Starting in 2006, Warner Brothers Animation and DC Entertainment have been steadily releasing a series of animated films based on various storylines and characters from the company’s vast comics universe. The latest installment in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies series pits two of the company’s most renowned super-teams against each other in Justice League vs. Teen Titans. The film, directed by Sam Liu and written by DCAU veteran Alan Burnett and longtime comic writer Bryan Q. Miller, is a loose adaption of several arcs of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s legendary 1980s comics book series The New Teen Titans.
The film begins with the Justice League battling The Legion of Doom. The League has things well in hand, until a demonic presence overtakes the body of Weather Wizard and begins trashing the team. Robin (the Damian Wayne version) commandeers the Batplane despite being put on crowd control duty, and uses it to successfully incapacitate the villain. Due to his insubordination, Batman decides his son needs to learn the value of teamwork and forces him to join the Teen Titans.
Initially, Damian coldly rejects the group, made up of Starfire, Blue Beetle, Beast Boy and Raven. However, he and Raven begin bonding, eventually opening him up to the point that he agrees to accompany the Titans on a night out to an amusement park. The group’s fun is short-lived, however, as Raven is confronted by minions of the demon Trigon, who are only defeated in a hellacious battle with the teens. It’s only then that Raven reveals to the team that Trigon is her father and that he wishes to use her to get to Earth so he can conquer it.
The members of the Justice League attack the Titans while under Trigon’s control and decimate the team, capturing Raven in the process. The Titans are able to break the spell on league-member Cyborg, bringing him into their ranks for the duration of the film. The team are able to free the League and leave them to battle Trigon, while the Titans retreat to the demon’s dimension in order to defeat him.
I must admit, I was a bit wary going into Justice League vs Teen Titans. For starters, the Titans are my favorite comic book franchise and hold a deep personal connection to me. On top of that, I haven’t been a fan of the last several DC Animated home videos, such as Justice League: War and Batman: Bad Blood, which share continuity with the film. My worries proved to be unfounded, however, as I greatly enjoyed the movie. Writers Burnett and Miller show a deep understanding of the family like dynamics that make the Titans work as a team, and deftly transfer those elements to the screen.
The writers also do a very good job of keeping the film in continuity with its aforementioned predecessors while still including numerous references to Titans continuity including Starfire’s relationship with Nightwing, Cyborg spending about half of the film with the team and Raven’s entire back story being faithfully translated. Speaking of Titans continuity, I would encourage fans to watch through the film’s credits as there’s a scene at their midpoint that sets up the sequel to this film as a long-awaited adaption of the legendary Judas Contract storyline.
From a technical standpoint, Justice League vs Teen Titans is more than serviceable. It’s Liu-directed animation is clean and easy to follow. In fact, it’s the best looking DC animated film since the series’ continuity was consolidated after Justice League: War. The voice acting is well done as well, with newcomers Taissa Farmiga, Brandon Soo Hoo, Kari Wahlgreen, and Jake T. Austin (as Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire and Blue Beetle respectively) delivering fine performances that stand with series regulars such as Stuart Allen (Robin), Jerry O’Connell (Superman), Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman) and Sean Maher (Nightwing).
Justice League vs Teen Titans absolutely gets a recommendation from me, for both major Titans fans and general DC Animation fans. I would absolutely suggest that the former group pick up the Blu Ray release if they can, as it’s chock-full of Titans related special features. More casual DC fans would be most likely be satisfied checking the film out on-demand or on iTunes.