Justice League vs Teen Titans

The Other Side of Animation 86: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s actually quite refreshing to see DC get back on its feet after the failure that was 2016. So far, it has had two great movies with The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, both being fantastic films that are fun to watch and have a lot of great personality to them. Neither of them feels like they were trying too hard to be edgy or focused on the wrong aspects of the film that completely ruin everything else. So, where does Teen Titans: The Judas Contract stand among the DC fodder of this year? The Judas Contract is a follow-up to 2016’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans, a film that I really despised, and felt like it was wasted, based on the fact that one unlikable character took too much of the main story-time from the other members. So, how good is the follow-up? Is it as fantastic as the 2005 original show, or is it just another dud in the basket of other duds from DC? Let’s find out.

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The story takes place one year after Justice League vs. Teen Titans. The team has gotten bigger with the newest member, Terra, voiced by Christina Ricci, a girl who can control rock. Nightwing, voiced by Sean Maher, has become co-leader of the Titans, along with Starfire. The main driving force and threat of this film centers around Brother Blood, voiced by Gregg Henry, a leader of a cult. He plans on taking the powers and life force from the Titans to ascend into godhood. He won’t be alone in pulling off this plan, as he has the help of Slade/Deathstroke, voiced by the late Miguel Ferrer. Can the Titans stop Brother Blood and Deathstroke? Is Terra a fully trustworthy character? Does this film have similar story beats to the 2000s series?

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Right off the bat, I want to say that this film does everything better than the previous film in every single way. First off, Damian Wayne does not steal the spotlight, as this time, everyone gets shared screen-time. For the most part, everyone gets their own little story arcs, like Blue Beetle and his divisive relationship with his family, Nightwing and Starfire being a couple, and Beast Boy with his relationship with Terra. This is what the first movie should have been instead of Damian Wayne being the worst thing on earth and hogging up what was pretty much Raven’s story. I liked a lot of what was going on between the team members, and found their chemistry to be leagues better than the last film. Even Damian Wayne is toned down in this film, and becomes rather tolerable. I can’t believe that he would be toned down, since the writers adore making him a power fantasy character. Sure, I can see some people not enjoying the pairings or story arcs of what is going on between the different characters, but at the very least, it’s a step up from Damian hogging the spotlight, while everyone else is either poorly written or not fleshed out. This time, it really does feel like a team, and that is what you look for in these types of films. It’s why the Justice League in this film universe really bugged me. It’s because they always acted like they didn’t really like or respect each other, and they seem to be at each other’s throats, and willing to kill each other.

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The animation is the typical direct-to-video DC film quality. It has good animation, even if at times they slow down the framerate, making the movements look iffy. However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the film has some fantastic action sequences. Granted, when you have Deathstroke and a bunch of characters that have super powers, you should be able to make the action top-notch. I personally prefer the action in Justice League Dark, but that’s mostly because it’s all magic-based, and you can get away with cool spells and pretty visuals with magic. I also liked that everyone was pretty competent in terms of being able to hold their own. The previous film had some good action, but some characters felt like they got the short end of the stick.  The voice cast is also stellar. Everyone from the previous film reprises their roles, and Terra’s voice actress, Cristina Ricci, and Miguel Ferrer in one of his final roles as Deathstroke do great jobs at their own characters. The rest of the voice cast is decent, like I think Gregg Henry as Brother Blood does a solid job as a creepy cult leader. Oh, and if you are a comic book fan and haven’t seen this film yet, they do keep the creepy Deathstroke and Terra relationship that happened in the comics.

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The only real major complaint I have about the film is that the lead villain, Brother Blood, is not entirely original or unique. I have seen a couple of different versions of him, and each time that I have seen those iterations, he was way more imposing and threatening than this version. This version was simply boring, and he was just another zealous cult leader. Granted, Deathstroke had more of a character arc, alongside his relationship with Terra, but if Brother Blood is supposed to be the bigger threat, they didn’t do a good job. I also felt like the romance plot between Beast Boy and Terra was done way better in the show. Granted, a lot of storylines in films could be done better if they were spread across multiple episodes, but here it felt forced, even though that is what happens in the comics and the TV series. I think it also loses a lot of that emotional weight, because fans of the franchise have seen this story arc before. The only interesting change would be if we see the effect it had on Beast Boy in the next film.

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While I think The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark are better, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract gets my “Redemption from Something Awful Award”, due to how it improves upon everything the first film failed to do. Heck, if Wonder Woman and the future DC-animated films continue to be good, Warner Bros. could have what can be considered their best year in terms of DC films. If you haven’t checked this one out, definitely do so. Well, as I wait for Batman & Harley Quinn to come out, how about we take a look at Smurfs: The Lost Village next time? Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2016 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Welcome back, everyone, to part 2 of this very long list. As usual, if you haven’t seen part 1, here is a link to it. I’m counting down the worst-to-the-best animated films that I saw from 2016, and we shall now move onto the films that are middle of the road, disappointing, and at the very least, visually interesting.

27. Monkey King: Hero is Back

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Want an example of one of the worst dubs that I can ever think of? This movie is the prime example of a distributor that didn’t really care about pushing out a good dub for this popular Chinese-animated CGI action flick. It sounds like they were rushing to get this out, and ignored the level of quality. Even then, a good dub wouldn’t have saved the other problems this film has, like its very Hollywoodized version of the legendary folk tale, horrible jokes, the multiple times the kid should have died but didn’t, and the better than most, but still middling animation. The fight scenes are fun to watch, and out of all the Chinese-animation schlock that Lionsgate, for some reason, likes to bring over, Monkey King: Hero is Back is watchable. It’s the most watchable one out of those films, but that doesn’t mean much when the rest isn’t worth sitting through.

26. Justice League vs. Teen Titans

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Man, it was kind of tough to say this was better than The Killing Joke, because I don’t like this one a lot either. Not only is the title misleading, since the Titans don’t fight the actual League members, but rather fight Trigon-possessed version of them, and get floored by them, but it also focuses way too much on quite possibly the worst character in the current DC-animated film universe, Damian Wayne. Yes, I get why he is as he is, and he does get a good fight later on in the film, but they focused way too much on the guy when it wasn’t really his story. This left the film with very underdeveloped characters that I hope get more screen-time in the upcoming Teen Titans: The Judas Contract(spoiler alert: They do.). I do like some of the characters and the scenes in Justice League vs. Teen Titans, but if this was supposed to be the one reason why we got Young Justice season 3, or anything Teen Titans-related, then I feel scammed, because I had to support a bad movie to get good stuff!

25. The Angry Birds Movie

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Talk about a film that had no reason to be anything but terrible, and ended up a rather decent experience. While I don’t think it’s a great movie, it probably had more effort put into its writing and characters, than any of the previous films on this list. For the most part, I still enjoyed the film’s dialogue, the jokes, and Red and his cohorts were fun to watch. Yeah, everything starts to dissolve into terrible film tripe when the pigs show up, the Mighty Eagle played by Peter Dinklage was pointless and easily the worst part of the movie beyond the celebrity cameos, but by the end, I was enjoying myself due to the voice work. While definitely a mediocre film, it’s the best video game adaptation to have come out to put a lot of the video game film adaptations to shame.

24. The Secret Life of Pets

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While I’m fine with this film doing well in the box office, since it shows “original” films can do well, The Secret Life of Pets still feels so painfully average. It doesn’t do anything in its story well, but it’s not bad either in what it does. I can see why people were so upset with this film’s success, due to how unoriginal and bland it can be. It also doesn’t help that it had 100 different characters who had no real personality to them. Everything was well voice acted and animated well, but the writing was weak, and the characters needed more time to either be fleshed out or taken out of the film altogether. While definitely leagues better than most films from 2016, The Secret Life of Pets will be yet another example of Illumination Entertainment having a great idea, but no noteworthy execution of said idea.

23. Trolls

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Honestly, this film was much higher on the list at one time. I loved the art style, the animation, the voice work, and some of the fairytale-style ideas. I also loved the idea of happiness that it attempted to show throughout the film. Because of all this, it rose above such horrible first impressions with that very first teaser trailer. However, as time went on, I kept bumping it down the list. It might have great ideas, but it never takes full advantage of them. About 80% of the characters don’t have any real character to them outside of their celebrity voices, and much of this otherwise-solid movie felt very manufactured. Like, really? Did we need Gwen Stefani as one of the characters, when she barely has a voice or role? Still, it’s an enjoyable watch, but I get why some were not so happy about this film.

22. Belladonna of Sadness

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Yes, this one counts, since it was never released in the states, even though it came out in the 1970s. Belladonna of Sadness was the final film from this adult animated trilogy that was started by the grandfather of all anime creators, Osamu Tezuka. It’s a beautifully abstract animated film, with all the trippy sexual energy you would see in an animated films from the 70s aimed at adults. Unfortunately, due to how limited the actual animation is, and how uncomfortable the beginning of the film is, its sexual themes will probably turn off a lot of people to this film. It’s the one film I can think of where I will agree and disagree at the same time if you love or hate this movie. It’s a bizarre and interesting experience that is definitely worth checking out if you are into film or animation history.

21. Sausage Party

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Just like Trolls, Sausage Party was higher on the list at one point, but as usual, I thought about it and bumped it down a few pegs. It was mostly because while I found the film funny, a lot of its humor was “miss”, since I’m picky about my stoner humor, and of course, the controversy revolving around the abused animators really does bring this film down. It’s a shame, too, because there was a lot of effort put into its themes and writing, it was a hilarious parody of Pixar-style films, and it’s great that this film opened the door for more animated films to be aimed at adults. It’s still a blast to watch, but your mileage may vary depending on who you are, but hey, that’s comedy.

20. Storks

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This was an amusing surprise, and a sad tragedy that this film didn’t do better in terms of box office numbers. I won’t deny that I get why people are split on this film, but at the very least, I sat through the entire film and found it to be a really great comedic watch. Yes, its world-building and characters are not well fleshed out, but it had the best comedy of the comedy-based animated films of the year. It had beautiful, fast-paced animation, a great comedic cast of actors, and it’s an entertaining experience. I wish it was better, since it doesn’t reach The LEGO Movie or Shrek 2, in terms of animated comedy heights, but I’m definitely going to be watching this one again in the future.

19. SING

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Oh, hey, look, another Illumination Entertainment film is low on the list. While I do admire that the studio was branching out in 2016 with two new films that are not Despicable Me-related, it still had plenty of the flaws you would find in these films, with underdeveloped characters, stories, and, once again, a great crowd-pleasing idea that isn’t taken fully advantage of. It was really aggravating, because this film’s advertising was everywhere, to an extremely nauseating degree. Even then, I still had fun watching this movie. The animation was great, the designs are solid, the contestants are relatable and likable, the music is fantastic, the actors did a great job portraying their characters, and it was a film I’m glad was better than what I was thinking it would be. I always like being surprised. I just hope Illumination can step up their game with future films.

That is it for Part 2 of the list, be prepared for part 3 in the future.

The Other Side of Animation 36: Justice League vs Teen Titans Review


(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

SPOILERS/HEADS UP: I have seen the previous movies and I am going to spoil what happens in this movie. If you have not yet seen this movie, go buy the movie, watch it, and then come back. Plus, this will apparently help make sure we get more Young Justice/Teen Titans-related projects down the pipeline.

If there was one company that is not doing well with their movies and projects based off of their comic book properties, it would have to be DC. Seriously, think about it. Batman Arkham Knight’s PC port was and still is a disaster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is underperforming since Warner Bros. thought it would be a good idea to get Zack Snyder and Davis S. Goyer to be in charge of one of the most hyped superhero movies of all time (it’s not Fantastic 4 from 2015-failing, but it’s not making a profit), and even some of their better avenues with straight-to-DVD films are lacking in consistent quality. And to be honest, it’s a disappointment all around. DC is trying to be dark and gritty in order to try and counteract Marvel, but it is not working all the time. Usually, I think DC’s animated series and straight-to-DVD movies are pretty top-notch, with just one or two exceptions. Sadly, DC and Warner Bros. aren’t flawless with their good stuff either, since they make questionable moves like cancelling Young Justice because the viewership was bigger with female fans than male. Because, you know, apparently shows that cater to either genders or anyone, in fact, can’t be successful. Man, I’m really snarky in this opening bit. Anyway, I decided to check out DC’s newest straight-to-DVD offering with Justice League vs. Teen Titans. This film was released last month in April, 2016, and is in an interesting situation, since if this film does sell well, we could get more Teen Titans, Young Justice, and similar projects including films and TV shows out of this. As you shall soon see, in my personal opinion, I wish this wasn’t the film to be that savior.

The film revolves around Damian Wayne, voiced by Stuart Allan, after the events of Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin, and Batman: Bad Blood. After helping out the Justice League take down a group of supervillains, Damian, being the most unlikable human being in that universe (we will get to that), decides to chew out Batman and the Justice League for being not as progressive with their strategies as he is. Essentially, Batman has had enough of Damian’s obnoxious attitude, and with no exaggeration, forces him to join the Teen Titans, a group of teenage superheroes. The Titans include Beast Boy, voiced by Brandon Soo Hoo, Raven, voiced by Taissa Farmiga, Blue Beetle, voiced by Jake T. Austin, and their leader, Starfire, voiced by Kari Wahlgren. While this is all going on, a sinister evil is trying to make his way into the real world, and is known as Trigon, voiced by the Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal. Can the Titans stop the evil from coming to this world?

Let’s get the bad out of the way. Why? Because for the few good things this film does well, it does a lot more wrong than right. Let’s start with the actual title of the film, Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Well, it’s a blatant lie. Sure, the Teen Titans do fight the Justice League, but instead of being a well-executed reason to have such a conflict, in reality, it’s more, “Trigon-possessed Justice League members wiping the floor with the Teen Titans in a very one-sided fight.”  If this was called Teen Titans: Day of Trigon or something that actually had anything remotely close to actually what happens, then it would be fine. It’s just bad marketing. Plus, the fight only lasts about three or four minutes, and that’s it. However, I can forgive the marketing, since it’s not the biggest problem with this movie. No, the biggest problem with this movie is Damian Wayne a.k.a, the newest Robin. He is by far one of the most unlikable, obnoxious, tedious, overpowered male fantasy, cocky, arrogant, and most despicable characters I have ever seen in my time of reviewing. Yeah, you can argue that he is a super-strong character because he is the son of Batman and the grandfather of Ra’s al Ghul, but that doesn’t mean that he’s a good character or that the stories that Damian has been a part of support his horrible traits. He is so incredibly disrespectful towards everyone, and doesn’t really change. I mean, technically he does, but it doesn’t feel rewarding or natural. They don’t do enough story-oriented events to make Damian more humble or have any known character arc. Heck, since he is in the film, he basically takes up 70% of the time that could have been used for the other characters, since they barely get any screen time, and it takes away from the actual lead of the story, Raven. It’s her story, since she is the daughter of Trigon, and yet, she doesn’t get a lot of development because Damian’s story hogs the running time. Over his development of the DC animated films, he has shown to be able to take down villains, and have encounters that overpower groups of heroes. For example, in Son of Batman, he takes down Deathstroke, a.k.a one of the most dangerous assassins in the entire DC universe by himself with no help! He even takes down a bunch of unkillable Trigon demons when the Titans couldn’t take them down by himself. Damian even beats Beast Boy at a DDR-style game that he has never played before on his first try. They show him struggle a little, but in the end, he bests Beast Boy. I just can’t stand this character, and throughout the entire film, I wanted reach through the screen and punch his disrespectful face. He shows no respect towards anyone, and the story keeps supporting his attitude. Even when he gets blasted by Blue Beetle and almost dies, he doesn’t give an apology for how he acted. Nope, he just gives one of those half-baked apologies that you know aren’t really serious. Again, due to how much Damian hogs the movie, in terms of screen time, it leaves everyone else pretty boring and one-dimensional. It’s ironic since the other members of the team are much more likable and interesting than him. Oh, and it’s sad how Starfire is the leader of the team and a pretty likable character in her own way, but is constantly getting the tar kicked out of her. It’s funny that Trigon, the big baddie of the film, played one of the more interesting character actors of recent history, is barely in the movie. When he arrives, it’s basically the last 10 minutes of the film. Really, due to Damian, everything else suffers. And they need to stop trying to push Raven with Damian. He doesn’t deserve her.

The animation is nicely done, and the overall tone of the film is similar to Young Justice, but I think there is a bit too much blur used, and they could have made certain characters not act like punching bags. The voice acting and script are also hindered with a lot of the voices and lines either sounding flat, clunky, forced, or not really interesting. I mean, how do you have all these talented actors and not be able bring out an overall great job? Oh, and check this out, Blue Beetle isn’t even on the cover. Cyborg, who doesn’t have a lot of airtime in the movie, gets a huge slice of the box art. I understand they wanted to bring in the viewers and fans of the original Teen Titans, including the cool Terra Easter egg at the end, but that just seems crummy that you leave out a character on the box.

So, how would I have fixed this movie if I was in charge of it? Easy, make this a stand-alone film, or not part of the current animated DC universe that was started with Justice League War. I would have not added Damian, or at the very least, made a more likable and enjoyable version to watch, give everyone equal time to develop, and probably focus on a different story other than another “rise of Trigon”-style story. I would have also made the film longer than 70 minutes. The biggest problem with this film being connected to the current DC animated universe is that the overall universe has not been that great. It had potential, but due to different story problems and boring characters, it feels like a disappointment in terms of potential.

Okay, so I went on and on about how Damian almost single-handedly takes down this entire film’s story, but what do I like about this movie? Well, even if they don’t get a lot of time to develop, I love the interaction between Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. The two were very interesting, and had decent chemistry. I like this film’s Raven, and even though she could have had more non-forced snark, she was the only character I felt invested in. She was always one of the best characters to get to know in a lot of the projects that have used her. The fight scenes are pretty intense and well animated. And even though Damian almost ruins the story, at least the goals and what happens is clear. You know, unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the logic used in that movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I also found some the lines in the movie pretty well done and funny. Especially the little interaction between Cyborg and Batman, where Batman asks where all the food goes when Cyborg eats.

Overall, I’m very disappointed in this project. This should have been a slam dunk, since most everyone loved Teen Titans and Young Justice, but the direction this film takes is 100% wrong. I mean, I think it’s wrong that we have to buy an underwhelming movie to make sure we get more Teen Titans and Young Justice. I might be in the more critical minority, since I’m sure there are people who love this movie, and that’s fine! I just feel like if they weren’t pinning this down as the sole reason for future projects, I would be happier to support it. While it doesn’t hit it out of the park, and has misleading marketing and Damian, there is still some good elements about the film. I can only recommend purchasing this film either because you are A. a hardcore fan of DC or B. wants more Teen Titans and Young Justice-related products. Well, this was underwhelming, and I might recommend purchasing this film with a begrudging shrug, but let’s look at one of the more odd animated films I have seen with Mind Game. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and see you next time!

 

Rating: Lackluster!