Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, 2017.
Directed by Sam Liu.
Featuring the voice talents of Kari Wahlgren, Sean Maher, Stuart Allen, Brandon Soo Hoo, Taissa Farmiga, Jake T. Austin, Christina Ricci, Gregg Henry, and Miguel Ferrer.
The Teen Titans face betrayal in their own ranks as they fight against Brother Blood’s cult, who have hired the world’s deadliest assassin to take them down – Deathstroke.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is one of the most renowned stories in DC’s library and is responsible for many big moments in the DC Universe, such as Dick Grayson’s transition from Robin to Nightwing and cementing Deathstroke’s status as one of the deadliest enemies the team can face.
Given its status among fans and the film’s long-gestating development history, its needless to say The Judas Contract has a lot of pressure. So does director Sam Liu and his team stick the landing?
Rather than take place largely as its own thing, this film is set in the continuity of the latest DC Animated Original Movies and is a loose sequel to Justice League vs. Teen Titans. One doesn’t necessarily need to see the previous film in order to understand this film or who the characters are and how they function. You get the jist of each member and their role on the team pretty quickly, leaving viewers little to scratch their heads over.
The team balance works well for the most part, but leaves plenty to be desired. Nightwing and Robin are given prominent roles as almost duelling team leaders. Starfire continues as the official team leader, though she’s given something of a backseat to Nightwing and more focus seems to be placed on their romantic relationship than her continued evolution. Beast Boy is given a fair amount to do to add levity to the film while we get a look at Blue Bettle’s complicated relationship with his family, though that subplot doesn’t have that much significance once it’s introduced. And despite her importance in Justice League vs. Teen Titans, Raven doesn’t have very much to do at all.
Newcomer Terra is given the most focus out of the cast due to her role in the story. The adaptation takes a few liberties with her character, but her portrayal remains pretty faithful. Christina Ricci provides some solid voice work as the troubled hero in what is the film’s strongest performance. At times you feel for Terra and Ricci’s voicework makes you hope she cane be redeemed. The Judas Contract differs from the source material is offering her a bit of redemption, but not too much.
The late Miguel Ferrer portrays Deathstroke and he’s the standout performance after Ricci. He puts a lot of snark into Deathstroke’s personality, yet still conveys the assassin’s deadly skill and intelligence. However, while Ferrer gives a good performance, Deathstroke’s portrayal is a bit problematic. Because of the events of Batman and Son, Deathstroke comes across somewhat petulant as he seeks revenge against Damian and thanks to the changes from the source material, namely the exclusion of Deathstroke’s family and backstory, he’s a much less layered villain than he is in the original story.
In that light, most of the changes are confusing. The Judas Contract took away one of the more significant elements from the story, yet also kept the most controversial in Deathstroke and Terra’s romantic relationship (though the movie seems to imply it is more from Terra’s point of view and they haven’t done anything physical yet). The few changes to Terra’s character, such as the possibility of redemption and her reluctant attraction to Beast Boy, at least makes sense in context; readers had known Terra for over a dozen issues by the time Judas Contract began whereas this is her first film. Still, what Liu decided to keep, remove or change is a bit questionable.
If you’ve been a fan of the animation style in the new Original Animated Movies, you’ll like it here. The animation is good and the action is well done and entertaining. Most of the character movements are smooth and the choreography is thought out pretty well and shows off each character’s unique abilities. With various characters fighting Deathstroke there’s a lot of fluidity to those sequences whereas a fight against another villain in the end is a bit of a basic brawl. Deathstroke fighting Nightwing or Robin is definitely what fans will enjoy most.
Sam Liu directs a competent film and, for the most part, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is enjoyable. The team dynamic works, but it’s also a shame some members of the team and their personal lives are pushed to the sidelines for the more popular Titans. It’s also a shame how much the film diverts from the original story because it loses much of Deathstroke’s depth, relegating him to a one-dimensional villain, but the real star of the show is Ricci’s Terra. Overall, The Judas Contract is well-directed and animated, but fans of the story of the Teen Titans might be a bit disappointed.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★