[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Bryan Q. Miller
Starring: Rosario Dawson, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Jerry O’Connell, Jason O’Mara, Stuart Allan, Jake T. Austin, Taissa Farmiga and Sean Maher
Original Release Date: April 12, 2016
In the DC Universe Animated Movie Justice League vs. Teen Titans the big guns take on their sidekicks! It’s taken them some time, but the Justice League have started to work more as a team, and on the eve of the inauguration of their all-new Hall of Justice, a “legion of doom” has descended upon their base — but it’s only a distraction! Another menace is moving in! It’s origins are ancient and before the league can learn more about it, Batman’s heir apparent, Damian aka Robin, has taken down their elusive enemy.
Looking to teach his adolescent charge a lesson, Batman decides it may be time for Damian to learn the value of teamwork — it is time to see how well Robin can play with others. Nightwing brings Robin to meet the Teen Titans, a group of adolescent heroes, some misfits, that are under the wing of the alien Starfire. The team consists of the changeling Beast Boy, the demon’s daughter Raven, and the Blue Beetle. Robin appears unimpressed, but that is about to change.
Raven has been keeping a secret, but that secret is about to get out and if she can’t control herself, she will unleash the power of her demonic father Trigon upon the planet! It isn’t long before the Justice League begin to fall under the influence of his evil power, leading to a battle to save their souls — and the Teen Titans are their only salvation! The Teen Titans are all that stands in the way between Trigon’s evil hordes and his domination over everything.
An original story not adapted from any pre-established material, the film introduces these teenage adventurers and fittingly the origins of Raven. At the center of it is as good a place as any to start. When her father, the demon Trigon, decides the time has come for Raven to assume her rightful place by his side in bringing hell to earth, Raven endears herself to her teammates and helps provide the necessary cohesion to bring the Titans together.
When the Justice League attempt to intervene and come to subdue Raven, the moment leads to an epic confrontation between the two superpowers! And with the league caught in the grip of Trigon’s magic, the audience has only the Teen Titans — and Robin — to cheer for! The story then takes on an even grander magnitude, as it enters into its second act as Raven prepares to bring Trigon’s evil to Earth.
The film continues to connect the established continuity of the current line of films that featured Batman and Robin, and JLvsTT is great at establishing Robin’s next steps, on his road to become a real hero. If it were a weekly television series, this version of the Teen Titans would certainly be a ratings hit.
Although the team of Titans introduced for the film are nary familiar to what fans are accustomed to from the classic 80s revival of the book that became a hit, this incarnation more closely emulates the mainstream roster seen on Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! on Cartoon Network, and in the current “Rebirth” title currently published by DC Comics. It’s very easy to have this group of Titans resonate with their fan base.
By the same token, the fact that this group of Teen Titans is indeed so different from previous incarnations, it makes you kind of scratch your head. DC Animated Films have never been all that beholden to continuity, and for the sake of igniting an interesting story, we have to except some compromises have to be made.
The rather cliche scene where the Titans bond over an evening at an amusement park is a little hard to swallow, but if you resign to the fact that the writers are pulling together bits and pieces to tell a larger narrative — well then so be it. You can also stomach the final battle that takes them into Trigon’s hell of a dimension. It would have been more exciting to relive this tale more closely aligned with the story from the comics, but oh well.
Overall Justice League vs. Teen Titans works very excitingly within the extended animated universe and features some real solid storytelling. The fact that it is mostly an original piece also makes it an instant stand-out. As a combined adventure which features a really big cast, the film just feels grand — and that’s worth the cost!