I had the opportunity to watch the JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time animated film the other night. It’s a straight-to-video release directed by Giancarlo Volpe (best known in DC fandom for Green Lantern: the Animated Series), and is aimed at a younger audience than such films as The Flashpoint Paradox. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the extreme violence in some of DC’s major animated releases.
Overall, I rather enjoyed Trapped in Time, which was surprisingly fun. There were some plot points glossed over and a bit of kid-oriented humour which didn’t appeal to me, but I’m not the primary audience. And frankly it’s a good thing to produce series (whether animated programs or comic books) that are more suited to children — in the era of a shrinking industry, comics could use some new fans.
Slight spoilers after the cut.
The story involves the Legion of Doom (including Gorilla Grodd and Captain Cold), the Justice League (with the Flash), as well as the Time Trapper, Dawnstar, and Karate Kid. It’s a very plot-heavy story, which is both good and bad; you can’t say nothing happens, but at times certain elements of the plot are hand-waved away to drive the story along. Flash fans might be a bit disappointed to hear that he doesn’t do a whole lot, and neither do the Flash villains, but this clearly isn’t their story. The focus is strongly on the Legion characters and Lex Luthor, with Superman taking the Justice League’s spotlight.
(As a side note, the Flash’s civilian identity isn’t established in the film, and the creators said that was deliberate so people could decide it for themselves. He’s a bit more like Wally than Barry, though.)
It was an interesting choice to feature the Legion characters so heavily, but it helps to add ethnic diversity to the cast and provide youthful characters for kids to relate to. Dawnstar and Karate Kid are pushed to grow from flawed failed Legionnaires into resourceful heroes, and they do so rather well. There’s a slight sour note to the diversity, though: I cringed upon hearing the Indian cab driver’s stereotypical accent, which was not voiced by an Indian actor and veers towards offensiveness. It’s a rare misstep in a film that otherwise handles diversity fairly well.
The film is definitely aimed towards a younger audience. There’s some slapstick humour (the scene with Cheetah and Solomon Grundy pretending to be baby Kal-El’s real parents is pretty odd, but actually kind of funny) and several goofy members of the Legion of Doom. And the animation style is a bit more cartoonish than, say, Justice League: War. But there’s plenty of action, and I daresay that my over-protective mother wouldn’t approve of kids watching some of the violence in the film. My mother’s a bit of an anomaly, but parents might want to judge for themselves before allowing children to watch it. Certainly it shouldn’t be too much for older children, but might be a bit rough (and occasionally scary) for younger kids.
I thought the film was enjoyable and worth watching. It’s not as mature as films like Flashpoint Paradox, but is a nice break from the violence and death that’s often in DC’s animated movies. It could also have used more Flash-centric characters, but that’s hardly an uncommon problem in DC’s media properties. All in all, it’s probably worth buying if you have an older child or are personally weary of the grimmer DC films.