Justice League Unlimited: The Once and Future Thing
Justice League Unlimited (Justice League Unlimited)
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The Once and Future Thing is a television movie that served as the season 1 finale of Justice League Unlimited.


In the future Gotham City, Enid Clinton scolds her husband, David, about clogging up the garage with his collection of historical artifacts. Timidly, he tries to explain their importance: they are originals that he retrieved from their respective time periods, using a time machine he built. Enid's initial amazement turns to fury, and she delivers an even more blistering scolding, saying that he could have used the machine to make them rich and powerful instead. "You invent a time machine and can't think of anything useful to do with it?!" He shoots back, "I can think of one thing!" and activates his machine. "I can use it to get away from you!" he yells as he disappears into a time portal.

In the present day, Batman and John Stewart are lunching in the Watchtower's commissary. Though Shayera has rejoined the League, John denies any awkwardness, claiming he's moved on and is now seeing Vixen. Batman scoffs in disbelief, so John turns the tables and asks Batman what's "going on" between him and Wonder Woman. Batman stiffly denies that anything is going on, saying that his work is too important for him to be distracted by a relationship, while admitting that Diana has many admirable qualities—only for Wonder Woman herself to appear behind him, having heard a good deal of what he said, and seductively tell him to "keep digging".

The awkward moment is interrupted when an intruder alarm sounds. The three of them follow it to the crew quarters and find David trying to steal one of Batman's utility belts. He escapes into a time portal, and they follow.

They arrive in the middle of the Oklahoma Territory in 1879. After turning the tables on a trio of highwaymen, they adopt cowboy clothes and ride into the nearest town, Elkhorn. Right away they see what is wrong: the new "sheriff," Tobias Manning and his thugs are equipped with radically advanced weapons. After losing a hand of poker, Manning throws his opponent in jail. The League go to break him out, and he introduces himself as Bartholomew Aloysius Lash, a.k.a. Bat Lash. His cell mate is David, who explains that Manning stole his time machine and has been using it to poach advanced technology from the future and make himself ruler of the town.

As they leave the jail, they are attacked by Manning's thugs, who are overcome by a sort of Wild West Justice League, to which Bart belongs: Jonah Hex, El Diablo, and Ohiyesa Smith, the former sheriff of Elkhorn.

Banding together, the new and old Leagues travel to Manning's headquarters in the desert; his men confront them with an arsenal of bizarre weapons, including robotic dinosaurs, main battle tanks, and android exoskeletons. They overcome his men, and Smith personally bests Manning in a knife fight.

Freed, David snatches the time belt away and disappears into another portal. Again, Batman, John, and Wonder Woman follow him. This time, they arrive in the future Gotham City and are immediately confronted by the Jokerz: Bonk, Chucko, Dee-Dee, Ghoul, and Woof.

They are soon joined by that era's Justice League Unlimited: Batman, Static, and Warhawk. As they square off against the Jokerz, Warhawk catches sight of John and says, "Dad?"

The Jokerz have been "upgraded" with cybernetic weapons that are advanced even for that time, and the combined Justice League and JLU have no choice but to retreat. Terry tries to open up a boom tube, but his mother box is destroyed. Static creates a blinding light, followed by John Stewart creating a maze to distract the Jokerz.

They return to the ruins of Hamilton Hill High School, which serves as headquarters for what is left of the League - the three who have already appeared, plus the aged Bruce Wayne.

Warhawk introduces himself as Rex Stewart. Stewart asks who his mother was; he replies, "Kind of obvious, isn't it?".</p>

They explain that Clinton has decided to emulate Manning, and made himself a warlord in his own time, now calling himself "Lord Chronos". In his previous time travels, he had been careful about not disrupting history. Now he has abandoned that restraint, poaching technology from the future and historical monuments from the past, all to transform Gotham into his personal kingdom. Years ago, the Watchtower and the Batcave were destroyed, and most of the Justice League, including Lantern and Wonder Woman, were killed, in an attack by Chronos' cybernetically-enhanced army of Jokerz.

Static finds hope in the fact that the elderly Bruce is still alive; logically, that means that whatever the younger Batman is there to assist them with, they already know they'll win. Unfortunately, old Bruce has no memory of traveling through time, which means that history itself has become fluid, and their future is still far from certain.

Meanwhile, in the salon of the Titanic, Chronos wonders aloud how the future Leaguers were able to intercept the Jokerz. He fixes Chucko with a glare and then opens up a time window, showing Chucko accepting a bribe from Terry. He punishes Chucko by sending him back to the time of the dinosaurs, just before the cataclysmic event that killed them off.

Returning to the future, Chronos orders the remaining Jokerz to track down the League. Alone with Enid, Chronos crows that he's proven her wrong, and "amounted to something" after all - rich, powerful, and the undisputed master of space and time. Timorously, Enid reminds him of his earlier warnings about interfering with the time stream, and he irritably snaps at her that he can handle it. Then, Enid gingerly asks him to release her mother (his mother-in-law) from "the thing", like he promised earlier. Chronos' mood blackens, saying that it is no more than her mother deserves, for calling him a failure for so many years - and, he rants, Enid always said the same, when all he wanted was for her to love him. Now openly terrified, Enid begs him to forgive her, but he coldly turns his back on her.

As a result of Chronos' recklessness, serious disruptions in the space-time continuum have begun. To Batman and Bruce's horror, Diana fades away just as she is suggests that they could prevent everything from happening in the first place; now she never left Themyscira – or worse, was never even born. There are even signs that the universe itself is moving towards entropy.

Batman is able to write a program to shut down Chronos' time belt, but they need to find him first. He figures that the old ways are best, and heads out to track down a snitch. Terry warns him that Gotham has changed, but he simply asks his older self if criminals are still a superstitious, cowardly lot; the answer is yes.

The combined League captures Ghoul and Batman interrogates him. Ghoul is initially defiant, and the older Bruce, disgusted that he was ever "that green" shows his younger self how it's really done - and the scene fades to a short while later, as Ghoul is spilling everything he knows in a rapid voice. He says Chronos moves around each night, never staying in the same place – but Ghoul knows where his wife is.

In the middle of their search, John Stewart phases out and is replaced by Hal Jordan, who says calmly, "I'm up to speed. Carry on." A short while later, Hal fades away and John comes back.

The League confronts Enid, staying in a pyramid (poached either from ancient Egypt or Las Vegas). She is as contemptuous of her husband as before, though now she is also afraid of him. She says that his moving around is a myth, he always stays in the same place. That place is the Elkhorn town jail, which he has poached and planted in the middle of the Coliseum – apparently, it's the place where he feels safest.

Before they can grab his time-belt, however, Enid rousts him awake, spoiling their ambush. Chronos summons the Jokerz; in the ensuing battle, Static is sucked into a suddenly-appearing time portal, and Terry is killed by Dee-Dee. As the universe itself starts to collapse, Chronos declares that it's time for "another approach." Then he gives Enid a farewell peck on the cheek, yells "you'll love me next time!" and disappears into another time portal.

Lantern and Batman follow, and see he is now heading to the Beginning of Time, which will enable him to re-write the history of the entire universe and become a god. As they hurtle towards the source, they catch up with Chronos and Batman uploads the debugging program into the belt. They are still heading towards the source... when Batman and Lantern open their eyes and find themselves in the Watchtower cafeteria.

Wonder Woman joins them, having no memory of what they've done. Lantern and Batman are the only ones who remember what happened. Lantern sees Shayera, and remembers what Warhawk said about his parentage.

Lantern asks, what about Chronos. Batman, smiling, says he re-programmed the belt to ensure that Chronos would never come to exist...

In the future, Enid delivers the same scolding she did before; as before, David angrily activates his belt to get away from her – and jumps back in time to a few seconds ago, at the beginning of Enid's scolding, over and over again.

Voice Cast


Justice League Unlimited Television Films
Once and Future Thing | Divided We Fall | Destroyer
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