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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Okay, let's just all say what we're thinking here: 'The Judas Contract' is a terrible, and completely try-hard title. I know the reasoning behind it -- Deathstroke has a contract that eventually requires he betray someone -- but it's still completely stupid. Like, honestly, that sounds like something a fourteen year old would come up with.

Anyway, so, this film actually took me fairly by surprise. DC doesn't tend to advertise its animated films that much, but even by their standards, there was nearly nothing about this before it came out. Hell, it came out and I didn't realise for, like, a week afterwards. Then again, apparently Justice League Dark came out all the way in February, and while I had at least heard that was going to be a thing, I still had no clue it had come out.

Picking up some time after the last Teen Titans film, The Judas Contract sees the team struggling with a new member: Abrasive, traumatised Terra, who seems reluctant to bond with anyone, and who is haunted by nightmares. As the team, along with Nightwing, pursue Brother Blood and his cult, it becomes clear that Terra is actually a traitor, working with Slade Wilson to bring down the Titans and deliver them to Brother Blood, who wants to sap their powers in order to become a god.

(For some reason, this also involves kidnapping Damian, who has no powers.)

Oh, hey Wally.

The focus of the film is primarily on two pairs: Kori and Dick, who are dealing with taking their relationship to the cohabitation stage; and Terra and Gar, who take the meat of the plot, as Terra struggles both with her past trauma and her status as a double agent, and Gar struggles with -- I don't know, boundaries, mostly.

It's actually the biggest problem with the film, that for the first half, Gar is just constantly overstepping Terra's boundaries -- with physical space, with affection, with how forward he is -- and this is never treated as being the wrong thing to do. While it tapers off towards the second half, the second half also has, actually, romantic reciprocation from Terra, which feels weirdly like the narrative rewarding him.

It wouldn't have been difficult to show a budding romance between them while also showing Gar respecting Terra's boundaries -- in fact, it would be more effective if they had, because it would have immediately established Gar as respecting her, prompting favourable comparison with Kori and Dick, for whom respecting each other's boundaries comprises a major part of their dynamic.

Terra and Gar.

(This is made somewhat worse by the fact that Deathstroke's predatory attitude towards Terra has a markedly sexual element to it -- we're told outright that they've never had sex, but a large part of Deathstroke's power over her comes from encouraging the idea that they could and will. So Gar's not just overstepping boundaries, he's overstepping boundaries with someone who is also suffering predatory behaviour from an adult man. The writers should have known better, especially since it's so easy to fix.)

Gar also makes up the majority of Terra's interaction with the rest of the team -- she almost never talks to Jaime, and only talks to Damian a few times, and while she and Raven have a few interactions, none of those interactions ever really go anywhere. Terra doesn't exactly feel isolated from the rest of the cast, but it does feel like the writers had neither the time nor the inclination to flesh out her interactions with her other team members -- which, given they only had eighty minutes to work with, makes a certain amount of sense.

The actual Brother Blood plot, meanwhile, is fairly standard: Brother Blood is crazy and villainous, wants superpowers, has Deathstroke kidnap the Titans one by one to bring them to him. It's a pretty formulaic plot, which unfortunately means there's not a huge amount I can say about it.

Raven, going all Trigon-y.

Technically, the film is about equivalent to other DC Animated films: The animation is simplistic but very pretty, the voice-acting is strong across the board, along with a pretty solid soundtrack, and, surprisingly, not terrible pacing. Pacing tends to be a bit hit and miss in these films, with them ranging either from 'terribly paced and rushed' to 'generally okay.'

So, that's The Judas Contract, a badly named film that has its fair share of problems but which was, actually, a not wholly unenjoyable watch. I admit, the opening scene made me think that we were going to see a film about Kori retaking her home world, and I think we probably will get that story eventually, especially as it ties into the theme these films have going for them, with each one being about a young woman who is an outsider to the group and a conflict related to their family. The film also ends with the reveal that Wonder Girl -- seemingly Donna Troy, the often-antagonistic Wonder Girl -- has joined the group, so I'll warrant that the next Teen Titans film will be about her.

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