By William Shelton
Director: Sam Liu
Screenplay By: Bryan Q. Miller, Alan Burnett
Release Date: March 29, 2016 (digitally)
Run Time: 79 minuets
The first review I ever did on this blog was the DC Animated film “Justice League: War”, an animated retelling of the New 52 origin story for DC’s flagship title. I didn’t care for it. So much so that I haven’t watched any other DC animated films after that. However, with this coming out at almost the exact time I’m planing on starting a new blog and wanting my last review here to be a special one some how, I thought I’d return to where this all started and take a look at the new DC Animated film: Justice League vs Teen Titans.
The film opens with the Justice League engaged in a fight with a few supervillains. Everyone goes down rather easily but one villain, Weather Wizard, tried to run for it. While running he steps in what looks to be a shadow that ends up possessing him. When the Flash catches him, the now possessed Wizard announces “Azarath calls, the child must answer”. Superman goes to attack, but even he is no match for the demon. The Justice League figure they are going to have a much harder fight on their hands than the one they Just got done with, so Batman calls Robin (this being his son, Damian) and tells him to keep the civilians safe.
This doesn’t go over well with Damian, who’s trained all his life to be an assassin and now feels he’s being forced to the side lines. So instead of doing what he was told, Damian hijacks the…batplane…batjet….not sure what that should be called…..and fly’s it directly into Wizards chest, forcing the demon out of him. This has the side effect of forcing the last of Batman’s patience out of him. Batman sends Damian over to the Teen Titans to learn how to be a better team member. And as always, this doesn’t please Damian.
The young Robin is instantly stand-offish towards his fellow titans Beast Boy, Raven and Blue Beetle. This climaxes in a fight between Robin and Blue Beetle, where Beetle loses control of the alien tech connected to him and he nearly kills Damian. Raven uses her magic to heal him, but in doing so the two of them get a look into each others minds. Raven is terrorized of Damian and asks for him to leave her alone while Damian finds himself more intrigued than scared.
Starfire, now the groups leader and mentor rather than an acting member, takes the group to the fair hoping that some some, non-training related activities would help the group bond a little, and as it turns out she was right. Everyone has a great time…until a group of demos come for Raven, saying that her father, Azarath is coming for her. The team fight off the demons and return to the tower to come up with their next move, but when they get there they learn that the Justice League has also learned that Raven is who Azarath is looking for and try to take her. The titans resist, saying that this is their team mate thus their problem to deal with. But as the two groups are arguing Azarath possesses the Justice League and use their powers to take down the teen age super heroes. In order to save her friends Raven agrees to go to her father. Now it’s up to a weakened group of teens to save their friend, the Justice League and the world.
One of the complaints i’ve heard about the movie was that Damian came off as “whiny”. I understand this complaint, but I don’t agree with it. I personal see Damian as being incredibly depressed and just not knowing how to deal with it. He was raised as an assassin and is very good at killing, but upon becoming Robin feels he’s constantly being held back by Batman’s rules and ideals. I saw a lot of my younger self in Damian, so seeing that character learn to get over these same kind of feels I had at his age endeared me to the character more than it might have otherwise. But also like me at that age, Damian was a little prick and I totally understand why some would be put off by him.
My main issue with the film is that it felt rushed. At under 80 minuets it would have been hard not to have been, but I feel like a lot of the scenes could have used some expanding, rather than constantly moving from one plot point to the next. The creative team did pretty well with what they had, but if a 90 minuet “directors cut” ever came out I think it would help the over all film immensely. I would have liked to see more bonding and more fighting as a team rather than separately. Another thing I didn’t like: the stupid T tower. Yeah, I remember this from what little of the show I watched, and I didn’t like it then either. Sorry, it just looks dumb. But that’s nit picky.
However, in a year when we’re getting two big budget movies from both the major comic book companies where their hero’s are fighting each other, I’m kind of surprised how well this handled that same topic. I went into this thinking it would be another edgelord made grimdark film about hero’s fighting, but what I got was actually a pretty sweet film about a group of teens learning to get along andd trying to help their friends. Even when the team has to take on Superman it’s never even considered to try and hurt him too much, just do whats needed to push the demon out of him. There is once scene where superman hurts someone a little more than necessary to force out the demon in them, but it’s a minor slip up in my opinion.
And unlike in “Justice League: War”, I didn’t end up hating the characters this time. I’ve never been a fan of the Superman/Wonder Woman paring, and I still wasn’t here, but the relation ship felt real, like two people who actually care about each other. And the characterizations in War that I hated so much are no where to be seen. Wonder Woman isn’t a war hungery idiot; she even gives a feminist critique of a film she a Clark watch together, which is just so much more fitting for her character than “i’m bored waiting to meet with a world leader, lets go kill some stuff”. And Superman isn’t this snobbish ass whole who knows he can win any fight and desperate to prove that fact. While the Justice League weren’t the main focus of the film, it was nice to see the characters behaving like themselves instead of the abominations they were turned into. And as for the Teen Titans themselves go, they were all portrayed rather well. While most of the screen time was reserved for Robin and Raven, the other Titans all had their moments and came off as a likable group of teenage hero’s. They got on each others nerves, they weren’t always sure hat too do, they were quike to lose their temper and act rashly: they were kids with powers they weren’t quite ready for and the film sold me on that idea.
I’d be willing to watch more Teen Titans movies from these creators and am really considering tracking down the old cartoon. This was so much better that I thought it would be, and I am so happy to be able to say that. I’m glad that I can actually say I liked a DC project again, because it’s been a lot time since I’ve been able too.