Over a year ahead of Wonder Woman’s big screen release, DC Entertainment has already provided a shining example of a female centric story in their universe. And it does it in an animated feature.
Premiering at WonderCon 2016, Justice League vs. Teen Titans doesn’t so much pit the two superhero teams against one another as it puts the spotlight on Raven. To the movie’s benefit, it is truly more a Teen Titans production than a Justice League one. Though the JLA is involved, it is the Titans who propel the plot, particularly Damien Wayne, the bratty son of Batman.
After his aggression gets the better of him during a Justice League mission, the newest Robin is sent to learn about teamwork and control from the Teen Titans. He’ll need to understand the importance of both rather quickly when Raven’s (Taissa Farmiga) satanic father, Trigon (Jon Bernthal), plots an escape from his inter-dimensional prison. Trigon’s demonic forces infiltrate Earth and possess the Justice League to help do their master’s bidding. To save their friends and mentors and to protect the planet, the Teen Titans must come together to win against Trigon.
Damien (Stuart Allan) continues to be a stubborn, resent-filled, and fascinatingly layered character. The scenes between him and the Titans are rich with clashing personalities and teenage emotions. But it’s when he’s paired with Raven that his character truly shines. The empath astutely notices Damien’s masked sadness and finds a kinship with him over their troubled relationships with their parents. That bond becomes key when Raven finally faces Trigon.
The involvement of the JLA, while minimal compared to the Titans, is still perfectly woven in. As the first member to be possessed, Superman’s (Jerry O’Connell) complexities, including his relationship with Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), are far better explored here than perhaps any recent theatrical releases to date. Cyborg (Shemar Moore) and The Flash (Christopher Gorham) also make very welcome appearances and the former’s strong connection to the Titans becomes a major factor. However, it’s Nightwing (Sean Maher) and an aged-up Starfire (Kari Wahlgren) who earned some of the biggest cheers from the WonderCon crowd. It might be time to give them their own feature animated film, DC.
Batman’s (Jason O’Mara) gruff nature continues to be tempered by his role as a father even if his role in the movie is rather brief. It doesn’t matter; this isn’t his time to shine. It’s Titans go! The film provides a smooth transition for Damien to join the Titans rather than remain primarily as Batman’s sidekick. His combat skills make him a valued member and thankfully his whiny entitlement is nicely offset by the jovial attitudes of Blue Beetle (Jake T. Austin) and Beast Boy (Brandon Soo Hoo).
Justice League vs. Teen Titans effectively re-launches the Teen Titans franchise and, yes, allows the audience to enjoy a little bit of their heroes battling opposite each other. It might be the best DC Entertainment film to date, animated or otherwise.
Directed by Sam Liu, with character design by Phil Bourassa, Justice League vs. Teen Titans arrives April 12 on Blu-ray and DVD.