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Review: ‘Justice League vs. Teen Titans’ Is An Exciting Step Forward For Titan Fans

justice league teen titans review

In 2014, WB Animation kicked off a more cohesive series of DVD/On-Demand DC Comics movies, starting with Justice League: War and Son of Batman. Most of the follow up movies since have been quite solid, sporting new takes on the characters that derive from a mix of New 52 and more classic comic book stories.

The Batman features have probably been the best out of all of them, which is why it’s so interesting to watch Justice League vs. Teen Titans, which almost acts as a referendum on how much more compelling these younger, less established characters are compared to the “major leagues” as Cyborg puts it.

It’s not exactly a problem with the movie, but the title itself is actually quite misleading. This is a Teen Titans movie where the Justice League is more of an afterthought and in the background. True, there is some brief action between the two factions, but it’s of little consequence and certainly not the focus of the plot.

The story is really about two characters, starting with Damian Wayne (the new Robin and son of Batman) joining the Teen Titans in order to curb his rebellious ways. As he meets his new teammates, the story shifts to the viewpoint of Raven, the daughter of Trigon (Satan, basically, according to Raven herself). From there, it becomes her movie, with Robin’s story thankfully becoming a side plot.

justice league teen titans review

What makes Teen Titans bold here is how freely it celebrates all corners of the lore that inspired it. This will certainly be a nostalgic adventure for fans of the early 2000s Teen Titans cartoon, but it also works for fans of the New Teen Titans comics, Young Justice, and Teen Titans Go (unfortunately, as clearly shown by the inclusion of an overlong dance sequence and a costume montage reminiscent of Sailor Moon).

This eclectic mix of characters, themes, and visual elements helps make Teen Titans feel almost new again, thanks to its willingness to embrace the edgier tones and storytelling consistent with the Justice League and Batman movies from recent years. The Titans curse, talk about sex, and frankly, act like teenagers. It’s somewhat surprising, at first, but it makes perfect sense when the Justice League does show up to remind everyone that in this universe, characters actually bleed.

The story itself is a big improvement over the more clumsy Throne of Atlantis last year, which tried to juggle Aquaman’s origins with a world-saving plot. Teen Titans goes for the same origin story with Raven, but it’s more effective here because the somewhat less exciting aspect of her origin is out of the way. The movie starts with characters who have a history together, giving viewers a chance to meet them for the first time alongside Damian.

Speaking of the son of Batman, he’s a little less insufferable this time around, though if you already find him annoying, this movie won’t change your mind much. But there is a satisfying story arc here that finally grows his character in a meaningful way, which we haven’t seen done well since Batman vs. Robin. And most importantly, I’m more excited than ever to see what comes next for his character.

justice league teen titans review

The classic characters are all here — Starfire is older and serves as the leader (as well as Dick Grayson’s implied sweetheart), Beast Boy fits the same role as the cartoon, Raven is an interesting foil to Damian’s self-loathing, Blue Beetle carries straight over from Young Justice as the Cyborg surrogate, and even Cyborg himself gets a chance to split time between the Titans and the league.

You can perhaps extract more meaning, then, from the title Justice League vs. Teen Titans, in that it’s less about the actual battle between the two factions and more about Damian’s struggle to find identity with either group. Should he follow his mentor or find teamwork with people his age? It’s not  the movie’s main theme, but it’s a useful way to unpack what is mostly a harmless story that feels updated for both old and new fans of these characters.

Grade: B+ 

Extra Credits:

  • There’s a mid-credits scene that you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re a fan of the early 2000s cartoon.
  • The “Hall of Justice” makes an early appearance, cementing WB Animation commitment to sneaking in as many “Superfriends” references as they can.
  • The weird romance continues between Superman and Wonder Woman, and while I’m not against the idea in theory, the movies are being far too shy letting this story go anywhere.
  • But there is one thing the movie does cleverly, involving Wonder Woman’s criticism of a movie showing the female lead as a damsel. I won’t give away what happens, but there are two subversions of this comment that is shared between Wonder Woman and Raven.
  • WB Animation announced plans for a Teen Titans movie way back in 2006 called Judas Contract, but the movie was cancelled due to waning interest in the characters. This is a stepping stone to that story finally coming to light, especially with that mid-credits scene making an appearance.
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If Marvel Makes a Female ‘Teen Titans,’ This Should Be The Epic Lineup

I love it when Marvel creates new and interesting female characters that represent a twist in established universes. In recent years, they’ve written some incredible stories with these new superheroes (and villains).

And this year, Marvel announced an all-star team up of heroines led by She-Hulk. The core lineup consists  of Dazzler, Medusa, Singularity, and Nico Minoru. Though there are plenty more Marvel favorites that will make appearances, as you can see from the cover below.

female teen titans marvel

Now, I’m a big fan of Teen Titans, the D.C. storylines surrounding the younger counterparts to bigger heroes. I’m not a comic-book writer, and I don’t want to be constrained to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So I propose a killer animated TV series that puts “Teen Titans Go” to shame. I would call it, Teen Avengers. 

Yeah, I know. Original.

This new lineup would have to be a shakeup of relatively new characters and new twists on older characters. I would take tremendous liberties with the source material to make it happen, but I think you’ll like the end result if you open your mind. So here’s my dream lineup without context:

Sharon Carter, Thor, Ms. Marvel, Abyss and Spider-Woman (AKA Spider-Gwen).

female teen titans marvel

OK, let’s get the context started.

In order for this team to make sense, I have to walk you through the actual story I have in mind. Don’t worry, we’ll just stick with the cliff notes, though keep in mind that this would be an alternate reality in which everyone’s age would be younger than what’s established.

Let’s begin!

INTRO

The series would open on Mars, and we’d be introduced to Abyss and her brother Ex Nihilo. An “Aleph” has helped them terraform Mars into a hospitable planet as their guide. They’re members of The Garden, a group of creation avatars that go to worlds and “plant seeds” to make them better worlds. Those “seeds” usually result in planets being completely wiped out, and The Garden now has Earth in its sights.

female teen titans marvel
Abyss (left); Ex Nihilo (right)

Abyss and Ex Nihilo have unique powers in the comics. Abyss has mind manipulation, while Ex Nihilo is more of a powerhouse. Their plan is to terraform Earth by wiping out its inhabitants. The image above shows you a pretty good snapshot of their motivations.

FAN GIRL

In the next scene, we see a teenage girl typing on a computer in New Jersey. She’s Kamala Khan, who will eventually become Ms. Marvel. She writes fan fiction about the Avengers and is a huge fan of this world’s Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers).

female teen titans marvel

Kamala goes to a party and tries to fit in, but she has a panic attack after coming in contact with a strange boy. He follows her home and reveals that he is Alaris, an Inhuman in disguise. He tells Kamala that she’s a descendant of the Inhumans, and she passes out in shock.

She dreams of Captain Marvel, who asks her, “Who do you want to be?” Kamala replies, “I want to be you.” She awakens with strange powers and is unable to control them.

AGENT CARTER

We’d then shift to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, where Sharon Carter (niece of Peggy Carter from Captain America and Agent Carter) is working. They’re flying over New Jersey, where Inhuman activity has been detected. Sharon is in her late teens at this point, so she wants to prove herself to the director, Maria Hill. So she leaves the Helicarrier alone and uses her sleuth skills to find the Inhuman without starting a fight.

female teen titans marvel

SIBLING RIVALRY

Meanwhile, Abyss and Ex Nihilo have nearly arrived on Earth. Ex Nihilo tells Abyss that their plan will be to transform creatures into better creatures, starting with the most troubled. He points to a person in New Jersey who is struggling to control her powers. Abyss reluctantly agrees to pursue this,  though she regards in how beautiful the planet already is.

WITH GREAT POWER

female teen titans marvel

In New Jersey, Kamala tries to go through her day, but her powers are becoming more chaotic. Finally, she accidentally causes a car accident and her fists enlarge. Everywhere Kamala goes, she makes a mess, and now police are trying to subdue her. Of course, their bullets don’t work.

Sharon Carter arrives, unarmed, and tries to calm Kamala down. It almost works, as Kamala tells Gwen her name and they connect for a second, until someone swoops in and covers Kamala in webbing.

A girl in a white costume comes in and complains she had to come here all the way from Queens. It’s Spider-Gwen, the alternate version of Spider-Man, in which Gwen Stacey is bit by a radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker.

female teen titans marvel

A battle ensues, and it’s somewhat an even match. Sharon keeps trying to stop the fighting, but Kamala feels too threatened to back down. Finally, Abyss and Ex Nihilo arrive. Ex Nihilo defeats all of them easily and takes Kamala with him, despite Abyss’s please that she’s just a kid.

ASSEMBLE!

S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives and takes Gwen into custody, while Sharon tries to explain herself. On the Helicarrier, Sharon tries to explain to Maria Hill and the rest of command what happened, but none of them know who these strange creatures are that took Kamala. Sharon brings up the nature of Ex Nihilo’s divine powers, which convinces Maria to “make a call.”

Later, Sharon meets with Spider-Gwen, who is being held for questioning. She asks Gwen who she is and where she got her powers, but Gwen’s not interesting in sharing any origin stories. She just wants to get out of there and save Kamala, now realizing she was wrong to be so aggressive. Sharon tells them to let Gwen free so Maria and decide what to do with her, and then the entire ship quakes. Something has arrived on the hull.

female teen titans marvel

They go to the top to find an Asgardian getting to her feet. It’s Thor (the female version whose identity is a secret for now). Maria Hill called her to assist with this situation. They explain that Abyss and Ex Nihilo are from The Garden, powerful creatures who wipe out worlds to make them better. Asgard rules that Midgard (Earth) is under their protection from The Garden, and Thor has been sent to solve the matter.

TBD…

I could keep going, but you see where this is going, right? Abyss will ultimately betray her brother, Ex Nihilo and help Gwen, Thor, Kamala, and Sharon defeat him. Stopping The Garden ties each character together in their own S.H.I.E.L.D. sanctioned team up, which would make Sharon Carter their leader.

My reasoning behind each character’s inclusion is pretty simple. They all bring something different to the table, and they each represent core universes in Marvel pantheon, with the sad exception of Iron Man and Hulk’s worlds. But that could be remedied.

female teen titans marvel

Sharon Carter represents the justice and strong leadership of Captain America, though not in name. Thor is the walking Deus Ex Machina. Spider-Woman (or Silk if we want to be liberal with the source material) is the quirky science whiz with tons of potential. Abyss is the former villain that people aren’t as familiar with, making her role dynamic over time. And Ms. Marvel is the wildcard. She represents us trying to figure this new world out that we’ve just been introduced to. She is, after all, a super fan writing fan fiction.

What do you think of my story idea? Send me your questions, comments, corrections, and suggestions!

Thanks for reading! If you like this blog, you can subscribe for weekly updates by clicking the “Subscribe” button on the right sidebar. Or just follow me on Twitter for the latest updates – @JonNegroni

What Can The Wachowskis Do Next?

wachowskis next

(Click here to download the episode)

This week on the Now Conspiring Podcast, we review Jupiter Ascending and share our thoughts on the future of the Wachowski’s style of filmmaking. From The Matrix and V for Vendetta to Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas, we talk about what we hope they do next.

We also review The SpongeBob MovieSponge out of WaterSeventh Son, and The Voices (starring Ryan Reynolds and Anna Kendrick).

Later in the show, we discuss the casting news around the live-action Teen Titans show, the new Daredevil trailer, and more. Plus, we share our Netflix Recommendation of the Week in case you’re in a rut. And as always, stick around for our preview of this weekend’s new movie releases.

Enjoy the show, and don’t forget to rate and subscribe to our show on iTunes if you have a few seconds!

 

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