Original Release Date: April 4, 2017
It’s the animated adaptation of one of the best Teen Titans stories ever written. And it’s overwhelmingly bland.
Nothing beats the Original
Do yourself a favor. Pick up a copy if the trade paperback of the original Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. You’ll be so glad you did. It is literally the only way for you to understand and fully enjoy this story. This movie does not do it justice, but there’s almost no way it could. It suffers from the same thing that most comic-to-film adaptions suffer from: too much story in too little time.
One Trick Ponies
*sigh* Every single character in this film has exactly one personality trait. One. And not one of them has an arc. They don’t go from something to something. They’re pretty much who they’re going to be when you meet them. This has the effect of making the story feel like it’s just going through the motions. It’s completely lacking in emotional punch. And there’s another HUGE reason that it’s so full of meh. And that is because in the comics, we as the audience weren’t aware right away that Terra was a traitor. Finding out that she was, especially back when comics had a little bit of wholesomeness left, was quite the blow. And that’s the heart of the whole story, that the Titans could have an actual Judas among the ranks.
Here, since you already know everything that’s going to happen, they have a different challenge. The challenge is to make the story interesting and compelling. They really don’t.
Summation Part 1
The movie opens with the Titans roster of Robin(Grayson), Kid Flash, Beast Boy, Speedy(Roy Harper) and Bumblebee meeting and rescuing Kory. Grayson and Kory hit it off right away, and that’s their only characteristic individually and as a couple throughout the whole film: they’re in love. The movie would’ve been way more interesting had it stuck with this first roster. But it doesn’t.
Five years later, we’re now introduced to Kory as Titans leader, with a lineup of Blue Beetle(Jaime Reyes), Beast Boy, Raven, Terra and my personal favorite Damian Wayne as Robin. And Nightwing, without any explanation of why he left, has returned. The movie introduces Brother Blood and Mother Mayhem right away, but if you’re not familiar with them from the comics, you don’t get much backstory. They’re just religious zealots doing what religious zealots do, trying to ascend to godhood and control an army of acolytes.
There’s various team interactions after that, none of which are particularly memorable. The most common thing we see is how horny each of them are; they’re all either looking for action or enjoying some. They’re teens, so that’s age appropriate, so whatever. Felt kind of heavy handed to be honest. What the movie fails to do is make us care about Terra in any meaningful way. We get brief glimpses of her backstory in flashbacks. She was basically persecuted as the town witch when she was a child, and got rescued by Slade.
Summation Part 2
The problem is, from the moment Terra opens her mouth, she is sarcastic, caustic and standoffish. We don’t develop any type of positive connection with her. And she is not innocent. The Terra in the comics did a good job of convincing her team she was this naive little girl. When it came out that she was a double agent that was in both a business and a personal relationship with Deathstroke, we were devastated by that reveal. Here, from scene one, she’s just a brat.
So we see her relationship with Slade. She’s been spying on the team for over a year. It’s not quite as creepy as it could’ve been, because Slade refuses to do anything sexual with her. At least for now. But she sure offers, and she looks to be about thirteen or fourteen at best. Slade’s like, in his late forties or early fifties. Okay then. I’ve spoken about it on Twitter, but basically it seems that more and more sexual fetishes are coming through in our favorite comic adaptations. She’s on board with the betrayal because she’s in love with Slade. She has lingering guilt pangs however, because she can see that the Titans genuinely care about her. She gets involved with Gar and develops some actual feelings for him. But Damian and Raven smell a rat from the beginning.
Finally her betrayal is revealed, and it’s the highest emotional peak in the movie. Lots of things happen, and they do have some slight weight. She betrays the team. We discover that Blood’s plan is to siphon their powers and ascend to godhood. And he does. But only after Slade betrays Terra to Brother Blood since Nightwing isn’t there to take his place in the machine. So when the final battle happens, Terra’s enraged and commits suicide with her earth moving powers in order to destroy both Slade and Blood. So in the end, as it’s spun, she dies a hero.
Which she was not.
She got betrayed by Slade and then had a meltdown over that. She only lashed out against him because of that betrayal. Had Slade not done that, Terra would’ve been laughing at the death of the Titans right along with him.
There are nice touches in the film. We get a cameo by Jericho early on. Kevin Smith shows up at the end to interview Gar. And we finally get Donna Troy on the team. (I’ve never understood their aversion to using her and Kid Flash.) Raven uses her super move at the very end to finish off Blood and that was the most awesome thing we see. She accesses her Trigon side, becomes quadra-eyed and siphons all of the stolen juice out of Blood. And Blood is then shot by Mayhem who apparently was in love with him. But the movie spends most of its down time making us hang out with Kory and Grayson. That was cool, but not in any way compelling. Jaime’s one character trait is his awkwardness with his alien beetle, and how that impacts his family and other relationships. Gar is the Beast Boy we know and love, he doesn’t progress or regress in any way. Both Nightwing and Damian are beaten in this movie way too easily. I was very unhappy with that. Neither of them used their highly advanced detective skills, nor their martial arts mastery. They both went up against Slade at the end and couldn’t finish him off. I know Slade his beaten the Justice League, but I always felt that was overblown.
With both Slade and Blood sharing the villain duties, because they’re so different we don’t get a uniform tone throughout. Blood is crazy and thinks he’s larger than life. Slade is ruthless and a bully with incredible powers. And without the legendary Ron Perlman voicing him, Slade is missing a lot of the menace we’ve associated with him through the Teen Titans animated series.
It’s the horniest Teen Titans outing ever. It felt unfocused…we needed a more centralized villain to hate. Slade in the forefront and Blood in the background. Not them bandying back and forth. Terra needed to be a much more sympathetic character than she was.
This was another case of a film not having the impact it could’ve because it didn’t have the comic buildup. Welp, maybe next time.