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Western Animation / JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time

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JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time is a direct-to-DVD animated film set in the DC Universe. The film features the Justice League of America attempting to Set Right What Once Went Wrong after Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom travel back in time and prevent Superman from ever existing. Partnered with Robin, as well as Dawnstar and Karate Kid from the Legion of Super-Heroes, the remaining Leaguers are forced to travel through time and rescue their comrades. It was produced and directed by Giancarlo Volpe, who also worked on Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

Set in its own self-contained Alternate Continuity, the film is a bit of an oddity since it wasn't released under the current standard DC Universe Animated Original Movies label. Instead, it was a store-exclusive item for the retail chain Target, at least for a few months until Warner Brothers gave it a wider release. Also unusually for DC animated films, it was only announced a month before it was released, making it sort of a stealth project. It came out the same month as Justice League: War, which is part of the label and got way more publicity at the time for beginning a series of New 52-based adaptations. The two DC films were noted for wildly contrasting tones; while War goes for a darker vibe, this is more like a modern Super Friends.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Karate Kid, voiced by Dante Basco, is essentially Zuko in the DCU, right down to the ponytail, personality, and rivalry with a character with Sokka's VA.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie takes elements from the classic continuity, as well as the New 52 (mainly Superman's costume and the inclusion of Cyborg) and Super Friends. (In fact, Cyborg's first tenure on the League was during the final iteration of the Superfriends show, bringing things full circle.)
  • Adaptational Badass: Dawnstar gets some impressive light powers to fill out her comics powerset, which was limited to tracking and flight. And while the the Time Trapper was always a major powerhouse, he's treated like a Lovecraftian horror here, a Shout-Out to the Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen Legion run, where he was in his Entropy Personified incarnation.
  • Adapted Out: Green Lantern. Volpe claims that in his head, the film takes place during the events of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, where Hal Jordan was off in space.
  • All-Loving Hero:
    • Superman, as per the norm. When he hears Lex has gone missing (and is presumed dead) his first instinct is to organize a search and rescue.
    • Dawnstar, she uses her light based magic to bless kittens she rescues from trees.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Dawnstar and Karate Kid return to their own time, only to find that the statue of Superman has been replaced with a statue of Lex Luthor. They then use the hourglass to travel back in time and fix things.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Although not your typical loner, Karate Kid certainly qualifies. It's his arrogance that causes the trouble in the first place, and it's a major character flaw he eventually learns to overcome by the end of the movie.
  • Aura Vision: One of Karate Kid's powers, to see a person's or object's ki and determine its weakest point.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: The trope namer can't, but Toyman can.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Lex Luthor assumes he has full control over Time Trapper and his powers but is proven dead wrong, with Time Trapper getting the last laugh over him and assuming the mantle of the true Big Bad in the movie.
  • Bond One-Liner: "Times up!" *punch*
  • Book Ends: Just as Dawnstar and Karate Kid were responsible for Lex Luthor being freed in the future and his enslavement of the Time Trapper to take him to the past, so too were they the instrument of their defeat; they went back to the Arctic and thawed out Present!Lex, thus allowing the Time Trapper to undo Future!Lex, and Karate Kid was the one to see Time Trapper was a being made of Dark Matter, allowing Dawnstar to use her light energy to kickstart the Trapper's defeat, undoing two mistakes at nearly the same time and allowing them to return to the future with the Time Trapper's hourglass.
  • Casting Gag:
  • Deadpan Snarker: Robin.
  • Enemy Mine: Averted; Karate Kid attempts to form an alliance with Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, and Black Manta at one point due to common interests, but the villains won't have any of it.
  • Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: The Legion of Doom seems to have a stronger bond here than most versions. Cheetah flat-out tells Luthor that they were lost without him.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The Time Trapper's main motivation seems to be to destroy everything, without much explanation given. He's eventually revealed to be living Dark Matter, with no actual emotions beyond the desire to spread and consume.
  • Harmless Freezing: Lex survives 1000 years in an iceberg no worse for wear. Curiously enough, he seems actually in worse shape when he is thawed hours after being frozen.
  • Here We Go Again!: When Dawnstar and Karate Kid return to their own time, they find a statue of Lex Luthor where the Superman one had previously stood, and so return to the past to correct this as the film ends.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Time Trapper is in human shape, but looks more along the lines of a corpse, appears to be able to do some amount of alteration to the environment, and is entirely made of Dark Matter.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Flash - for not stopping to actually check to see if he really did have the infant Superman before catching up with the Kents - who were frightened out of their minds to have a Toyman baby instead.
  • The Fool: Many, including Bizzaro, Grundy and the Toyman.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Bizzaro.
  • Insufferable Genius: Gorilla Grodd. He almost can't speak a sentence without mentioning his "superior intellect".
  • Kid-Appeal Character: According to Word of God, Lynell Forrestal suggested adding Karate Kid and Dawnstar to the cast to offset the number of white males in the JLA. (Karate Kid is Japanese, while Dawnstar is Native American) Likewise, Robin was included so the three teens could provide a youthful counterpoint to the adult heroes.
  • Knight of Cerebus: While the film itself is Lighter and Softer compared to other animated DC movies during this time era, Time Trapper is played as a completely monstrous, inhuman threat whose presence darkens the story. Other members of the Legion of Doom have their occasionally humorous or humanizing qualities but the Time Trapper is a Humanoid Abomination who has none and is played as a totally serious villain compared to the rest of them.
  • Legion of Doom: The Trope Namers appear as the main antagonists of the film.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Robin's first meeting with Karate Kid and Dawnstar goes like this.
  • Light 'em Up: Dawnstar.
  • Lighter and Softer: Word of God states that the film was created specifically to provide an all-ages alternative to the Darker and Edgier DC films like Justice League: War, which was released around the same time.
  • Make Wrong What Once Went Right: The villains' goal is to prevent the origins of Superman through time travel. Since he inspired the majority of superheroes, this will effectively cripple the competition.
  • Man of Kryptonite: Or Woman of Kryptonite in Dawnstar's case. As the Time Trapper is totally made up of dark matter, Dawnstar's light powers are exactly what's needed to be able to seriously harm him and turn the tide of the battle.
  • Merchandise-Driven: The film was commissioned by Target to promote its line of Justice League action figures.
  • Mistaken for Betrayal: Upon his return to the present, Lex Luthor assumes that Black Manta, Captain Cold, and Gorilla Grodd's failure to report back to the Hall of Doom is because they've turned their backs on him. In truth, they were just as loyal to him as the rest of the Legion; they simply weren't aware of his return and were still looking for him in the Arctic.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Cheetah and Solomon Grundy rob a pair of Smallville residents for their clothes in order to fool the Kents.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Karate Kid's costume (which is unlike any he's ever worn in the comics) looks like that of Samurai, one of the Canon Foreigner Captain Ethnics from Superfriends.
    • A couple of pedestrians resemble Wendy and Marvin, walking their dog looking like Wonder Dog.
    • Baby Kal-El is called "Superbaby", the name he's often called in comics featuring a toddler Superman.
    • The opening credits have the Justice League and the Legion of Doom running toward each other as in the opening of the Challenge of the Superfriends iteration of Superfriends.
  • Near-Villain Victory: Lex Luthor's plan to prevent baby Superman from being found and raised by the Kents initially succeeds. Later, Time Trapper almost kills the heroes, thereby insuring his victory, but he's done in by Dawnstar.
  • Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight: Black Manta mocks Aquaman for trying to fight him with a "fork", only to have his gun cut in half.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Karate Kid kicks off the plot by showing off his ability to almost punch the weak point in the ice holding Lex. The near-miss is still enough to do the job. Later on, Dawnstar and Karate Kid try to paradox Lex out of existence, but this leads to the Time Trapper nearly destroying reality and their temporal meddling changes their relative present so that Lex is the one remembered as a hero.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
    • As a consequence of the Time Trapper erasing Lex, the entire Justice League gets to come back.
    • Not to mention Captain Cold's bungling at the start of the film is what foils Lex's plan to enlarge the polar ice caps and seals in him in ice in the first place.
  • Non-Linear Character: The Time Trapper himself is this, explaining his ability to create gateways through the fabric of time and create and maintain paradoxes. It's also what prevents him from being erased along with Future!Lex, even though he was acting as his slave.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When trying to convince Robin that they aren't from the Legion of Doom, Karate Kid mentions the other Legion they weren't accepted into. Lacking context, this only confirms Robin's suspicions.
  • Not in Kansas Anymore: Apparently the one time that doesn't work.
  • Not So Stoic: Dawnstar was becoming increasingly aggravated when Robin doesn't stop fighting to listen.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Solomon Grundy and Cheetah pretend to be Superbaby's parents. Ma and Pa Kent are understandably confused since they saw the baby fall out of the sky.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Karate Kid and Dawnstar.
  • Race Lift: The creators have stated that Karate Kid is full-blooded Japanese in this continuity, as opposed to the main DC Universe, where he's a Caucasian kid who was Retconned into being half-Japanese, but rarely looks it. Though he's Japanese in Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • The Time Trapper's hourglass is both the source of his power and his can. So long as someone else holds it, he's bound to their will. In his own hands, he's free.
    • Plus there's the future version of Lex Luthor who's sealed in ice until Karate Kid frees him.
  • Sequel Hook: The movie ends with Grodd ominously claiming that with his newfound knowledge of the future, the key to vengeance against the Justice League is in his grasp. Later, when Karate Kid and Dawnstar return to the future, they find Lex Luthor has taken control of the world, and they go back in time again to fix things just before the credits roll.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Karate Kid and Dawnstar get most of the screentime.
  • Temporal Paradox: Though a very selective one. Anyone who shouldn't technically exist in the present can be erased by the Time Trapper, but the timeline doesn't change beyond that. Despite the far-reaching implications of an absent Superman, the only change seems to be that the Justice League suddenly stops existing now, as opposed to never having existed at all. This is particularly bad with Bizarro, who literally only exists because there is/was a Superman. Justified in that the Time Trapper seems to be selectively enforcing the paradox, and since Lex was controlling him, Bizarro was spared
  • There Was a Door: Dawnstar and Karate Kid blast their way into the Hall of Justice, since they couldn't figure out how to get inside. Apparently the large glass doors at the front mystified them.
  • Underwear of Power: A given, yet while Superman doesn't have his, Bizzaro bizarrely does.
    • Then again, a character that does stuff backwards is exactly the type that would wear his underwear on the outside.
  • Villain Ball: It's noted that Dawnstar and Karate Kid have made themselves walking paradoxes, thus rendering them vulnerable to Time Trapper's erasure power. When he gets the chance, however, he just gloats that they cannot stop him (no points for guessing his undoing).
  • Whole Costume Reference: Toyman has his "wooden puppet" appearance from Justice.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The story is basically a modernization of the Super Friends episode "Secret Origins of the Superfriends". The main difference is the inclusion of the Time Trapper and the Legion of Super-Heroes.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: The cab driver demands Karate Kid and Dawnstar to pay him. But they either don't seem to understand the concept of money or are unaware that currency is printed on paper.