When the Justice League unveil their “headquarters”, the Hall Of Justice, to the world it’s hardly surprising that they become a target for supervillains. In fact, no sooner has it been established than the Legion of Doom decides to attack it. It’s all pretty standard, and the few Leaguers who are actually on hand – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Cyborg – quickly dispatch Lex Luthor and their other foes. We review Justice League vs. Teen Titans.
The problem is that Batman has brought Robin with him, and it’s a disastrous bring-your-child-to-work day as the boy switches from doing a bad job with crowd control to getting personally involved in the fight.
What’s a father to do? The Flash suggests sending the kid off to boarding school, and Batman follows that piece of advice. He ships him off to spend time with the Teen Titans, not even bothering to drop his son off personally but rather sending Nightwing. After the bratty boy wonder dismisses the rest of the team as losers and gets into a fight with Blue Beetle, team leader Starfire decides that maybe they need to have some fun for a change.
However, Teen Titan Raven’s father (the demon Trigon) has been making plans to break free from the hell-like domain he’s trapped in. After possessing Superman and the few other members of the League who are around, it’s up to the Teen Titans to defeat the senior superheroes, Trigon… and bizarrely, Ra’s al Ghul who shows up for no reason. Or maybe it’s a demon in disguise.
While the odds are against the junior heroes, it’s time for them to prove their worth. The values of teamwork and trust are learned, and maybe even friendship too…
Justice League vs. Teen Titans is the second “vs.” story from DC this month (the other being Batman v. Superman), and also the second superhero production featuring Jon Bernthal this month (the other being Daredevil season 2). Oh, and it’s also the fourth DC original animated movie to feature Damian Wayne as Robin, and that’s the real drawback here. He’s still as annoying a Mary Sue character as he’s been in the others, and it’s hard to understand why such a divisive character is still being made the focus of stories.
In this case, what could have been a very decent shorter Teen Titans story (it bears similarities to the fourth season stories of the Teen Titans animated show) seems a little padded to accommodate him, and to prove that he can beat Beast Boy in a dance contest. If there’s any character growth in this film, it’s with the Titans themselves and not in Robin, who remains as sarcastic and unpleasant as always.
For that same reason the Justice League itself, reduced in numbers as it is, seems unnecessary. They could be removed from the plot and it would still be the same story, which makes one wonder if they’re only a part of the title and in the film to grab fans’ attention. The billed title fight lasts mere minutes. Superman is defeated in moments, thanks to Robin with a kryptonite shiv; Batman drugs himself before it starts so he’s unconscious, and Cyborg is taken offline quickly.
If you want to see teen superheroes properly battle their older mentors whilst struggling with their feelings about it, you’re better off watching the season 1 finale of Young Justice.
However, in terms of the Teen Titans, they’re the best part of Justice League vs. Teen Titans. While not much is done with their characters, there’s a definite sense of what the team is. They’re young, enjoy life and have bonds which you don’t see in their senior team counterparts. Despite the new age differences (Nightwing and Starfire are now well in their twenties whilst Beast Boy and Raven are only in their mid-teens), the rapport between them is as timeless as it’s always been.
There are even some subtle nods to Cyborg being a better fit for the Titans rather than a Justice League. The one conversation between lifelong friends in the comic books Beast Boy and Cyborg ends with a genuinely hilarious moment.
Also, a good step forward is the lack of profanity in this film and the slightly lighter storytelling style, a welcome change after more recent efforts. There’s even a great teaser of classic character Terra at the end. It’s a shame then that smaller details were overlooked. While it may sound ridiculous, the uplifting ending with Cyborg bringing a pepperoni pizza for the Titans is questionable, when both Beast Boy and Raven are shown happily munching away – despite being strict vegetarians. It’s a little thing, but strangely symbolic of the movie as a whole.
Justice League vs. Teen Titans is an improvement over other recent efforts, but it seems like with a little more care and attention they could have produced a wonderful Teen Titans solo film. Instead, it’s more focused on trying to get attention and forcing the story to be something it doesn’t need to be.