Justice League vs Teen Titans retains Batman focus
Justice League vs Teen Titans should have been a lot better. Consider the Teen Titans have long been a beloved DC property. In the mid 80s, it was them, not their older Justice League America counterparts that rivaled Marvel Comics’ X-Men for best selling comic. That popularity carried over to the animated front with the more younger audience themed Teen Titans Go! and the phenomenal Young Justice, which was basically Teen Titans in all but the title.
If any property was viable enough to get Warner Bros. Animated out of the Batman/Justice League/Batman/Justice League cycle it’s the Teen Titans, but Justice League vs. The Teen Titans is more content cramming the popular team into the established formula. The result is an uninspired, dull adventure that does little justice to the Titans and one of their most iconic storylines.
During a battle with the Legion of Doom, the Justice League encounters a demonic force that Robin (Stuart Allen) casually stops with the Batwing. That move gets him sent to learn about teamwork with the Teen Titans — Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy and Blue Beetle — and predictably, Robin is annoyed with his new teammates.
It doesn’t take long before the power behind the demonic force Trigon (Jon Bernthal) surfaces seeking a family member among the Titans. Trigon’s willing to do anything including using the most powerful force on Earth — The Justice League — to reunite his family.
One of the main problems is every other DC animated movie features Batman (and Robin). They’re the last two characters that need to be the focus of a non-Batman movie but JvT makes that disastrous mistake.
With a heavy dose of Batman and Robin comes the obnoxiously overpowering of the two non-powered characters and prickly personalities. It’s especially bad here as Batman shuts down his Justice League allies with a glare. Only Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) is spared from Batman’s resting annoyed face.
Ditto for Robin when he starts hanging with the Titans. It’d be one thing if Batman and Robin were actual actors whose massive egos needed to be appeased even in team-up films, but to make them so dominant in an animated group setting is a little much.
For the first 40 minutes, screenwriters Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett spend showing how Robin doesn’t need the Teen Titans — or possibly the Justice League based on his solution that saves the day for them early on. Robin goes on to trounce the Titans in everything from fighting, leading and in the film’s most ridiculous moment dancing in a carnival step game complete with not one, but two tone-wrecking montages.
That’s par for the course for the character considering he’d already whipped Deathstroke the Terminator and Nightwing in Son of Batman. Damian is a very nuanced character that can add a very unique and fun dynamic to any mix, but in the wrong hands, he’s just a bratty, unbeatable — boring Junior Batman. Unfortunately, we get the latter version here.
The remaining 38 minutes is spent trying to show why Robin needs them, but Miller and Burnett are so enamored with Robin they fail to truly make the case for the Titans. Even the bone tossing nod to longtime fans of adding Cyborg to the fold doesn’t help much.
Even in the lesser recent Warner Animated films the action scenes have been very well staged and exciting. The titular fight, which was set up like it was going to be a massive showdown, was tremendously anticlimactic with the Titans losing the obligatory first fight only to quickly defeat the Justice League in the rematch.
Most of the action is just kind of there as the Titans and Justice League blandly hack, punch and blast away at Trigon’s demon hordes. On the plus side, the animation and character designs are sharp with a slight anime style.
Justice League vs. Teen Titans isn’t a terrible outing, but it’s one that would’ve benefited from the same lesson Robin learned — the spotlight is big enough for a team, not just one star.
Rating: 5 out of 10