Justice League vs. Teen Titans
The latest original DCU animated movie is Justice League vs. Teen Titans, and it does what it says on the tin. It also tries to do more, which is admirable, but I thought its reach exceeded its grasp. There’s just too much in this movie for it to be called a success, although a lot of what they were trying to do I wanted to see.
I’m talking mostly about the generational themes. This is the first appearance of the Teen Titans in the animated universe, and this version of DC’s classic teen team is a mishmash of different versions. The plot involves the demon Trigon coming to get his daughter, Raven, who’s been taken in by the team, which consists of Beast Boy, Starfire (shown as older, and the team leader), and Blue Beetle (the one with the alien parasite). (In order to complete the Teen Titans Go! reference, Cyborg, who in this continuity is a member of the Justice League, brings the group pizza at the end.)
During a fight with a demonically possessed Weather Wizard, Robin’s actions annoy Batman, so the Caped Crusader ships his son Damian off to the Teen Titans to learn teamwork. Thus, both Robin and Raven are facing the legacy of, and ambivalence towards, their ancestors.
Meanwhile, Superman has been possessed by Trigon. About halfway through the movie, in an attempt to save him, the Justice League comes to the Titans to take Raven, which gets them all possessed. (I didn’t understand the story logic or rules of who got taken over by demons or why.)
For those who like fight scenes, a hallmark of this movie line, this plot allows for several key sequences:
- The Justice League against a villain
- The Teen Titans against Trigon’s minions
- The Justice League against each other
- And, of course, the Justice League against the Teen Titans, as promised in the title.
I would have rather seen either a Teen Titans introduction story or a possessed Justice League story, but there’s too much going on here for the 80-minute running time. The animation is workable at best, with some of the designs feeling clunky or mediocre. And while the themes may be classic, they’re also overly familiar. Many of the Teen Titans segments reminded me too closely of Young Justice, which was better at handling the concepts.
I was also annoyed that Starfire has a magical transformation sequence right out of Sailor Moon, with an added focus on her bare butt as her miniskirt wraps around it. I know she began as a pinup, but I much prefer the capable-but-alien version the cartoon established rather than using her as eye candy.
I find myself wondering who the audience was intended to be. In this movie, the Teen Titans already exist, with a mix of generational characters. Yet we have to see them battle Trigon (the event that originally formed the team in the comics, and a character I’ve never liked) all over again. The costumes of the Justice League are the ugly new 52 versions, which makes those characters less attractive to me. Robin is the grumpy version who’s Batman’s son, but Nightwing and Starfire are implied to have a history. If they’re going to pick and choose from whichever version of continuity or team they want, I wish they’d pick better costumes and happier heroes.
The final shot shows the team from the movie plus Cyborg and Nightwing, giving the group two generations: those two and Starfire are adults, while the other four are kids. And then, at the end, a long-promised surprise…
I previously listed the extras and posted the trailer. There’s a deluxe edition with a Robin figurine.
“Growing Up Titan” (24 minutes) looks at the history of teen sidekicks and dealing with a younger, more modern generation of comic readers, with Mike Carlin, Teen Titans co-creator Marv Wolfman, producer James Tucker, and Dan DiDio. I enjoyed this for the memories it brought back about the long history of the Teen Titans concept. They discuss making comics that were relevant for the times and the readers, back in the 80s; I wish they’d try something similar now.
“Heroes and Villains – Raven” (6 minutes) covers the DCU goth girl, summing up what we’ve seen in the movie. “Heroes and Villains – Trigon” (5 minutes) does the same thing for the non-subtle bad guy. The two cartoon episodes are “Sidekicks Assemble!” from Batman: The Brave and the Bold and “The Prophecy” from Teen Titans, which also focuses on Raven and Trigon.
Finally, there’s a 10-minute sneak peak at Batman: The Killing Joke, in which the animation, placed next to Brian Bolland’s amazing crosshatched art, doesn’t live up to the source material. I know they want to show how they’re being faithful, but it doesn’t do the cartoon style any favors. (The studio provided a review copy.)