By Michael Kaye
Justice League Vs. Teen Titans (Review)
I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned this before, but my all time favorite superhero team is the Teen Titans, even above the Justice League. My love for the team began with The New Batman Adventures, where I was first exposed to Nightwing, formerly the first Robin, Dick Grayson. Then came the original Teen Titans animated series, which was my gateway into reading Marv Wolfman and George Perez's legendary comic book title The New Teen Titans, and the rest is history. Justice League vs. Teen Titans is the first time we're seeing the team in the new DC animated movie universe, which began with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League War.
Here's the story. Robin is sent by Batman to work with the Teen Titans after his volatile behavior botches up a Justice League mission. The Titans must then step up to face Trigon after he possesses the League and threatens to conquer the world.
Putting all of my bias aside, I honestly think this is one of the best DC animated films since The Flashpoint Paradox! It doesn't beat the classics like Mask of the Phantasm or Under the Red Hood, but it sits comfortably in the top 5, and it's certainly the best DC film of the year, animated or otherwise. Here are my positives and negatives.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the voice cast is incredible! I'll warn fans of the animated series of the bad news, then reassure them with good news. The bad news is, none of the original cast are reprising their roles. However, the good news is that you'll get used to the new voices pretty easily. For example, this version of Raven, played by Taissa Farmiga, is more vulnerable, but is also more empathetic towards her teammates. This is Stewart Allan's best performance as Damian Wayne, as he's now fully embraced the character. By this point in the timeline, Damian has really come into his own as sort of a junior detective, easily adapting to his new surroundings and getting accustomed to working with a team. I like how Kari Wahlgren plays Starfire, acting as the leader of the Titans, with the help of Shemar Moore as Cyborg. Finally, the interactions between Robin, Brandon Soo Hoo's Beast Boy and Jake T. Austin's Blue Beetle are a ton of fun to watch.
The animation is great, as are all the DC animated films have been since 2007. Director Sam Liu has the Midas touch when it comes to the DC Universe, as he's worked on some of my favorite films, from storyboard art on Batman: Under the Red Hood to directing All-Star Superman, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Batman Year One, and the upcoming highly anticipated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke. Where this movie shines the most is in the action scenes and the world building. When dealing with a threat like Trigon, you know the stakes are going to be raised through the roof, and it'll take more than just a few Justice League members to put an end to his reign of terror. One of my favorite scenes is the climax in Hell, where the tension has risen and the fate of the world rests on Raven's shoulders.
Two of my favorite DC writers, Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett, wrote the screenplay, and they knocked it out of the park. What I like about the story is that the idea of using Trigon as the Titans' first antagonist parallels the Justice League forming to take down Darkseid and his army of parademons. This is also very reminiscent of how Raven gathered the members of the New Teen Titans in the comics to prepare for the coming attack. Both Raven and Damian need to learn to put their pasts behind them in order to save their friends and the rest of the world. There's a nice balance in this film between the gravitas of our villain and the levity of getting to know these new characters, and Burnett and Miller handle that extraordinarily well.
Finally, there's a post credits scene that teases further Titan adventures, specifically a tease for one of the best storylines from Wolfman and Perez's run, The Judas Contract. For those who don't know, WB animation was originally planning to adapt the storyline back in 2006, but the project was shelved due to "lack of a broad fanbase appeal." But now that the Titans are slowly regaining popularity, there's hope that we could finally see this movie become a reality.
As far as negatives go, I really don't have much except for one minor gripe: a handful of characters are either benched or not present at all. Obviously the one that bugged me the most was Nightwing, who was a founding member of the Titans, and yet we never see him in battle! Meanwhile, half of the Justice League was missing in action. I can understand Hal taking care of matters in space and Aquaman dealing with Atlantean affairs, but what the hell is Shazam's excuse!?
WB Animation is certainly on an upswing with their DC Universe Original Movies, and Justice League vs. Teen Titans was an excellent new installment! If you're one of those people who's disappointed with the direction DC's live-action cinematic universe is taking, at least you have these movies and Berlanti's CW shows to fall back on. So now I wanna hear from you guys! Have you seen Justice League vs. Teen Titans, and if so what did you think? What is your favorite superhero team? Leave your thoughts down in the comments below, and stay tuned for more content coming your way.