While Marvel is reigning supreme in the film landscape with the juggernaut that it is the Marvel Cinematic Universe their comic rivals DC have been dominating with its DC Universe Animated Original Movie series. We have seen a slew of hits including Wonder Woman, Batman: Under the Red Hood and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
For its 28th entry we have the 2017 film Teen Titans: The Judas Contract which again delivers high quality comic entertainment. The film is directed by Sam Liu who also directed Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016) to which Judas Contract is a direct sequel. It is an adaptation of the eponymous comic story and features the infiltration and eventual betrayal of the teen superhero team by the troubled hero Terra who has the powers of Earth manipulation. Terra is a pawn of DC supervillian, gun for hire and Titans arch enemy Deathstroke aka Slade Wilson. The Titans team in this film consists of Nightwing, Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven, Blue Beetle and the Damian Wayne Robin. I had seen the story when it was previously adapted in the Teen Titans animated series (not to be confused with the ridiculous Teen Titans Go!) so I was familiar with the premise. Here’s my no-spoiler review in three easy to chew slices:
Stellar Voice Cast
I enjoyed pretty much everything in this film. The animation was slick and bright with just a dab of anime style. Christina Ricci (Addams Family films, Sleepy Hollow) was fantastic as the voice of Tara and added a lot of depth to the angst-ridden character. Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop) also brought menace and sophistication to his portrayal of Deathstroke. The rest of the voice cast, while not outstanding, was solid. Also an honourable mention to Gregg Henry for an extremely creepy Brother Blood.
Definitely Not for Kiddies
This film continues the DC animated movies trend of being more adult fare which I was perfectly fine with. There is some mild profanity, adult situations, including a disturbing relationship between Tara and Deathstroke and a lot of sexual innuendo between Nightwing and Starfire, and also on screen killings. There are head shots and blood flowing aplenty on this ride. The superhero action is top notch which is not surprising as DC rarely disappoints in this area. Titans fans also get some good fan service as there is a flashback featuring an earlier incarnation of the Titans as well as a cameo from a classic member (which I will not spoil).
A Cut Above the Rest
Tara’s journey is the core of the film and she has a clearly defined arc. Her budding romance with Beast Boy is fun and you empathise with her struggle. The Titans want her to be a part of their family but she cannot get past her brokenness or her devotion to the devious Deathstroke. There is the line “pain makes a hero, either turns you into a diamond or grinds you into dust.” The theme of pain is strong in the film and how what you do with it can change the trajectory of your life. When Tara is ground to dust, figuratively and literally, it is truly heartbreaking. There is a depth to the film and character study that elevates it above most of the other DC animated movies though outside of the Tara act everything else falls somewhat into generic territory.
Rating: 3.75/5 super betrayals
For more DC animation you can check out my review of Batman: The Killing Joke here.