Teen Titans: The Judas Contract – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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For those who have followed WB Animation’s darker cartoon versions of the Batman franchise, especially dealing with Damien, this pretty much maintains previously established standards.

Characters & Storyline

After a brief flashback dealing with how Starfire (Kari Wahlgren) met Dick Grayson, the movie jumps into the Tara Markov (Christina Ricci) arc. For those familiar with the animated series, what you’ll be presented is a condensed and perhaps slightly changed version, which includes Damian Wayne (Stuart Allan) as Robin.

Alongside him, you’ll be presented with Brother Blood (Gregg Henry). Someone who is semi-immortal thanks to bathing in the blood of his enemies. However, immortality isn’t enough for him. What he wants are God-like powers. Something he enlists the help of Deathstroke (Miguel Ferrer) to provide. Someone who is a more than willing participant for between a $200,000,000 contract, and the fact his tasks will lead him to go head to head with Damian, oh this job isn’t just business, it is also personal.

Highlights

It Doesn’t Feel Like You Need To Know The Source Material To Get Into It

I haven’t touched a Teen Titans product since the 2003-2007 series went off the air and even then, I wasn’t necessarily fiending for each new episode. Yet, outside of questioning how did Starfire’s escape get resolved, and questioning what happened to Arrow, Flash, and Bumblebee, I didn’t feel lost and bewildered watching this. For there was some memory of Tara’s storyline and while this movie really makes it seem watered down, and made to fit inside the universe in which, arguably, Damian Wayne is the star, you get the gist. To the point, you don’t necessarily have to know anyone’s past to enjoy their present.

It Gets Surprisingly Emotional

One of the things which may catch you off guard with the movies featuring Damian Wayne is they aren’t your usual American animated films. They, more often than not, are darker and not just in terms of violence and swearing, but they explore complicated emotions. Think Logan, but with less overarching complexities.

Take for example Blue Beetle, Jaime (Jake T. Austin), and Tara. For Jaime, he has this beetle on his back which is almost like a parasite. One which doesn’t feed off him but uses him as some sort of host. Making it where his parents can’t really talk to him or act a certain way toward him without it perceiving them as a threat and using laser beams to defend Jaime. Then with Tara, oh she may make you shed some tears.

Reason being, Tara reminds you, and really structures the idea that the Teen Titans don’t just need trust and a strong bond for taking down villains. No. They need both of those things because, for some of them, the Teen Titans is all they have. Their parents may be dead, may have ostracized themselves from their own children, and that makes it so their fellow Titan isn’t just a peer, but their chosen family. Brothers and sisters, who sometimes become lovers, who create this sense of home for them.

Making it where, for Tara, who has trust issues and is having violent nightmares, as her story is revealed, you feel for her.

Criticism

Not The Best Voice Acting/ Animation

It is very difficult to go from watching Japanese animation on a regular basis and then watch something from a company like WB Animation. I mean, I could rant and rave on the difference, but let’s keep this short. When it comes to this film, the animation seems dated, as if this was a “From The Vaults” release from something crafted in the 90s and just finished in the last year. On top of that, you have the glaring issue which is its It’s voice acting.

For this movie, there are many famous names like Taissa Farmiga, Christina Ricci, and Jake T. Austin who have done voice acting, but it isn’t their main gig. There isn’t this sense that like, say, the legendary Tara Strong, they really know how to warp and modify their voice to fit a character and what they are going through. Both within the film and what happened in their past. Making it for when you see the average, and quite uninspiring animations, and are dealing with dialog which seems kind of awkwardly forced at times, you want to rely on the voice acting to push the story,  feelings and emotions forward. Yet, none of the voice actors do this.

In fact, as much as I may praise how it may get you emotional, I must admit it is probably more because of thinking about how Tera, Raven (Taissa Farmiga), and the others feel vs. the actual movie visualizing and connecting with you.

The Fight Scenes

Nevermind the fact the animation don’t make them visually appealing, but with the fights making nearly everyone seem like a no name goon, you get bored of them quickly. Plus, the final fight applies your usual Dragon Ball Z type of style of the heroes getting their butt whooped then suddenly making a comeback. Something which doesn’t make a lot of sense with this movie since Brother Blood starts off handling everyone without issue and then after one hit, suddenly he is on the defensive as if he didn’t have a single ability.

On The Fence

Question What Happened Over The 5 Year Gap

The movie creates the unfortunate need to ask what happened to the original Teen Titans? We see The Flash, Arrow, BumbleBee, in perhaps others, and they go poof. We see them as part of the mission in which Starfire is rescued only to never be seen again. Also, during the 5-year gap Dick Grayson (Sean Maher), Nightwing, leaves the Titans in the hands of Starfire and so comes all these new recruits.

Now, being that I’m familiar with the property, the lack of information doesn’t bother me. But for those not dedicated to the new series and who aren’t familiar with the past one, it is like being left with a gaping hole of information. One which doesn’t affect how much you may enjoy the overall film, but it will leave you wondering about some non-essential details.

Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)

Though an enjoyable film, I must admit that I’m not confident in believing if you are new to the Teen Titan franchise, this will sell you on the idea of investing into it. Much less, if you are someone who watched the 03-07 version, this will renew your interest.

If anything, like past films, focused on Damian Wayne, it is an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half but it doesn’t necessarily renew your interest in the animated DC universe. Especially to the point of committing to one of their TV series. For even though the movie follows the direction of the DC live-action movies in getting darker and a bit more mature, you can still see quite a bit of growing pains here when it comes to not just writing for a kids market.

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