By the way, before I go any further, SPOILER WARNING for the ending of Justice League versus Teen Titans, which I reviewed last year, though I will not give any spoilers away for this film.
Now anyone who read my review of Justice League versus Teen Titans saw that I felt it was going in the right direction, despite its flaws I actually would have liked to seen another outing for this incarnation of the Teen Titans.
Well my wish was granted when it was announced there was a collection of the next DC Animated films, and the Teen Titans would indeed be getting their own film and it would be based on one of the most iconic DC Teen Titan storylines: The Judas Contracted. Granted, this isn’t the first time The Judas Contract has been portrayed in animated form, the Teen Titans cartoon from the mid 2000’s took an attempt at it, though given the age market and the fact that it was on Cartoon Network, and despite the fact that they stuck relatively close to the storyline, they couldn’t go all out with it. The DC animated movies are certainly aimed at a different market so this suggest they could potentially get away with an even more faithful adaptation to the comic. Hopefully with the success of DC’s rebirth line, meant that this show would not reflect The New 52. That being said, however, the Titans themselves were certainly built up in that standard in their last movie. The entire cast returns this time round but they would also be joined by Nightwing and Terra, who was the character introduced in the post credit scene of Justice League versus Teen Titans, which would suggest the Judas Contract was potentially on the cards considering that she is a big part of that storyline.
When all is said, and done, however, how did DC’s second go at bringing The Judas Contract come about. I feel kind of weird recapping a plot that people likely: know already, considering how popular the comic and animated series were, but I will give a recap, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.
The Teen Titans, Nightwing, Starfire, Robin, Blue Beetle, Raven, Beast Boy and newcomer Terra (played by Sean Maher, Kari Wahlgren, Stuart Allan, Jake T. Austin, Taissa Farmiga, Brandon Soo Hoo and Christina Ricci respectively) are working several missions to take down the Hive a mercenary organisation aiding a cult led by Brother Blood (played by Gregg Henry). However, the Hive keeps getting away with most information and very little evidence linking back to Brother Blood. This is thanks to the fact that they have made a contract to deal with the Titans, with Deathstroke (played by Miguel Ferrer), who has an ace up his sleeve in the team and the Titans could be destroyed from within.
Despite the fact that The Judas Contract does take a few liberties with its comic storyline, it’s actually rather loyal to its original comic counterpart, uncomfortably so in a couple of ways, however, The Judas Contract is a phenomenally good DC animated film. The biggest liberty that the film takes is in the cast since it has to reflect the cast of the last Teen Titans movie, as this is a direct sequel. Granted, we now have two new cast members to that list, Nightwing and Terra, but their presence doesn’t take away, it more adds. Everything seems to have done a good job. All the characters feel like themselves and it feels like a classic Teen Titan storyline. The Titans more than any other superhero team I have ever seen always feel like they have a more family dynamic. That’s what gives it its uniqueness and that is what this one has a feeling of. They get down very well that this is a group of misfits that are simply looking for a place to belong. The film does fail in a couple of regards, the major one being that many of the character’s arcs feel like they don’t really matter in the long run. The most obvious one is Blue Beetle. Now I love the character, Jamie Rayass’s original series from the mid 2000’s is one of my all-time favourite comic series, but they added several elements of that series to the film and it doesn’t really go anywhere. Then we get introduced to his girlfriend Traci 13, played by Masasa Moyo, but she doesn’t really play much of a part in it. I will admit there is a decent character arc for Jamie, since he is feeling disconnect from his family who aware of his identity and he is trying to connect more with his heritage and his humanity. But while this bit is very well done and actually kind of deserves its own movie, it doesn’t really matter much by the end. It’s a minor nit-pick since I did enjoy everything about it, it just didn’t feel like it belonged in the movie for the most part. However, I would definitely welcome an animated Blue Beetle film. Oh, yes, in case you are wondering, Blue Beetle was one of those series that actually realised a Superhero revealing his identity to their loved ones actually made them safer rather than in more danger. Chris, the secret identity trophy is getting old, Superhero’s should only keep their identity secret from the public, it’s that simple. The other negative, I would say is there is a prologue to show Starfire’s introduction, which also doesn’t go anywhere except to explain how she joined the Titans and this features cameos from several other past Titan members including Kid Flash and Bumble Bee and Speedy, but again, this doesn’t really go anywhere, nor does it feels like it pays much of a part by the end.
The Judas Contract’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, though I think some newcomers might have a bit of trouble if they have been more exposed to other DC related material, for example, unless they have seen the Teen Titans animated series, I think they might be wondering why Dick Grayson is suddenly dating Starfire, considering a lot of other material has him dating Barbara Gordon, though in a more recent example, it might be that people are wondering why Brother Blood looks nothing like any incarnation we have seen of him before. He doesn’t look anything like the animated series version and he certainly doesn’t look like the version from Season 2 of Arrow. He at least gets a menacing redesign, and I actually don’t mind his redesign, however, it may get a bit of a double take for a lot of people, and while I am at it he also doesn’t look much like his comic counterpart. That being said Brother Blood and The Hive are excellent villains but the standout villain is definitely Deathstroke, who once again is given chance to shine in a lead villain role. His plan is brilliant, works out pretty well and he is given the perfect chance to show how much of a bad ass villain he is. He is honestly part of the reason that makes the film. Terra’s characterisation is also brilliant, they cut out the whole arc of her in the animated series having trouble controlling her powers, however, they do give her a vulnerability which allows us to sympathise with her. The big difference between her from the animated series is that she is close to her comic counterpart, in more ways than one if you catch my drift from reading the comics! The most important one though, without giving away any spoilers is that in the animated series she was a bit of a hothead, whereas in this series, she almost has a bit of a violent streak and a very troubled back story, both of which are handled brilliantly well.
Terra may be the best character, however the villains, well the villains are pretty dam good. I actually like Deathstroke in this film for the most part. The problem is his motivation, the reason he enacted the original Judas Contract with the Hive in the comics was that he blamed the Titans for the death of his son, Jericho Cane who was sort of a member at the time of his death. With the movie, it’s more a culmination of vengeance for Damian Wain over the events of Son of Batman and just pure money. It definitely takes away a bit from the character and considering what a mainstay villain Deathstroke was, that’s saying a lot. Brother Blood and the Hive however, are pretty dam good as villains, they were the right level of creepiness although, as I mentioned, I think people might be taken aback a bit about the redesign since he doesn’t look much like either the animated series, the comics, or his appearance in Season 2 of Arrow. But these are minor nit-picks. In reality, I really enjoyed this movie as a whole. It feels like a proper Titans storyline. Everything comes into place and it tells a pretty good story, admittedly I did feel like some of the character arcs were rather unnecessary, especially the extra stuff with Blue Beetle, which feels tacked on for fans of his original series and doesn’t really go anywhere. But for the most part I thought it was pretty dam good.
As for the cast, well they are all pretty dam good too. I have already commented that Brendon Soo Hoo does a good job as Beast Boy. I really liked Stuart Allan as Robin, who I think is perfectly cast in the role. Most of my comments about these actors in the previous film I stand by. Miguel Ferrer is pretty dam good as Deathstroke, but I think the standout performance is Christina Ricci as Terra, though I do think people might be a bit taken aback by Kevin Smith’s cameo in the film.
What about the animation? Well, I kind of already commented on my thoughts about the animation because all these films have the same sort of animation, there’s nothing really to add. I think it’s perfectly competent, but as a result means a lot of these films lack a sense of identity, though it does allow us to believe in this shared Universe concept as well.
The music, not very memorable, but then again, we were hardly going to get something like Teen Titan’s Go.
The fight scenes? Dam, the fight scenes are done brilliantly in this film. This film knows how to get the most out of the characters in these fight scenes and they look fantastic.
I’m really just stalling for time, in all honesty, Teen Titans The Judas Contract is freeking fantastic. It’s one of the best DC animated films in years and I felt it was worth the wait and the effort. Some parts of it don’t entirely work, but for the most part, this is the standard I wanted DC animated films to go back to and it’s been a real highlight of the year for me. Special props definitely go to the brilliant performances of Miguel Ferrer and Christina Ricci and I like the fact that although it’s PG13 they managed to get away with a lot more than I expected and it seems at times to get away with more than The Killing Joke did, which had an R rating, though this will lead to few scenes that are a bit uncomfortable. That being said, however, I really think this is one worth checking out, especially for fans of Teen Titans.
Well there’s my thoughts on Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Please leave a comment with your thoughts on the film, if you have one. Remember we still accept user content if you want a go at this yourself.
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