Starring:Rosario Dawson, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Jerry O'Connell, Jason o’Mara, Stuart Allan, Sean Maher, Taissa Farmiga, Brandon Soo Hoo, Jake T. Austin, Kari Wahlgren, and Jon Bernthal Director: Sam Liu Original Year of Release: 2016 Rated: PG-13 Run Time: 1h 18min
Justice League vs. the Teen Titans is the latest DC Comics original animated film and finds two of DC’s most venerable teams battling each other. Well sort of…Like most of its other recent animated films, Justice League vs. Teen Titans is firmly set within the confines of the current DC Universe, so that we have Damian Wayne as the current Robin and Jaime Reyes as the latest incarnation of Blue Beetle.
The film opens with the Justice League in battle against the villainous Legion of Doom: Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, Cheetah, Weather Wizard, and Toymaster. Weather Wizard attempts to escape after being defeated by the Flash but is possessed by a demonic force capable of hurting even Superman. Against Batman’s orders, Robin is able to get the demon to flee the Weather Wizard’s body. Not happy with his sidekick’s disobedience Batman exiles Robin to the Teen Titans, where he can learn from those heroes who are closer to his own age. Meanwhile, Superman becomes possessed by the force, revealed to be a shade of the demon Trigon. The possessed Superman nearly kills The Atomic Skull before being driven off by Batman wielding a shard of Kryptonite.
Robin’s egotistical attitude quickly has him running into conflicts with his new teammates, notably Blue Beetle whose magical scarab reacts with terrifying force, nearly killing Robin. Raven is able to heal him and having learned some measure of humility, Damian accompanies the rest of the team (including Starfire and Beast Boy) to a local carnival for a night of fun. The festivities are broken up by a trio of demons who have come to try to take Raven back to her ancient homeland. Raven relates her dark background to the rest of the team and how her father, Trigon, will stop at nothing to get his estranged daughter back. After an initial scuffle with the Justice League, the two teams come together to try and save Raven and stop Trigon from ravaging the world.
We all know that when heroes battle heroes it usually stems from some misunderstanding between the two or some form of mind control and the battles are usually over quickly with cooler heads prevailing. Still, even by those textbook standards, Justice League vs Teen Titans is a deceptive title. The “big” battle between the two teams is over in about a minute and ends in predictable fashion.
Forget the hook title. Justice League vs. The Teen Titans works because it has a big feel to its story. Trigon is a major and ultra-powerful villain. He was the foe that kick-started the Teen Titans to a level of popularity that rivaled that of the X-Men back in the early 1980s. He’s capable of going toe-to-toe with the Justice League, especially one that doesn’t have Green Lantern, who is described as off on another mission.
This version of the Titans is also far more preferable than what we’ve seen previously from the two Cartoon Network animated series which were geared more towards a younger audience. This version assumes some familiarity with the comics as it doesn’t give backstory on any of the characters except Raven. It also hints at the romantic relationship between Nightwing and Starfire. And if Starfire had “fallen” out of her bathrobe a little bit more it might have required an R rating!
Rather than use its usual cast of voice actors, this film goes for the Hollywood appeal, utilizing several well-known film and television actors for key roles. Jon Bernthal (Trigon), Taissa Farmiga (Raven), Jerry O’ Connell (Superman), Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman), and Shemar Moore (Cyclops) headline the voice cast although a couple of DC stalwarts from other films like Steve Blum (Lex Luthor) and Kari Wahlgren (Starfire) also help round out the cast.
The animation was produced by the Warner Bros. animation group and I thought was superior to some other recent DC films that featured characters in a more anime style which was too thin. A skinny Superman is not a pretty sight. Justice League vs. Teen Titans helped expand the DC animated universe by introducing the Teen Titans to the fold. It shows that they can still keep the focus on the JLA and its most popular characters while injecting new heroes into the mix.
Growing Up Titan (23:46) – A discussion of the history of sidekicks in comics and the Teen Titans
Raven (6:05) – Background and history on the Teen Titan character of Raven.
Trigon (5:17) – Background and history of Trigon
A Sneak Peek at DC Universe’s Next Animated Movie: Batman: The Killing Joke (10:15)
From The DC Comics Vault two animated shorts
Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Sidekicks Assemble! (22:52)