Just to go on record here, I have never watched one episode of Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans. After the controversial cancellation of one of the greatest super hero series ever, Young Justice, I was simply just not interested in the kiddie style presentation of Teen Titans cartoon series. So when DC Animated Studios announced Justice League Vs Teen Titans, I was mildly interested to dive into the Teen Titans universe under the more mature and polished Warner Bros. DC Animated umbrella.
Was a smart move by Warner Bros. to release Justice League Vs Teen Titans as the second film released this year in the DC Original Animated Films 2016 line up and after watching the credits roll, I am glad that it was the second film. Makes sense to sandwich this average film right in the middle of the very entertaining Batman: Bad Blood and the big main event of DC’s Animated 2016 line up, The Killing Joke, due later this year. Do not take the word “average” as a jab at the latest film in the DC library. There was a lot to like and there were some things that could have been better.
For example, the movie jumps right into a huge battle with the Justice League taking on the Legion of Doom after they revealed to the world for the first time, the Hall Of Justice. I would have enjoyed the battle a bit more if there was a good five-minute build up to the battle and some general surprise on how and why the Legion Of Doom attacked. Perhaps a scene giving the viewer a quick update on the love relationship between Superman and Wonder Woman? Surely the Hall Of Justice’s grand opening deserved a scene for its significance in DC comic lore? Maybe a motive and actual intelligent surprise attack plot for the Legion Of Doom leading up to the battle with the Justice League? Instead the film literally jumps right into the battle in the opening second of the film. Felt as if there was a deleted scene that was cut out in editing to bring the run time down to 79 minutes, which honestly, I don’t think many would complain for an animated film to be a few minutes longer. It’s not exactly the same as watching a Peter Jackson film here.
Perhaps director Sam Liu and screen play writers, Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett, didn’t feel there was a need to have a “how and why” the Legion of Doom attacked the Hall Of Justice on its grand opening simply because the opening scene was the last we saw of the Legion of Doom. The villain squad simply served as a fill in place holder to showcase the Justice League in action. Which was fine due to the well written dialogue and fight choreography in the film. This is the New 52 cinematic universe, but make no mistake, this is classic Justice League action. Be it Batman (Jason O’Mara) outsmarting Solomon Grundy (Rick D. Wasserman), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) taking on Cheetah, or a classic match between Superman (Jerry O’Connell) and Lex Luthor (Steven Blum). You could almost feel the spirit of playing with the 1980’s Kenner Super Heroes line as a kid while watching the Justice League in action.
Once the film transitions into the meat of the story, was a surprising joy to get a glimpse into the Teen Titans universe when Damian aka Robin(Stuart Allan) gets sent to the Teen Titans HQ to learn what it means to work as a team after a very impulsive and destructive decision in the film’s opening battle. Damian is a very interesting Robin, I’ll give him that. Half the time , I don’t know If I will cheer for him, or wish to see Batman pull off his bat belt and give this little brat a good spanking. He does have a unique humor to him that this film truly does put front and center in the spotlight. Particularly his chemistry with Beastboy (Brandon Soo Hoo) during a dance off at a local carnival where the Teen Titans babysitter, Starfire (Kari Wahlgren), decided to take the team for some fun.
The carnival scene was a gamble by director Sam Liu. In what could have been a cheesy scene with typical ’80s teenage movie music, actually turned out to be a solid moment in the film where we actually get to know the Teen Titans on more of a personal level. There are plenty of comedic moments and lines with all the characters in the film. Batman and Cyborg (Shemar Moore) showed more chemistry together during a pizza scene that I don’t think we have gotten in all the other films combined in the DC library. My favorite comedic scenes were easily Nightwing (Sean Maher) attempting to get his freaky on with Starfire during a Skype session and what happens to a cocky Robin when he pisses off the wrong Teen Titan member, Blue Beetle(Jake T. Austin), during a sparring session.
Very similar to the other “versus DC” film, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, this versus film is just as misleading. The film may be titled, Justice League Vs Teen Titans, but the amount of actual battle screen time is even shorter than Superman and Batman’s battle on the big screen. At the heart of this film is none other than Raven. When a mysterious enemy that lives in the shadows of magic begins to take possession of the Justice League while searching for Trigon’s daughter, the Teen Titans must unite to become a true team and put a stop to Trigon and his Justice League minions. Was refreshing to get a good story around some young DC cinematic blood with Raven and her universes villain, Trigon. A DC villain that is long over due in the DC library, who is just as iconic as Darkseid as far as I’m concerned. Trigon is a demonic villain I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing on the big screen. Let’s just say when he is in a scene–he has your attention.
Unfortunately, the film’s final story arc falls victim to some plot head scratchers and the safe formula that we have seen before. For some reason, the writers thought that Superman slamming his foot down on the Flash’s leg during a battle would be a logical explanation for the Flash to no longer be under the control of a demon? My advice, just go with it. Another nit pick would be how Batman once again got benched for the finale when he gives his best G.I. Joe “Oh no, Duke is in a coma” impression. Also, last time I checked, Green Lantern was a major member of the Justice League and he is completely M.I.A in this film.
As much as I love Batman and the Justice League, I think it is time to give some of the other members their own feature film going forward in the 2017 DC line up. It has been almost a decade since the last Wonder Woman animated film and with her resurgence in popularity due to the Dawn Of Justice blockbuster–sooner would be better than later. Of course, I would not complain for an instant if we got an animated adaptation of the graphic novel, Hush, for another Batman film.
Voice acting and animation are top-notch as we have come to expect from the pedigree of the Warner Bros. DC Animated Film camp. Sure there are some plot holes and some safe script writing in the final arc, but all in all this is another solid addition from the studio.
I give Justice League Vs Teen Titans a 2 1/2 out of 4 stars.