I miss the days of Bruce Timm and the DC Animated Universe. The atmosphere of the shows under his producer credits often felt so good that there were few moments where I noticed something that brought me back to reality. Most of these moments belonged to “The Zeta Project,” but even then I liked the show regardless. The most apparent thing to me when I watch these old shows is they stand on their own, writing is seldom clichéd; the times they are cliché bring about the possibility that they did them first.
The mention of clichés brings us to our next subject on the autopsy table, “Justice League vs. Teen Titans”; I figured it was going to end up here anyway. I remember when I first heard of the film, I had formed an opinion of the film based on the title alone. It’s admittedly childish to do so, when at the time the film had not even released, but something irked me. The title of the film sounded like the title to a YouTube fan video, or a click-bait article title. My doubts of this film were not dissuaded after seeing another certain DC versus film.
[The film will now be critiqued beyond this point, including plot details. Read at your own peril.]
We begin our film with the Justice League fighting the Legion of Doom, with a nearby reporter providing obvious scene setting exposition. As we have only words to go off of for why this battle started, there is no feeling of investment. I didn’t have a care about anything in this fight. I saw it as a set piece on a lame theme park ride, just waiting for it to be over. The only things of note are Solomon Grundy’s forced Incredible Hulk reference, “GRUNDY SMASH,” and Lex Luthor’s brief appearance. His voice actor (V.A.) is Steve Blum, who you may know from a massive list of roles. His note in this section is an unfortunate one, as while I love his iconic voice, it is incredibly out of place for Lex.
It is in the middle of this fight we meet one of the main characters of this story, Robin, whose shoes are filled by Damian Wayne. Broody, contemptuous, and just annoying, he’s been relegated to crowd control, much to his annoyance. After disobeying his father, Batman, he is sent to go train on a team of other young heroes.
Cutting to a training simulation, the rest of the main cast is introduced. The Teen Titans, consisting of Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Raven, and led by Starfire. I would normally be ecstatic about these characters teamed up in a DC animated film, but this film has killed my enthusiasm. Beast Boy is still somewhat fun, but everyone else feels flat and lifeless, Starfire especially.
Starfire, despite being an alien, seems to have greatly adjusted to human mannerisms and ways, to the point of being almost mother-like to the rest of the Titans. Neither matching her persona of either her earlier comic portrayals, or previous television appearances, and only given two lines of backstory, Starfire is incredibly boring as a character in this film.
Raven is less emotional than her previous incarnation in cartoons. Her previous appearances had spikes of anger and annoyance, but other emotions made appearances. In this film, all we really have been offered with her character is deadpan line reading. Less than a handful of times does her V.A. lend Raven emotion in her voice, with the rest of Raven’s lines being read with extremely dull tones. While one could attribute this to being part of her personality, I point to her Teen Titans V.A. and say her rendition feels more genuine than just dialog void of emotion.
The team is later standing outside a familiar T-shaped building, as the Batmobile pulls up. After Damian is introduced to the rest of the team, complete with contempt towards them, Starfire is faced with the problem that he does not work well with the other team members. This is solved with a montage at a carnival, including Beast Boy and Damian having a dance off on a giant DDR machine. Soon after, the plot finally progresses.
Raven’s father, the demon Trigon, has broken from his prison of crystal, and is seeking his daughter so they may become one and conquer the Earth. After a transformation scene that is practically plagiarizing Sailor Moon, the Titans move to do battle against Trigon’s minions. Upon defeating their foes, Raven gives her team her backstory, including why her father desires her and her power. Her family has a history of making stupid decisions, including herself. She and her mother flee from a cult and end up being adopted by the people of the realm Azarath. Naturally, she decided to sate her curiosity of her father by summoning him to her new home realm. Someone call the Darwin Awards, we have a prime future candidate.
Arriving back at Titans Tower, the gang finds themselves to be faced up against some members of the Justice League. The JL is promptly possessed by Trigon’s spirit and thus we finally arrive at the eponymous fight. If you are expecting something significant, because of it being the title’s focus, prepare to be disappointed. This fight lasts around two minutes, where upon Raven surrenders to her possessed opponents. There seems to be a common theme among DC films, where if they are titled as “x vs. y,” the title fight is less than one percent of the film’s total runtime.
Raven is brought to a desert, where in a previous scene, Superman unearthed a Stargate. This Stargate turns out to be an altar for Raven to have her powers sapped. Trigon then enters our realm, and our heroes make a last ditch effort to recover and reuse Trigon’s old prison. Upon reaching the top of the old prison grounds in a hell realm, Raven and Damian find a completely unforeseen opponent, Damian’s grandfather, Ra’s Al Ghul. After Damian dispatches him with help from the sudden convenient appearance and intervention of a soul spire, Raven begins her entrapping spell and the Titans save the day.
The fact that a film synopsis is best way I could articulate my thoughts on this film attests to how boring of a movie this was, if not irritating. The voice cast and direction for this film are easily my least favorite elements of this film. The characters that are not given boring voices and dialog are instead given grating voices and lines. The aforementioned Damian Wayne is a prime example of this. Every time the twerp spoke, I wanted to smash my skull against the desk. In contrast, his father’s voice puts people to sleep.
Combine the boring one-dimensional characters with the annoying ones and you’ve got quite the boring and irritating experience. The animation is of good quality, but it is heavily overshadowed by there being little substance to this film. It’s not entirely un-redeemable, but just the same; I’d recommend watching “Young Justice” or “Teen Titans” and enjoying a more pleasant experience instead.
★★☆☆☆ “Mediocre. A lukewarm experience that only fans will possibly enjoy.”