|Review by Clay N Ferno|
We’ve got hero against hero again this week over in the DC Animated Universe with Justice League vs. Teen Titans. In the tradition of over branding the Justice League on the main title, this could have easily been called Robin v Teen Titans or simply Teen Titans.
Sidebar: has anyone else wondered why Snyder used ‘v’ instead of the more traditional ‘vs’ for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?
Recently we’ve had The Flash appear on Supergirl as a spiritual palate cleanser to BvS, with Barry and Kara sparkling on screen, literally eating vanilla ice cream cones with huge smiles on their faces.
Justice League vs. Teen Titans exists in an Earth vibrating over these two major properties, movies vs. television in the current (post-Flashpoint Paradox) animated universe.
This Titans movie rests comfortably between the PG-13 destruction and gloom of Batman v. Superman while attempting to appeal to a teenage audience with relatable teenage characters that appeal to the CW and CBS demographic.
The Iron Man to Avengers style of building a universe seems to be the model for DC animated movies (though one wonders if they are rushing too fast for the same goal on the big screen) as Justice League vs. Teen Titans builds upon the previous chapter, Batman: Bad Blood and the Robin stories leading up to Bad Blood.
Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) the son of Batman and new Robin disobeys Batman (Jason O’Mara) as he helps the Justice League take on the Legion of Doom on opening fight.
Leaguesters Superman, Batman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman and Flash face Legionnaires Weather Wizard, Lex Luthor, Tigra, Toy Master and Solomon Grundy at the newly dubbed on Social Media ‘#HallofJustice’. Grundy is little more than an evil Hulk clone with a “Smash” quote, but the team takes on the bad guys with grace and of course teamwork.
Flash takes out Weather Wizard in one of the best depictions of his power set I’ve seen, speed-hopping in the air from one ball of sleet to another.
Robin’s defiance leads to him being shipped off to that great big ‘T’ in the sky, Titans Tower, home of the Teen Titans. Nightwing drops Damian off with Starfire and her team that consists of Raven, Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. Damian hates being told what to do and instead of bonding with his new mates, he spends hours in the ‘Danger Room’ fighting computer ninjas. Hey, we all like video games, and what kid doesn’t spend too much time doing that?
To be honest, I have been waiting for some Titans get together for some time, and have even left my Netflix streaming Young Justice in hopes the service will pay for a Season 3 with my numerous spins. The Justice League vs. Teen Titans lineup is closer to the 2003 Teen Titans series than the non-traditional Young Justice roster (adding Blue Beetle), but the way the team comes together is very cool. Of course the Robin of 2016 is the bratty Damian Wayne, but alas concessions need to be made.
As Dick Grayson Nightwing drops off Robin, things get a little awkward between the older Starfire and the former Boy Wonder, a cute nod to the longstanding relationship the two have together.
A mysterious, dark cloud force has been taking over the heroes since the beginning of the movie, and it takes control of Beetles’ scarab in the training room, pitting Robin against his new teammate but the bug wins. What is special about this growing pains scuffle is that Raven heals Damian but not without seeing into his mind, a la Days of Future Past. All future and past Damian Waynes are in there, somehow, including the Batman #666 version.
Raven (Taissa Farmiga) is at the center of this dark force, and until she is able to trust everyone with her secret, the team is in danger.
On a trip to a local carnival to release some tension, Damian and Beast Boy (Brandon Soo Hoo) face off on the Dance Dance Revolution pads and Raven grows a little closer to Robin.
No Teen Titans at the carnival story ends well, as the forces of evil have sent demons for the team to fight!
Raven reveals her origin and home dimension of Azarath to the team after defeating the demons. Between carnival rides and inter-dimensional traveling, it’s no wonder these kids don’t get any homework done!
Upon returning to Earth, the League does return to Titans Tower to find answers to the mystery of the missing Superman (Jerry O’Connell), and like the title dictates, we get Justice League vs. Teen Titans as Mirror Universe double-eyed versions of The Flash (Christopher Gorham), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) and Cyborg (Shemar Moore) attack the teens.
Raven takes the threat to Azarath to wrap up the story. I’ve tiptoed around a big reveal but urge you to check this out for yourself.
What we don’t get is a goofy and playful Teen Titans but we do get a great story, plenty of action and a great look stylistically. There are enough easter eggs and nods to continuity, even some Boom Tube action, to make this appealing to fans of DC and the New 52. Young Justice has a bit more play to it, but I could definitely see more Teen Titans in the current DCAU.
It doesn’t seem like Damian is going away any time soon, but he’s grown on me in this and other versions. We see him show a softer side and gets reluctantly close and nice to Raven in this movie.
I’m not surprised that I liked this story, it was written by Brian Q. Miller of Batgirl fame along with Alan Burnett (Mask of the Phantasm, Superman The Animated Series, Batman Beyond and so much more). Director Sam Liu is catching is stride to become one of the classic DC architects in the animated world like Burnett, Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano before him.
I’m not sure it will, but I hope that DC’s upcoming ‘Rebirth’ doesn’t affect the continuity of these great movies, the teams are assembled on the creative side and on the screen. I look forward to more! Next up is another straight from comics adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke in the vein of Dark Knight Returns, Batman: Year One and All-Star Superman. Elusive Jedi Mark Hamill returns to voice The Joker. Liu directs, and Bruce Timm produces The Killing Joke.