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JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time DVD Review

JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time

DVD Release Date: May 20, 2014 (Target exclusive: January 14, 2014) / Running Time: 53 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director/Producer: Giancarlo Volpe / Writer: Michael Ryan

Voice Cast: Diedrich Bader (Batman, Narrator), Laura Bailey (Dawnstar), Dante Basco (Karate Kid/Val Armorr), Corey Burton (Time Trapper, Captain Cold), Grey DeLisle Griffin (Wonder Woman, Superbaby), Jack DeSena (Robin), Michael David Donovan (Bizarro), Tom Gibis (Toyman, Pa Kent), Peter Jessop (Superman), Erica Luttrell (Cheetah, Ma Kent), Liam O'Brien (Aquaman, Batwing Computer), Kevin Michael Richardson (Black Manta, Solomon Grundy), Jason Spisak (Flash, Taxi Driver), Fred Tatasciore (Lex Luthor), Avery Kidd Waddell (Cyborg), Travis Willingham (Gorilla Grodd)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai)
Subtitles: English, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai; Not Closed Captioned
Bonus Episodes Subtitled in Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time from Amazon: DVD Instant Video

Like their chief rival Marvel, DC Comics has an extensive reach in the world of entertainment. The company, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, has something for every medium and every demographic.
It's almost impossible to think of a product that could withstand DC branding and hasn't already been subjected to it. Even if like me, you can't remember buying or reading a single superhero comic, you know these characters from their countless applications in film, television and miscellaneous merchandise.

The Justice League of America has long been itching for feature film treatment, especially after Marvel's The Avengers showed just how big a movie pooling iconic personalities could be. The Justice League incorporates some of DC's oldest and most beloved heroes, starting with Batman and Superman, whose 2016 big screen teaming is already the stuff of regular press coverage. A full Justice League movie remains a dream at this point, but in the meantime DC and parent company Warner Bros. Entertainment have given us no shortage of animation featuring a team that also includes Wonder Woman, Flash, Robin, Aquaman, and Cyborg.

The Justice League's big three (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman) view their time-traveling intruders with understandable suspicion. Lex Luthor uses the Time Trapper to rid the world of the Justice League.

Based on its title alone, JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time seems to come from a very specific place, but in fact this direct-to-video movie appears to be a standalone production, not adapted from a television series or following a specific effort. That's surprising, given that this 53-minute feature throws you into action, with no introduction to its characters for those not versed in the JLA.

It isn't hard to follow what's going on, as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Aquaman break into groups and do battle with members of the Legion of Doom, including Lex Luthor, Cheetah, Bizarro, and Solomon Grundy. Fists fly along with in-fight one-liners.

We then jump to the 31st century, where young, headstrong Val Armorr, or as he prefers to be known, Karate Kid, is sure he's ready to be a superhero. His fellow trainee, Dawnstar, is a little more patient. At a museum of superheroes, Karate Kid inadvertently breaks the ice holding and preserving Lex Luthor, a popular display since its discovery in 2856. A small crack is enough to free Superman's mortal nemesis, who with the services of Time Trapper travels back in time.

Unbeknownst to Lex, Karate Kid and Dawnstar are right behind him, journeying to the early 21st century as well. Newly equipped with knowledge of Superman's origins, Lex reunites with his old gang and shares his plan to use Time Trapper to prevent the kindly Kents from adopting young Kal-El back in Smallville, Kansas. Meanwhile, Karate Kid and Dawnstar break into the Justice League headquarters and warn the gang of what they're up against. There's not much that can be done; before long, Time Trapper's actions have banished all the members of the JLA to ether, requiring the two up-and-comers to try to save the day.

Solomon Grundy, Cheetah, and Bizarro abduct baby Superman before the Kents can adopt him. Karate Kid and Dawnstar get a chance to prove they're ready for superherodom, with the JLA's fate in their hands.

Though Wikipedia lists Trapped in Time and the recent Son of Batman in the same section of Feature-Length Animated Films based on DC Comics,
the two are considerably different in composition. Son of Batman hails from the PG-13 direct-to-video line that Superman: Doomsday kicked off in 2007. Trapped in Time is a far gentler presentation. Not rated, it is clearly a kid-friendly movie, boasting obvious oration and a gift-wrapped moral.

With its straightforward good vs. evil action, the weightless Trapped in Time is an hour of Saturday morning cartoons masquerading as something more (the cover going so far as to add "Original Movie" as a secondary subtitle). It's maybe a little better than two random half-hour episodes, but I'm not qualified to make that judgment, with this review being the first time in a very long time that I watched animation on a Saturday morning.

You know that no one is in any real danger here. The comedy is kind of corny and decidedly mild. Flash has a big appetite. Bizarro speaks in opposites. The most flavorful exchange, in which Karate Kid and Dawnstar get a ride from an Indian cabbie, ends with a gag clearly lifted from Caddyshack.

A fast and easy viewing, Trapped in Time sets up a sequel with a coy twist ending. You can't even be bothered by that move. This may not be overflowing with creativity or excitement, but then are the superhero shows you grew up with when you revisit them in adulthood?

Trapped in Time premiered on DVD in a Target-exclusive release last January. That same disc came to general retail earlier this week.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Warner doesn't treat this lesser effort to one of the Blu-ray combo packs they give their PG-13 DC Comics movies. Even within the confines of standard definition, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks a bit lackluster. Edge enhancement produces ringing around lines of the unremarkable 2D animation with compression pushed further than necessary, given the brevity of the feature. The studio also doesn't bother with 5.1-channel sound. Trapped in Time settles for a Dolby 2.0 surround track that makes little impression, good or bad. Clearly, the presentation feels more comparable to television than film.

Little Superman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman get a thumbs-up from a fully-grown Batman in "The All-New Super Friends Hour" episode "The Mysterious Time Creatures." George Washington takes a break from crossing the Delaware to have his Continental Army arrest Wonder Woman in the 1980 bonus episode "Super Friends: Elevator to Nowhere."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

With no bonus features directly related to the movie, the DVD easily could have gone the barebones route. Instead, it wonderfully includes two Hanna-Barbera cartoon episodes "from the DC Comics Vault." As an added bonus, these blasts from the past haven't been picked at random.

They not only feature a number of iconic characters from the movie, but also some thematic relevance.

From the second season of "The All-New Super Friends Hour" comes "The Mysterious Time Creatures" (23:06; originally aired September 17, 1977). In it, the Super Friends (Batman, Robin, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Wonder Twins) rescue a scientist and try to thwart the plot of the evil Dictor and his Time Medallion.

What the menu calls a Season 5 episode of "Super Friends", the short "Elevator to Nowhere" (8:41; originally aired September 27, 1980) sees Wonder Woman and Atom travel through Dr. Wells' time elevator to Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River, the time of Blackbeard, and prehistory.

A trailers page promotes Tom and Jerry DVDs, "Beware the Batman", Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure, "Teen Titans Go!", and The LEGO Movie. The disc opens with menu-inaccessible ads for Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery and LEGO Legends of Chima Online.

The static main menu attaches the opening theme score to a wider rendering of the cover art. Submenus are silent, barren, and teal.

A slipcover reproducing the same artwork below tops the black Eco-Box keepcase. The blue on silver disc art repositions the cover's Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman images to fit around the hole.

Right before the title logo for "JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time", we get this nice shot defining the two sides at war around the Time Trapper.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time does not produce a strong reaction. This light, brisk, kid-oriented cartoon is diverting enough but certain to be soon forgotten. Warner's DVD gains value from the inclusion of two vintage Super Friends episodes. While it all feels too insubstantial to warrant occupying half an inch of shelf space, I have little doubt that many people will derive enough enjoyment from this platter to disagree.

Buy JLA Adventures: Trapped in Time from Amazon: DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed May 24, 2014.



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