the Legion of Doom (Gorilla Grodd, Captain Cold, Bizarro, Black Manta, Cheetah and Solomon Grundy) enacting a dastardly plot to increase the polar ice caps. They’re stopped by the timely intervention of the Justice League of America, but in the ensuing fight, Lex ends up frozen in the ice, only to be reawakened nearly a thousand years later, in a 31st century museum dedicated to the JLA and their foes.
As luck would have it, the museum also houses a time travelling being called the Time Trapper (Corey Burton, usually the voice of Brainiac), so Lex frees him from captivity and returns to the present day, where he intends to use time travel to prevent Superman’s origin story from ever taking place. However, he’s reckoned without teenage superheroes-in-training Dawnstar (Laura Bailey) and Karate Kid (Dante Basco), who jump through the Time Trapper’s portal before it closes and attempt to warn the JLA of Luthor’s plans.
A veteran of shows such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Avatar: The Last Airbender, Volpe clearly knows his way around an animated action sequence and the opening scenes are a lot of fun, with each character (heroes and villains alike) showcasing their abilities to winning effect. In addition, Volpe pulls off the film’s undisputed highlight, a tag-team game of football with an infant Superbaby as the ball, as a sent-back-in-time Flash (Jason Spisak), Aquaman (Liam O’Brien) and Cyborg (Avery Kidd Waddell) battle Cheetah (Erica Luttrell), Solomon Grundy (Kevin Michael Richardson) and Bizarro (Michael David Donovan) for possession of a newly-landed Baby Kal-El.
It’s a lot of fun to see the Legion of Doom in action (particularly if you ever watched Super Friends, or are a fan of The CW’s live-action DC superhero shows) and there’s some amusing comic relief from the double-act of dim-witted villains Solomon Grundy and Bizarro. Curiously, the film also winds up destroying the exact same Washington icons as got totalled in the animated Wonder Woman movie, with Grundy using the Washington Monument to smash up the Lincoln Memorial. Is that, like, a thing? Grundy practically winks to the camera after he does it, so maybe it is.
The main problem is that the film never fulfils the potential of its inspired idea, settling for the knockabout comedy of the Superbaby bit, rather than, say, having each Legion member target the origin story of each JLA member. Admittedly, the outcome of the plot is pleasingly dark, but it ends up side-lining the JLA in their own adventure – as a result, at least half the film is given over to Dawnstar and Karate Kid, which isn’t exactly what was promised in the synopsis. On top of that, no one has really thought through the time paradox stuff, because surely, without Superman around, the world would flat-out end given the amount of times he’s saved everyone?
The animation has its own distinctive look, lacking the gorgeous lines (and more accomplished voice work) of the Bruce Timm Justice League cartoons, but still appealing in its own way, with an odd mix of old and new-style costumes.
JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
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