The evil Trade Federation, led by Nute Gunray is planning to take over the peaceful world of Naboo. Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent to confront the leaders. But not everything goes to plan. The two Jedi escape, and along with their new Gungan friend, Jar Jar Binks head to Naboo to warn Queen Amidala, but droids have already started to capture Naboo and the Queen is not safe there. Eventually, they land on Tatooine, where they become friends with a young boy known as Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon is curious about the boy, and sees a bright future for him. The group must now find a way of getting to Coruscant and to finally solve this trade dispute, but there is someone else hiding in the shadows. Are the Sith really extinct? Is the Queen really who she says she is? And what’s so special about this young boy
When the evil Trade Federation plots to take over the peaceful planet of Naboo, Jedi warrior Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi embark on an amazing adventure to save the planet. With them on their journey is the young Queen Amidala, Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks, and the powerful Captain Panaka, who will all travel to the faraway planets of Tatooine and Coruscant in a futile attempt to save their world from Darth Sidious, leader of the Trade Federation, and Darth Maul, the strongest Dark Lord of the Sith to ever wield a lightsaber
Two Jedi Knights escape a hostile blockade to find allies and come across a young boy who may bring balance to the Force, but the long dormant Sith resurface to claim their old glory.
I’ve never experienced such delay in cartoons airing on TV as I have with the DC Animated shows. Ever since Superman: The Animated Series massive delays started it, it seems to have spilled over into every DC show since. Batman Beyond had it’s “Unmasked”, Justice League had it’s last half of Season 1 and almost all of Season 2 delayed for what seemed like forever, and now Justice League Unlimited it hitting every bump in the road: schedule changes, generic delays and problems with the episodes themselves, resulting in send-backs to the animation studios. “The Once and Future Thing” has been nearly every fans most anticipated story arc this season, and we’ve been waiting ever since June since the loglines were released.
So was it worth the wait and agonizing speculation? Nothing ever is; fans over hype things to the point of exhaustion and by the time the episode airs everything’s been inadvertently spoiled via a careless lack of a spoiler warning. Nothing in this first part of “The Once and Future Thing” surprised me; things that would’ve excited me was the re-appearance of Jonah Hex (not seen since Batman: The Animated Series “Showdown”), Batman Beyond, Future Static and Warhawk’s appearance and the whole “Dad?!” line (I know I read somewhere that was going to happen). The Return of the Joker Jokerz gang did surprise me though, albeit if they are a bit changed (more on that later).
Where was I? “The Once and Future Thing” starts off with our first look at Future Gotham since Static Shock’s “Future Shock” crossover, bringing an already exciting mood to the episode (Batman Beyond is one of my all-time favorites, so I may be biased); we then meet the mastermind behind the episode, Chronos (“David Clinton” for those who are picky since “Chronos” was never directly named in the episode, aside from a quick throwaway comment on his suit). After a humorous scene with his verbally abusive wife, we’re thrown into present where he’s attempting to steal Batman’s utility belt from the Watchtower. The first odd thing in the episode occurs here: if an “intruder” alarm is sounded on the Watchtower, a supposedly impregnable fortress, wouldn’t more than just three heroes run to investigate? Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman bolt right as the alarm sounds, while everyone else in the surrounding lunch room just sits and gabs away. I realize that’s probably an unavoidable hole due to only wanting Batman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman to be the time travelers, but it’s still a bit odd, none the less.
Before you sit down to watch this episode, you have to keep in mind that not all things are going to make sense; it’s time travel and that always manages to screw something up. We have mechanical Pterodactyls and Raptors with Cowboys riding on their back, robots dressed up as Old West Gun Slingers and a main villain who had a six-pistol gun. If you want to make sense of that…be my guest, but it’s really best just to sit and enjoy it as it plays out. Granted, you could justify everything that happened since Tobias just kept jumping into the future and hijacking this stuff back, but…dinosaurs? I don’t see the purpose for those, unless he wanted to scare people into doing his dirty work (ten foot robots and massive guns would do that for me anyway); regardless, they were fun to see, even if they were completely random.
Heroes in the episode included El Diablo, Bat Lash, Sheriff Ohiyesa Smith and the aforementioned Jonah Hex. They were all great to see in animated form and I couldn’t help but laugh every time El Diablo talked, as his voice actor (Nestor Carbonell) played “Batmanuel” in the live-action The Tick! series (I think I’m one of few who loved that show). Jonah Hex was awesome to see again and Bat Lash was fun to watch as well.
The Wild West portions had their fare share of camp to them, but they were a fun little romp. Bruce refusing to carry a gun and then using his utility belt as a “Go on, I dare you” type move the cowboys used when reaching for their guns, Diana taking her time in deflecting the bullets (“These are the biggest, slowest bullets I’ve ever seen”) and John’s “Green Lantern” Ghost looked like something pulled from a Scooby Doo episode, were fun to watch. There were some nice character moments in this one, but honestly, I think we’re all just waiting for the second part.
Speaking of the second part, we got a nice little teaser end to the episode. Landing in the future after chasing Chronos again, the League come up against the Return of the Joker Jokerz gang; descending immediately is the Future Static, Batman Beyond and Warhawk. Static appears much older than his “Future Shock” appearance and Batman seems to have lost the red on the interior of his wings, but Warhawk remains the same. The episode ends with the clinching “Dad?!” from Warhawk as he looks at Green Lantern, who then looks like he just saw Future Shayera in the shower. It was a great ending and created a session of out loud “I gotta wait a week to see the conclusion!?” cursing.
Perhaps the most debated part of this ending was the reappearance of the Return of the Joker Jokerz gang; Bonk died on-screen (in both versions of the film, though one more graphic than the other) in the movie, while everyone else seemed to simply get taken away by the cops. One other thing to point out is Woof’s mechanical arms; definitely not on the original model and Chucko’s new look (different color shirt and is now carrying some sort of round object, similar to Ghoul’s pumpkin bucket), all suggest that the gang may be different. If they aren’t, I refuse to believe that one of the story writers of Return of the Joker and producers of Justice League Unlimited simply glazed over Bonk’s death or forgot; the gangs there for a reason that will have to wait for another week to find out.
It’s sort of sad that all of the work that was put into the first twenty plus minutes of this episode are overshadowed by the ten second closer, but it’s to be expected. People have been hungry for more Batman Beyond and now that we’ve got him again, it’s gonna be hard to let go. That was, bar-none, the most mind-twisting and blowing DCAU episode I’ve seen. It’s not that it was “crazy” or “kooky” or all together “spooky,” but trying to get everything straight with the Matrix code flying across the bat-computer screen and Bruce spouting off stuff about the “space time continuum”…just…ouchie.
Confusing nature aside (and that will pass upon a few more viewings, I’m sure), this episode was pretty much what I expected it to be; not in plot points and twists, but just in that we’d get a fun romp through future Gotham City. I’ll be damned if it didn’t seem like time flew while watching it this though; commercial breaks came as soon as they ended and I had a goofy grin on my face the entire time, seeing the Jokerz back and Terry cracking one liners again…it was really was one of the biggest fan-moments I’ve had while watching Unlimited.
The story itself, as previously mentioned, was quite the confusing experience. The first time I watched it I was just entertained by everything; by the second time I finally got a grasp on why Hal Jordan was appearing (other than to make everyone’s eyes bug out) and why everyone started to disappear. In the end, this trip to the future also ended up being an “alternate” trip to the future, as in the end everything was switched back to normal, albeit with Batman and Green Lantern only remembering what went on and Chronos stuck in a constant loop with his wife’s abusive language constantly recycling.
D.R. Movie Co. threw in some new effects on the future Batman’s jet boots; instead of dissipating right away, they left swirly trails; though you only saw this once it was a great bit of animation. The city looked as dark and futuristic as ever and the Jokerz new designs were great as well. Chucko on a rolling ball, Bonk with a massive mallet, multiplying Dee Dee’s, a mechanical arm-enhanced Woof and a spinning saw blade on Ghoul. Anyone who didn’t get flash backs to Batman Beyond’s “April Moon” episode must’ve been delirious; then again, Chronos said he traveled into the future to get those upgrades, so either the doctor in “April Moon” didn’t exist yet or…ah hell I’m getting confused again. Regardless, it makes me long for more of Batman Beyond…but I’m sure I’ve said that enough by now.
Static was enjoyable as well; I never was one to watch the show much, sans the special appearances of other DCAU heroes, but an adult Static is definitely who I prefer. He’s got the wit of Flash and the strength of John Stewart and it was great to see the two interact as “old friends.”
Warhawk’s “I’m shocked! Shocked! Well not that shocked…” revelation that he is Shayera and John’s kid and that they may have even gotten married (“Stewart” is his last name; he was named “Rex” after Green Lantern’s childhood friend, Rex Mason / Metamorpho) was nice to see extended upon. Even if we didn’t get much (due to the three Batman’s interrupting) else out of the two, it was fun to see where things progressed (and the look that John gives Shayera at the end of the show).
The undisputed and best moment of the episode, however, was the scene with Bruce/Batman/Batman—we get the wise and old Wayne saying hello to his younger self and them both telling Terry to shut up in which Terry emits a “What’d they used to call it? Stereo?” quip. It was the things endless fan fictions are made of where the past meets future…
I enjoyed this episode much more than part one; animation was awesome, music fit well with every scene and the characters were all handled nicely, even if there was an over abundance of them. Some may trash McDuffie’s writing, but I’ve enjoyed nearly everything he’s written on Justice League and Justice League Unlimited and this was certainly no exception.