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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Justice League vs Teen Titans

Justice League vs Teen Titans

First of all, I'd like to point out how mistitled this film is, because there isn't really much fighting between the two groups. There's a brief Wonder Woman, the Flash, and Cyborg vs the Titans scrap, and a very brief Damian vs Superman fight, but for the most part, it'd be truer to call this film 'Teen Titans vs Trigon (featuring Superman vs Some Of The Justice League). Just getting that one out of the way there.

Set in the New 52 (bah), Justice League vs Teen Titans follows Damian Wayne as he's assigned to the Titans, a team composed of Starfire, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle (the Jaime Reyes version, not Ted Kord) and Raven, against his will and much to his chagrin. Before long, however, the Titans find themselves embroiled in a crisis, as Raven's demonic father, Trigon, wishes to use her to gain entrance to their world, and is willing to use whatever means he has at his disposal to get it - including sending his servants to possess the Justice League.

So, first thing's first, the film is gorgeously animated. It's the same animation style that the previous New 52 films have been in, but they've obviously stepped it up a notch, putting more time, effort, and money into making everything look vibrant, colourful, and fluid. It was consistently a joy to watch, which is something I don't very often get to say about animated films. 

The team.

(It was also nice that the Titans are all in their Old 52 costumes, not their new ones, especially as Raven's New 52 costume makes her look like an enraged Pigeon Woman.)

I do wonder how much of the animation budget went into the Super Sentai/Magical Girl esque transformation sequences for Kori, Jaime, and Garfield, which was something I didn't know I needed, and which I'm actually still not entirely convinced that I needed. Actually, Kori's one weirded me out a little, if I'm being completely honest with you guys.

The voice acting is all very strong, with Stuart Allan reprising his role from Son of Batman and Batman vs Robin as Damian; and American Horror Story actor Taissa Farmiga, The Fosters actor Jake T. Austin, and veteran voice actor Kari Wahlgren all joining the cast as Raven, Jaime, and Kori, respectively. The entire voice cast gives excellent performances, with Allan and Farmiga especially standing out.

All of which is leaving me without a tremendous amount to criticise. 

They're having a bad day.

The story is well-paced, and while not exactly inspired (it's basically the same story Teen Titans comics have been telling in all of their iterations for years, condensed and with Damian instead of Tim) or groundbreaking, it's generally fine, and I can't say I have any complaints. It's very basic, but there's not necessarily anything wrong with basic, and I'd rather have a basic stock plot executed well than a film that tries to reinvent the wheel and does so terribly.

There weren't any horrendous characterisation missteps, apart from maybe referencing that whole Superman/Wonder Woman relationship thing, but that's not really the film's misstep as it is the entirety of the New 52's.

 It had a few clear character arcs that all wound their way to satisfactory conclusions that made sense. It made me smile a fair amount, especially in the amusement park scene.

My biggest criticism, I suppose, is that it could have been longer, and being longer might have given it a chance to give some focus to its less-looked-at team members. Damian and Raven are very much the central characters here, with Kori coming in as a close deuteragonist, while Jaime and Garfield are often reduced to 'people who wisecrack and fight things.' They're a constant presence in the film, but they're very much supporting characters, and a longer film might have been able to give them their own arcs, agendas, and focus moments, making the film into more of an ensemble piece.

Trigon, being creepy.

But even that is just me nitpicking, because it wasn't as if I really felt those two were being underused, and I'm actually more or less fine with Damian and Raven being the two main characters. They're enjoyable enough to watch, interesting, and their respective conflicts parallel each other quite nicely, as they both struggle with the expectations of an often unreasonable patriarchal figure (in Raven's case, Trigon, and in Damian's case, both Batman and Ra's al Ghul, even if he's actually Damian's grandfather - speaking of which, Ra's shows up out of the blue near the end of the film, another five minutes could have been used to at least give Damian a scene where he talks about the dude).

So, a pretty strong film, and definitely the best of the New 52 crop of films so far. The film ends on a stinger of Terra approaching the Titans Tower on a floating rock, so I'm guessing we'll be getting a sequel at some point, and I'm looking forward to it. If you like DC's animated stuff and you have a little over an hour of your life to spare, then look it up.

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