In 2016, Warner Bros. Animation released the first film in years to star the Teen Titans. Justice League vs. Teen Titans was met with unanimous praise for its story and visuals which prompted the studio to fast track a sequel. A year later, WB Animation digitally released Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, a sequel that follows the general structure and focus of the previous installment – team bonding. From perfectly smooth storytelling to great voice acting, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract delivers one of the best films in the current DCAOM slate.
The film itself has many memorable moments – epic fight scenes, strong character development and of course the stunning climatic battle against Brother Blood. But one of the things I did not expect was the nostalgia that came with the inclusion of Terra. For those who watched the 2003-2006 Teen Titans animated show on the Cartoon Network, the whole Terra storyline was probably one of the most memorable yet the saddest and heart wrenching part of the whole show. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract somehow manages to bring that all back with a little twist.
At the end of Justice League vs. Teen Titans, Terra is seen heading towards the Titans Tower sporting a different look than the one she had in the TV series, teasing viewers of her joining the Titans. The new look isn’t quite as welcoming as the one we grew up with, but it does fit her power set quite nicely. She is still as head strong and closeted as the one we knew, but the film gave her a chance to sufficiently develop her story. As the film progresses, Terra’s past and connection with Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke is revealed which led to an awkward scene with her in a bath towel trying to seduce Wilson. As weird as that is, it was so much more believable and fathomable than Batman sleeping with Batgirl on a rooftop, despite the 30-40 year age difference (I’m assuming). Her scenes with Beast Boy further advanced the nostalgia of her presence as most of them are reminiscent of their relationship in the TV series – something that fans would truly appreciate and enjoy, I know I did.
The interesting thing about this film is that even though the film is only an hour and a half long, every character manages to undergo a personal journey – with the exception of Raven and Damian Wayne as these two had their stories told in the previous film. One of the more interesting developments is that with Dick Grayson AKA Nightwing and Koriand’r AKA Starfire.
Starting with Grayson and his original Teen Titans saving Starfire served as a signal that their relationship is something that’s going to be explored in this film. And while initially skeptical of his presence in this movie, I was pleasantly surprised how seamlessly he fit into the whole story. The awkward but sweet chemistry he has with Starfire is just adorable and keeps the film light and cheeky at times. His natural inclination as a team leader forces Starfire to question her own abilities as the leader of the Titans which allowed her to really grow and take charge – a struggle we are all likely to identify with. These Dick and Starfire moments are definitely something that future films can bring it every now and then as I’m sure it’d never get old.
As for the rest of the team, Jaime Reyes’ struggles with his beetle continues to be a sufficient developmental arc for the character – this time focusing on its effects on his family. The writers did a great job in providing a believable and deep story for Jaime without taking too much time to dwell on it and made it blend perfectly with the film’s general theme that the Titans is a family of people who had gone through so much hurt. While Reyes was sidelined quite heavily in this film, his presence is still noticeable which is an excellent balance.
My issues with Raven’s voice work somehow didn’t bother that much in this film. Despite the monotonous and lackluster performance, the character’s snarky personality (along with Damian’s) manages to play nicely into the film. It did help that she had very few scenes. That said, being one of my favorite superheroes, it is still amazing to watch her in action – it’s just hard to listen to it. One of things I felt was missing was that fight scene between Raven and Terra. Those who watched the TV series will definitely remember that epic scene when Raven confronted Terra, which was by far one of the best animated fight scenes in my book – one filled with pure power and raw emotion. I certainly would have liked to see an updated version of that. That said, given that the Raven and Terra in this film didn’t bond quite as much as they did in the TV series, it may not have the same impact. Still, it would have been nice to see the battle.
The main problem I have with Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is the villain. From start to end, there was no real threat from Brother Blood. The journey’s that each character underwent seemed to have overshadowed Blood’s plans even to the point that Deathstroke became more of a villain that he was. Wilson’s fights with Damain and Nightwing were, as expected, epic. His fight with Nightwing in particular looked straight out of Naruto (in the best way possible). The writers managed to stay true to his duplicitous nature and mercenary character which is always a nice touch.
Another, though not significant, issue I have is with Terra’s ultimate end. I’m not sure what the writers wanted to portray in that last scene but it did not have quite the impact that Terra’s sacrifice in the TV show did. Sad? Definitely. But taking away the sacrificial aspect and making it out to just be about the sadness of betrayal by Wilson seems to undermine the character a little. Then again, we aren’t kids anymore. In this day and age, happy endings don’t always come to us – something that this film reminds us. While I may not have loved the ending, I can understand the deeper purpose for it.
All in all, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract manages to show the Teen Titans at their best. With the synergy in their fights completely spot on, every fight scene, even the practice fights, were stunning to watch – enough for me to forgive the iffy animation, at times the walking and talking just looked weird. Plus the Kevin Smith cameo was something I really loved. Maybe Smith could be the Stan Lee of the DCAOM – I’d dig it.