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Justice League Vs. Teen Titans
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/12/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Sydny Long, Posted on 4/7/2016
While it seems as if their imperialistic domination of the film industry has lasted for centuries, Marvel's rise to fame is a relatively recent occurrence. Before the Avengers initiative, Christopher Nolan's sullen Batman brooded his way to massive box office numbers and critical acclaim. Marvel had managed a few hits--most notably the excellent Spider-Man trilogy, along with some well-received X-Men entries--but it had yet to achieve universal acclaim DC had garnered with its beloved characters. Now, Marvel has usurped DC as the world's comic giant and is still pumping out two or three box office smashes a year. Marvel's veritable blitzkrieg of films makes DC's theatrical record look skimpy in comparison. However, DC does maintain a steady release schedule of animated specials and films, which have found a comfortable niche in the home video market. Does their latest entry, Justice League vs. Teen Titans, hold up to the likes of their competition? Or is DC truly falling behind?
The film opens with the Legion of Doom, led by Lex Luthor, ambushing the Justice League: Superman (Jerry O'Connell), Batman (Jason O'Mara), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), Flash (Christopher Gorham), and Cyborg (Shemar Moore). A mysterious demon called Trigon (Jon Bernthal) possesses Weather Wizard at the battle's climax; before the League can figure out what has happening to the Wizard, Batman's son and protégé Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) takes him out and subsequently exorcises the demon. A rankled Batman decides his son needs to learn more about teamwork and recruits Nightwing (Sean Maher) to escort him to the Titan's tower to temporarily work with the Teen Titans. Damian refuses to cooperate with the team, which consists of Starfire (Kari Wahlgreen), Raven (Taissa Farmiga), Beast Boy (Brandon Soo Hoo), and Blue Beetle (Jake T. Austin), all of whom are either orphaned or ostracized. In spite of his hostility, Damian becomes intrigued by Raven's occult origins and starts to befriend her as Starfire tries to assimilate him into the team. However, a night at the fair meant to make the team stronger turns disastrous when Trigon attacks in search of his daughter--Raven. And now he has the possessed Justice League on his side.
From what I've gathered, DC releases these animated flicks with the same regularity as Marvel's live-action films. This doesn't come as a surprise: the movie has a distractingly cheap, rushed quality about it, as if it were manufactured from a once successful mold that is now misshapen. The animation is supposed to emulate the inked intricacy of comic book graphics, which allows for a few instances of expressive facial animation. However, the effort expended on character animation is not matched anywhere else in the movie. Backgrounds are often blurred to the point of being unrecognizable and some scenes are oddly choppy, as if not enough frames were drawn to support the shot. This is especially disorienting during action sequences, which the film has in spades.
The story itself is as lackluster as the animation. There is little organic progression or suspense regarding the Trigon plotline and the climax is extremely unfulfilling. Don't be fooled by the title: this isn't a complex evaluation of morals from the perspectives of the adult Justice League versus the adolescent Teen Titans. The two ensembles fight for maybe four minutes and that is only because the Justice League is under Trigon's influence. This scene, as well as the entirety of the second act, feels stilted and strange--not even a journey to Hell can imbue the story with the scintilla of intrigue it needs to succeed. After the story of Damian's integration into the Teen Titans is dropped, the narrative loses focus and quickly starts to derail.
Another problem with the film is the depiction of the Teen Titans. After the comic's shaky introduction in the eighties (Editor's Note: The New Teen Titans was introduced in the eighties, while the concept had been around for decades.), it started gaining popularity in the nineties and was exposed to a larger audience via the extremely successful, eponymous Cartoon Network show. Fans of both the comic and the show will be nettled by the alterations to the iconic team: Starfire is the leader instead of Robin or Nightwing and Cyborg has been replaced by Blue Beetle (although it is suggested that Cyborg wants to join the Titans at the film's conclusion). Raven is irritatingly deadpan and has none of the intriguing moodiness and complexity that made her character so interesting in its previous incarnations. However, there is a post-credit scene that will make devoted fans of the show such as myself squeal in anticipation of what the next Teen Titans-centric movie will include.
All that said, the movie is certainly entertaining. Marvel fanatics will probably be bored by the lack of unnecessary exposition and tedious action scenes (Marvel might have mastered the box office hit, but their films could still use a little polish), but the typical viewer will probably enjoy it. The movie is surprisingly funny due to Beast Boy's sophomoric humor, Damian's pokerfaced delivery, and a couple of mature jokes that will--hopefully--go unnoticed by younger viewers. That said, this is not a film for children who enjoy the Cartoon Network show: there is excessive violence, mild swearing, and scantily-clad breasts as far as the eye can see. It is, however, a fairly charming romp that will hold your attention for its breezy running time and then fade into the obscurity of DC's legion of direct-to-DVD hits, never to be referenced again--at least, until the inevitable sequel.
Justice League Vs. Teen Titans will be Robin you of 80-minutes of your life on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. While the colors look fine and have a definitely bold quality, this is a dark movie, and some scenes border on being too dark. The level of detail is good, and the depth is adequate. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite the relatively low bitrate, the action scenes provide notably subwoofer effects (we feel every punch and explosion) and nice surround sound effects, some of which are well-detailed. The stereo effects show good separation, most notably when the sound comes from off-screen.
The Justice League Vs. Teen Titans Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. "Growing Up Titan" (24 minutes) explores the history of the Teen Titans through interviews with DC writers and editors, and those involved with the film. Using covers and panels from the Teen Titans comics, the piece examines how the team originated and how it has reflected the changing times. "Heroes and Villains: Raven" (6 minutes) casts a spotlight on Raven, looking at her history in the comics and at her role in the film. Similarly, "Heroes and Villains: Trigon" (5 minutes) breaks down this character, again offering some panels from comic books. The Disc also offers two episodes from DC TV shows, one from Batman: The Brave and the Bold and one from Teen Titans.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long