Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Bryan Q. Miller (screenplay), Alan Burnett (screenplay)
Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Stuart Allan, Kari Wahlgren, Jon Bernthal
Regardless of your thoughts on DC Comics’ live action movies, the animation side of things has been consistent for 20 plus years now. No one comes close to the tradition and pedigree that Warner Bros. Animation has built. While it feels like heroes are just fighting other heroes this year, thankfully, the title doesn’t portray the movie for more than a few minutes. Heroes are meant to help us and save the world in the process. So while every now and then they clash, I always prefer seeing the Teen Titans fight demons from hell instead of their elders.
Ever since Justice League: War, the animation has taken on a different look and style while also building up more recent comic book stories, and one of the benefactors of that has been Damien Wayne/Robin, who has been wonderfully portrayed by Stuart Allan. At this point, I can’t imagine anyone else voicing him. Andrea Romano has a knack for nailing voice casts, and Allan is no different; his dry wit and angry remarks come off cold and cutting, but since we’ve watched him for a few movies now, it’s become charming. His interactions with his new teammates are fun to watch simply because they don’t understand Damien yet. Maybe the closest one to understanding him is Raven, voiced by Taissa Farmiga, a quiet, sullen girl with a dark past.
Maybe one of the best parts of this movie is the origin of Raven. As someone who was merely a fan of the Teen Titans cartoon, I never knew much about Raven, just that she was an emo teenage girl. In this we get everything, from her parents to how she became who she is, and Taissa Farmiga plays it very well. It’s subtle and almost underperformed. She’s just a girl who wants a home and the Titans have given that to her. It’s tough to make a character like that not annoying to the audience, but Farmiga pulls it off using a very kind-but-cold tone throughout. Until it’s all unveiled for us after a particularly fun sequence at a carnival.
If you’ve ever wanted to see Damien Wayne dominate at DDR, then this is the movie for you.
The other Titans aren’t necessarily left in the dust, but this is very much a Robin/Raven story. Robin because he’s our way in and Raven because her dad is the one threatening our very existence. Blue Beetle, Beast Boy, and Star Fire (the leader) are our supporting members. All are intriguing characters, especially since Star Fire has a past with Nightwing–who is criminally underused considering he’s on the promotional art–Blue Beetle and Beast Boy are both very fun and portrayed well by Jake T. Austin and Brandon Soo Hoo respectively, but ultimately are surface deep. A particularly gruesome and shocking scene shows us how uncontrollable Blue Beetle’s armor really is, but we never really understand Beast Boy’s powers (not that we need too). Yet it does become a more pressing question when he has a freak out in the pits of hell.
This is not a Justice League movie. If anything the JC are more peripheral characters helping the Titans. Don’t get me wrong, they have their share of memorable scenes, like Robin taking on Superman and Superman taking on the Flash, but only a few show up to the final fight. Funnily enough, Cyborg gets to join the Titans and has a few clever scenes pointing to the fact that he was originally a Titan. Ultimately Trigon, who is the guy pitting the Titans against the, League has some weak goals and feels like a missed opportunity to use Jon Bernthal more efficiently. He’s mostly used as a generic world concerning devil figure. Since so much around him is interesting, I’d wish he had some more tangible goals.
Initially, I was bummed that there weren’t more Titans in the movie, but it’s better this way. Had it been any bigger it may have become unwieldy and overstuffed. The best parts of the film are Robin learning to accept help and Raven facing her father and finding a home. The Justice League fighting the Titans is simply a marketing hook. While it does happen, the most intriguing parts of this movie involve them working together or facing individual battles.