Justice League vs. Teen Titans, 2016.
Directed by Sam Liu.
Featuring the voice talents of Jon Bernthal, Taissa Farmiga, Jason O’Mara, Jerry O’Connell, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Sean Maher, Stuart Allan, Brandon Soo Hoo, Jake T. Austin, Kari Wahlgren, Laura Bailey, Steven Blum, Terrence C. Carson and Rick D. Wasserman.
Robin is sent 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.
While DC is just starting their cinematic universe, the animated movie universe has been going for a couple years now and their latest adventure pits them with the Teen Titans. Justice League vs. Teen Titans introduces viewers to the more mystical side of the DC universe as the Teen Titans have to save the world from a demonic being that has taken possession of several powerful members of the Justice League.
This movie helps bridge the gap between the current Justice League and Batman animated films, bringing in Damien Wayne’s Robin as he’s forced to join the Titans and learn a lesson about discipline and teamwork. This is a pretty Robin-centric story as he learns how to make friends and become a real member of a team. Stuart Allen does a good job voicing Robin, continuing the emotional evolution of his character. Out of the whole cast, Robin has perhaps the strongest arc of the film.
The one character to rival his arc is Raven, a young superhero with mystical powers and the center of the whole story. Voiced by Taissa Farmiga, she has a vulnerability to her that prevents her from letting anyone in too close and a hides a troubling past. Raven’s arc is equally strong as she attempts to claim her own agency and puts the welfare of the Titans above her own needs. Farmiga does a good job conveying the anguish of Raven’s character.
The other new additions to this DC universe is Starfire, the leader of the Titans, Blue Beetle and Beast Boy, voiced by Kari Wahlgren, Jake T. Austin and Brandon Soo Hoo respectively. Starfire’s characterization as a growing team leader is well done and Wahlgren delivers a good performance, though, much like in the comics, the movie sometimes goes a little overboard with objectifying her. The animation lingers on her body a little too much, in particular during her transformation sequence. It’s a bit jarring to the tone of the movie as it’s trying to appeal to kids so much. Despite the Justice League being in the title and getting top billing, this is in fact a Teen Titans film.
Which is where one of my main criticisms lies: there is a constant battle in the tone of the movie as it tries to appeal to its adult and young audience. One moment it is light with the Titans joking around and doing child-like activities, all the while corny music is playing in the background. The next its serious with demons attacking, the Titans entering Hell and, as mentioned, sexual innuendo mostly involving Starfire. There’s even one scene of implied rape in a character’s backstory. It shifts very abruptly between appealing to the adult crowd these latest Justice League films have drawn in since Justice League: War and the younger fanbase that know Teen Titans.
The rest of the cast do well with what they’re given. Brandon Soo Hoo’s Beast Boy is the comic relief and does well for the most part. Jon Bernthal, most recently seen as The Punisher in Daredevil, voices Trigon and comes across as very threatening, but his voice was so heavily modified I didn’t even recognize him at first. Jason O’Mara and Rosario Dawson reprise their roles as Batman and Wonder Woman, but don’t have too much of a role in the story. Same goes for Jerry O’Connell, who has taken up the part of Superman for this film.
Animation wise, its pretty good and gives viewers some interesting new visuals with Raven and Beast Boy’s powers. Anime fans will enjoy this film as it’s the most anime-like of DC’s new movies, even going so far as to give most of the Titans their own transformation sequence. However, there’s nothing here that really helps the movie stand out. The Teen Titans’ fight against the Justice League is good, but I feel its been done better before. The story is also fairly generic as a young child is the key to Earth’s destruction or salvation. Though I will say it was cool to see Cyborg go back to his roots, leading the charge with the Titans in the story’s climax.
Overall, Justice League vs. Teen Titans isn’t the best of WB Animation’s output. The tonal shifts keep the film from finding its own voice and, aside from introducing the mystical elements of DC, there’s nothing really here that elevates it above many of the other DC animated films. This is a shame considering it’s the Teen Titans’ first feature film debut. It might be enough to get people interested in the Titans, but there’s also better Titans related media out there for audiences to see.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★