This spring — in about a month-and-a-half — there are two blockbuster films released in theaters featuring two major superheroes confronting each other over philosophical differences.
So it's no surprise Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's latest original animated movie has the unoriginal title of "Justice League vs. Teen Titans."
The problem is it's a bad title. Not bad, as in not cool, but inappropriate and misleading.
The truth is there's one short scene in which the Justice League confronts the Teen Titans. (And it's not as if the rest of the story led up to this confrontation either.) After that, the two teams work together.
Actually, putting the Justice League name first in the title is a simple case of brand recognition. It's extremely misleading as the movie focuses on the Teen Titans, specifically on Raven.
In the prologue, the Justice League is fighting the Legion of Doom, yet another mindless slugfest in a series of such smackdowns in each of the New 52-style Justice League animated flicks. The fight ends with Robin (Damien Wayne, who is as obnoxious and unlikable as ever) disobeying Batman by not overseeing crowd control and the evacuation of city residents and using the Batwing to take down the big baddie.
Robin's actions prompt Batman to send his son to Titans Tower to learn how to be a good teammate.
The story should take off once Robin is with the Teen Titans (Raven, Blue Beetle and Beast Boy led by Starfire). A subplot of Nightwing (who only has a cameo) teaching Robin the importance of teamwork — and the significance of being a Titan — would have been interesting. But it's not addressed at all.
But writer Bryan Q. Miller doesn't do enough with this; in fact, he barely hints at it.
So for my money, "Justice League vs. Teen Titans" is full of misleading disappointments.
Robin isn't forced to learn the importance of teamwork — as promised in the trailer. There's no "one epic battle" between the Justice League and Teen Titans — as promised on the Blu-ray/DVD packaging. And there's no development of seemingly obvious subplots — as promised in Miller's story.
What you end up is is a Teen Titans-focused story full of underdeveloped characters and storylines. (The lack of characterization has been a problem in all the New 52-inspired "Justice League" animated movies.) Each team member is one-dimensional and not given the depth and complexity they deserve; this is especially the case with Superman, who consistently comes off as nothing more than a powerhouse, not the noble leader he should be.
Since Raven is the featured character, there's a lot of magic in the story.
Magic-focused superhero stories never have been my wheelhouse or interested me at all. Since writers of comics and animated projects never fully explain the parameters of what magic can and can't do, the stories come with an inherent lack of logic and the actions of magic-users are downright random. That leads to things happening — or not happening — for no rhyme or reason, which results in a hot mess of a convoluted climax in this movie.
"Justice League vs. Teen Titans" is a flick to rent or check out from your library. It's underwhelming — and not to be a broken record, but that's been the case with each and every "Justice League" animated movie in the last two to three years. The smart consumer/fan who is compelled to complete his or her collection is best of waiting for it to show up in the bargain bin. Grade: C-
With the short mid-credits scene, director Sam Liu and Warner Bros. are setting up the classic NEW TEEN TITANS storyline "The Judas Contract." And if that's true and such an animated flick sells well and is received well by fans and critics, DC Entertainment and WB could release more Teen Titans movies.
My hope and recommendation is for DCE/WB to make more films based on classic and memorable comic stories (from as far back as the 1960s through the mid-1990s) and avoid more forgettable and notably unimpressive ones set in the New 52 continuity like "Justice League vs. Teen Titans."