If the first episode of Titans proved anything, it’s that the heads of Warner Bros./DC stubbornly want to keep doing things their way.
It should be a relatively simple lesson. Fans and critics adored Wonder Woman for faithfully capturing the essence of the character as it became Warner Bros’ third highest grossing film yet. A not so faithful take on Superman and Batman led to quickly diminishing returns so the DC superhero team-up, Justice League, ranks 31st of Warner Bros. films. This isn’t rocket science yet the creators of Titans insist on a take that skews dark and violent for the sake of being dark and violent.
Murderous heroes? Check. Punisher-like take downs of crooks? Yep. And that infamous F@!k Batman line too. If you’ve been a longtime fan of the Teen Titans of Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Titans might be completely unrecognizable. That’s unfortunate as a faithful take on the team could have been enough of a selling point to warrant subscribing to DC Universe alone.
But like most DC live action properties, Titans asks fans to compromise and lower their expectations. Titans might be an interesting take on superhero teams, but it probably won’t be a lot of fun. The first episode, written by Akiva Goldsman and Geoff Johns, shows the future Titans in various messy stages of their lives.
Det. Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) is a dick to his new partner and generally prefers to go it alone. That makes it easier for him to go hardcore vigilante and take out criminals. This take on Robin is an amalgam of Dick Grayson, Tim Drake and a lot of Jason Todd.
Dick is smarting over the end of his partnership with Batman, which is pretty accurate to the comic, but his violent approach to crime-fighting is terribly out of character. Grayson is an agile, constantly moving fighter with a hit and move combat style. The Titans’ Robin is just a bruiser who breaks ankles, stabs crooks and grinds their faces on brick and glass. How in the world is the series going to handle Jason Todd if this is their take on Dick Grayson?
Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft, The Osiris Child) is searching for answers to the darkness inside her. Occasionally it pops up like a horror movie character. This is a darker take on Raven and like Robin, more violent than necessary, but it works within the context of this show. The only problem is the other characters are so dark that the writers have to go to a greater extreme to make her on a different level.
Whatever lies beneath is enough for an acolyte to arrive and kill Rachel’s mother — or at least the woman claiming to be her mom. Rachel is resourceful enough to avoid getting captured thanks to tips from her nightmarish side. This guidance brings her into contact with Dick, who’s freaked out that she knows so much about his life. Rachel manages to get caught, but Dick tracks her down.
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Turns out she didn’t actually need his help as her demon self invades and destroys her captor from the inside out. Throughout the episode there was this feeling like no one wanted to bother showing any restraint. Raven is probably a more effective character with the less is more approach where the viewer doesn’t see everything. Leaving it to our imagination would be so much more suspenseful.
Kory Anders (Anna Diop) wakes up from a car crash and manages to escape from her gun-toting pursuers. She’s got a nasty case of amnesia though. Diop plays Kory/Starfire like she’s learning new secrets and the mystery makes her the most interesting of the three characters. It’s the best way to go even though her wardrobe and wig still looks terrible.
This version of Starfire is a tad homicidal as she snaps a dude’s neck after he tries to kill her. Just to make the DC TV universe further convoluted, Kory meets up with Konstantin Kovar. When Kovar shoots her, Kory absorbs the bullet and unleashes a fire blast that incinerates him and his pals. And to further the mystery, Kory is looking for Rachel too.
Of the Titans, Robin and Starfire are two of the more laid back characters. Making them so intense and violent certainly distinguishes them from other takes i.e. Teen Titans Go!, but I’m not a fan on how they’re being portrayed. Thwaites and Diop show glimpses that they could easily pull off a more traditional take on the characters, which makes it even more frustrating.
The soundtrack never managed to fit in well with the scenes either and just came off loud and distracting. One glimmer of hope is the final scene featuring a green tiger making off with some video games. With the drastic changes in some of the other characters, I can accept Gar Logan (Ryan Potter) being a klepto as that’s more consistent behavior for a teen.
Titans asks longtime fans to accept yet another dark, DCEU spin on the characters with little room for hope and optimism. It’s a bold choice and we’ll see if that decision pays off as the season continues to play out.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo Credit: DC Universe