Teen Titans: The Judas Contract premiered at Wonder Con on Friday night and I was lucky enough to be in the room. Warner Bros. Animation has been producing DC movies for 10 years now, and this is their 29th feature. It’s also the 10th film in the new continuity that was established after 2013’s Flashpoint Paradox. Don’t worry if you haven’t seen any of the other movies though, you can watch this and completely understand everything that’s going on.
The movie left me feeling split pretty split. The Teen Titans are one of my favorite teams in comics, and the Judas Contract is one of DC‘s most iconic stories, but I can’t help but the movie a resounding “mehh.” It’s not a bad movie by any means and the animation is beautifully rendered. The voice cast is great across the board, and there are even a few moments in the movie where the visuals tell the story perfectly, meaning there are fewer cheesy lines than I expected. I just had a problem wit how it handled some of the characters.
The movie starts with a fun flashback scene that shows one of the first iterations of the team. As the Teen Titans go about patrol, they happen across Starfire, who is struggling to defend herself from alien forces from her home world. Even though she is fighting, the movie almost sets her up as a damsel in distress role I was really worried would stick to her throughout the movie. But as the movie progresses, and we see a five year time jump, Starfire comes into her own and earns her place as one of the Teen Titan’s fiercest warriors and best leaders.
Her relationship with Dick, which we see start in their younger days, provides the movie with a great sense of humor and heart. It’s nice seeing these two heroes slowly dedicate themselves to each other and handle the sexual side of their relationship in a classy, comedic way. Honestly, their relationship might have been my favorite part of the whole movie. Not only are relationships a lot to deal with and alien to young adults in general, but throwing a literal alien into the mix makes for some fun moments and a few burnt dinners. I hope the DC animated movies lean a bit more into the adult themes in the future because it was definitely The Judas Contract‘s greatest strength.
In fact, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract was at its best whenever it embraced the awkwardness of the heroes’ teen years and the tension and frustration, sexual or otherwise, that comes with it. I won’t say what, but there’s a hilarious scene with Blue Beetle in a pantry that I think will become a fan-favorite moment moving forward.
My least favorite character in the movie might have been Beast Boy. I love Gar, but he just felt one-dimensional throughout the movie. After the five-year time jump, we see that all of the Titans are in different places with their lives and have matured, but Gar is relegated to the perpetual juvenile role for some reason. I know he’s a joker who doesn’t take himself too seriously, but Gar is also a tested fighter who knows how to inspire hope in others. He’s constantly on his phone, checking “tweeter” and bragging about his online following. There’s one moment where he and Terra have an emotional conversation and it really feels like we are watching a completely different Beast Boy in that moment. His monologue about pain feels like a 180 degree turn compared to everything he’s done up until that moment. That can work in some movies, but Beast Boy never came across as a characters who was secretly deep, he just came across as a juvenile the entire movie until they needed him to act mature for a few minutes.
One of my biggest complaints was the fact that the Teen Titans only really fought as a team at the end of the movie. It’s only in the last battle scene that each of the characters actually seem to be playing off each other on the battlefield. It would have made thematic sense if no one really liked each other on the team, but since everyone- except maybe Terra- wanted to be there and be a part of the Teen Titans it doesn’t make sense that they were fighting separately from each other. I watch team movies to see people fight as a team, WB! But the fight scenes always looked beautiful and it never felt like there was too much happening on the screen at one moment.
(This might just be a pet peeve, but it’s almost comical how many characters have the initials “BB” in this movie. We got Beast Boy, Bumble Bee, Brother Blood, and Blue Beetle, so if you’re planning on taking notes during this movie for any reason like I was you might need to change your shorthand a little bit). There’s a great little cameo from a nerd icon that definitely made me smile towards the end of the movie. You’ll know it when you hear it! Also, the movie is packed with fun Easter eggs that hint at a few of the places the DC animated universe will go next.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is definitely worth seeing if you’re a huge DC fan, but don’t hold your breath expecting a faithful adaption to the classic story. I mean Damian Wayne and Blue Beetle are here, so clearly things are different. Unfortunately, Jericho is nowhere to be seen. So for all you fans waiting to scream “contact” while staring at someone in the face might have to wait a little bit longer before people understand what you’re doing.