After the disappointing, cluttered Batman: Bad Blood, DC Animated’s second feature in 2016 is Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Having these two teams duke it out is a fantastic idea for a DC animated film. Unfortunately, the execution isn’t satisfactory at all. And yet, I still pick it over Batman v Sup – uh, on second thought, not really. This movie is as equally problematic and underwhelming as BvS.
It’s supposedly the third installment in the New 52-inspired Justice League animated film series that started with War and which universe Flashpoint Paradox had established; however, it’s more of a Teen Titans movie with the Justice League serving as guest/background characters. The plot centers mostly on Damien Wayne a.k.a. Robin being sent to the Teen Titans so that he can learn and embrace the value of belonging in and working with a team for the first time – which is kind of weird, since Bad Blood ends with Robin patrolling the night with the Bat-Family – and Raven’s secret, dark past catching up to her.
The “vs.” only happens because the Justice League get possessed by demons during the third act, and the Teen Titans are forced to fight them off for a minute or two. If that sounds to be anticlimactically lazy, it is. In stories where heroes are pitted against each other, the best ones are those that have substance behind the conflict and within the action; Justice League vs. Teen Titans has neither. The story is pretty thin and riddled with plot holes, and the action sequences aren’t exciting at all.
The movie puts a noticeable stress on the “teen” in Teen Titans. It has teen angst, familiar teen drama tropes, teen romantic tension, and even some teen pop music. This aspect brings a sense of corniness to the movie. Not satisfied with just that, there’s also this transformation sequence a la Power Rangers or Sailor Moon that’s utterly distracting and dumb.
With such a title, Justice League vs. Teen Titans could have definitely been more (just as BvS could have been more with its own epic premise). Instead, it was satisfied to settle with just being an ordinarily entertaining but wobbly production.
Miscellaneous musings (some spoilers):
- Cyborg spending a good amount of screen time with the Teen Titans is refreshing. It’s obviously intended that way since Cyborg was a prominent member of the Teen Titans before becoming a founding Justice League member in DC’s New 52 reboot. If the movie’s final team shot (see above) was any indication, if a Teen Titans animated movie is greenlit, he and Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing are going to be in the lineup.
- In a post-credit scene, Terra is shown/teased in the same manner as Batgirl in Bad Blood. So she’s going to be in the next lineup, too.
- Speaking of Batgirl, hopefully, her introduction in Bad Blood was not simply intended to set her up for The Killing Joke (coming later this year). Now, I’m glad that the classic graphic novel is getting a film adaptation, but I wish that the Batgirl character wasn’t just introduced in animated form just to play her role The Killing Joke. At best, I want a solo Batgirl animated film. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if The Killing Joke is set in a different universe separate from the Son of Batman/vs. Robin/Bad Blood universe.
- It’s only in Justice League vs. Teen Titans wherein it was finally made apparent to me that the War/Throne of Atlantis/vs. Teen Titans trilogy shares the same universe as the Son of Batman/vs. Robin/Bad Blood trilogy.
- It’s not the movie’s fault, but watching it left me with a feeling of bitter rage, for I was reminded how the extremely well-written Young Justice animated series was prematurely cancelled.