THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"JUSTICE LEAGUE VS TEEN TITANS"
The DC animated universe adds some engaging new characters with Justice League vs Teen Titans, the latest adventure in the popular series. Mixing the classic JL crime-fighters – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash – with the next generation of adolescent heroes could have been a recipe for an overstuffed mess, but a solid story and some inventive action sequences prevent that from happening. If you want to see DC superheroes taking each other on, this is a far more entertaining option than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The movie comes to Blu-ray Deluxe Edition, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD on April 12.
During a hard-fought battle to protect the Hall of Justice from invaders, Robin (voiced by Stuart Allan) feels that Batman (Jason O'Mara) is marginalizing him. That leads to conflict, so the Justice League sends him off to study with the Teen Titans, where he will hopefully learn teamwork and restraint. The Titans include Beast Boy (Brandon Soo Hoo), who can turn into various animals at will, and an empath named Raven (Taissa Farmiga). Robin initially doesn't fit in, but then a sinister force threatens the group, compelling him to work collaboratively. Satan has materialized in the form of Trigon (Jon Bernthal), and he's coming for his daughter, who happens to be Raven. Eventually, Trigon's darkness overtakes Batman, Superman (Jerry O'Connell), and Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson). The younger heroes must defend themselves from their allies before fighting the real enemy.
Justice League vs Teen Titans wisely makes Raven the central figure. The film engagingly tells her backstory, showing how she came to have the devil for a father, as well as the implications of this parentage. Aside from being a refreshing change from telling the Batman or Superman origin stories again (an act Batman v Superman repeats), the movie's focus on Raven's history also allows for a very original finale in which the heroes do battle in Hell. It additionally creates a fittingly precarious situation in which Robin must learn to work alongside others, even when he doesn't always agree with them.
The animation is good, as always. In some ways, though, Justice League vs Teen Titans requires the animators to go a little further than they have in the past. It's a challenge they more than meet. Speed is a significant factor this time. Shots in which JL member Flash runs are more carefully stylized than they have been in past animated iterations of the character. Similarly, there's a scene in which Robin participates in a game of Dance Dance Revolution. It must have been agonizing to animate that sequence, yet the movements and flow of the character are precisely done. They managed to successfully animate someone playing that frantic game. Hell, meanwhile, is designed with all the ominousness and darkness one would expect. For these reasons, this is one of the best-looking films in the series to date.
As is often the case, this DC animated movie is short and punchy, clocking in at 78 minutes. That means story themes are more surface-level than deep. Nonetheless, Justice League vs Teen Titans has a terrific comic book feel, and it sets up the Teen Titans for their own line of screen adventures. It will be fun to see where they go next.
( out of four)
Justice League vs Teen Titans arrives on Blu-ray combo pack and DVD on April 12. The Blu-ray comes stocked with supplementary material that builds on the main feature. “Growing Up Titan” is a 24-minute documentary on the origin and history of the Teen Titans that will tell you pretty much everything you need to know. There are two “Heroes and Villians” segments focusing on specific characters. One deals with Raven and the other with Trigon. Both give context to these figures so that the viewer has as full an understanding as possible of their roles in the Teen Titans universe. The DC Comic Vault makes another return with two television episodes: “The Prophecy” from Teen Titans and “Sidekicks Assemble!” from Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
Last, but not least, is a 10-minute look at the next DC Universe movie, an adaptation of the classic Batman series The Killing Joke.
The film itself and the extras comprise another fine addition to this animated franchise.
Justice League vs Teen Titans is rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some suggestive images. The running time is 1 hour and 18 minutes.
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