Blu Ray Review: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

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Blu Ray Review: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

Director: Sam Liu

Ever since Warner Bros. released their first direct to Blu-ray/ DVD feature length movie, Superman: Doomsday, an adaptation of the Death of Superman, I’ve loved DC’s direct to video animated films.
DC usually puts out three of them a year and they’re marketed to older fans who love DC animation but are looking for something with a little bit more edge. Let’s face it, as much as we all love the classic in DC animated shows they were ultimately targeted at kids. They had to comply with certain standards and practices. The violence couldn’t be too extreme, human deaths rarely took place and if they did it was off screen, and sexuality was completely absent (except for the slight innuendos the writers snuck in). Fortunately the writers on shows like Batman: The Animated Series were strong enough that they were still able to tell dark, thematically rich, adult stories that hold up even today. It makes the success of Batman: The Animated Series all the more impressive when you consider that the writers basically had one hand tied behind their back.

This is DC animation when the gloves come off. They’re either PG-13 or R-rated and they are geared towards adult comic book fans. They go back-and-forth between telling original stories and adapting classic storylines. The movies can be hit or miss, none are outright terrible . Almost all of them are watchable at the very least (especially if you a comic book fan). Some of their releases include All Star Superman, Batman/Superman: Public Enemies, and Green Lantern: First Flight (essentially Training Day with Green Lantern).

On occasion these movies can be spectacular. I consider a few of them to be some of my favorite comic book movies. For example, there’s the two part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns which is damn close to being my favorite Batman movie. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is not only a phenomenal superhero movie, but I actually think it’s better than the source material it’s based on. Below the review, I’ve listed some of the best of their films, that are must sees for any self respecting comic book fan.

However, the movie I’m reviewing today is Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. First a little background, a few years ago DC animation made a decision to make two of the three movies they produce each year part of a shared animated universe. Much like what Marvel and DC are doing on the big screen in live action. So The Judas Contact is the latest in a line of shared universe films that began and continued with Justice League: War, Son of Batman, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, Batman Vs. Robin, Batman: Bad Blood, and Justice League Vs. Teen Titans, and most recently Justice League Dark.  Since this series of DC animated movies began, fans have been clamoring for an adaptation of  Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. After all, this was a book that at one point in the 80s was that was the highest selling comic in the industry.

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(*80’s Teen Titans line up)
As much as I enjoy and look forward to these DC animated films, once they changed over to this shared universe format, I’m sorry to say the quality of the films of really suffered. They haven’t knocked one out of the park in a while. Although Justice League Dark was a whole lot of fun.
So, how’s Teen Titans: The Judas Contract? Well, it’s… ok. If you’re somebody like me ,who looks forward to these films coming out, you’re probably going to find something to like in this movie. Because at points it can be very entertaining.

Let me give you a brief rundown of the story without getting into explicit spoilers: Here, the Teen Titans lineup includes Damian Wayne as Robin, Beast Boy, Terra, Raven, and Blue Beatle. As well as Starfire and Nightwing acting as team leaders and mentors. The Titan’s greatest enemy, Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke, has been hired by super creepy cult leader Brother Blood, to take out the Titans for reasons I won’t go into here because of spoilers. However, I’m sure it will come as no surprise to fans that involves some crazy, convoluted, nonsensical, comic book bullshit (don’t get me wrong, I love a good, crazy super villain plot that makes little to no sense ). Unbeknownst to the Titans, Slade has a mole inside the team that feeds him information, tactics, and weaknesses. With the goal of eventually helping Slade defeat The Titans and hand over them over to Brother Blood and his many devoted followers.

* {Just a quick side note here: who the fuck would follow join a cult led by somebody named Brother Blood?. There had to of been a shit load of warning signs that this guy was bad news. The human sacrifice probably should have been a giveaway. Clearly Brother Blood’s followers have made some very poor life decisions to get to this point)

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So, i’m going to start with the positives about the film and then talk about the negative aspects after. First off, though this isn’t an exactly a glowing review of the movie, it certainly wasn’t awful. In fact, at certain points throughout the film, it was really fun. A lot of the dialogue and the character interactions worked pretty well. The fight choreography is great. In particular there’s one fight between Dick Grayson and Deathstroke in Dick’s apartment that was particularly well done. As always the animation is phenomenal especially on a Blu-ray (If you end up checking out any of the other DC animated movies, I highly recommend watching all of these movies on Blu-ray because they look absolutely gorgeous).

Now here’s where the movie went wrong. To  some comic book readers, this is their The Dark Knight Returns. So a story like that needs to be treated with more gravity and impact than this did. What really made this story work in the comics is the team’s revelation that one of their own is a mole. It’s a gut punch when it happens because we’ve come to care about this character and the other Teen Titans over a long period of time. In the movie, we haven’t given been given enough time, even with the first movie, to have a strong emotional bond with these characters. The only exception really being Damian and Nightwing who’ve been in al the recent, DC animated Batman movies.
Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne are two the more interesting characters in the Batman comic books, but here they are both kind of bland. That’s a problem for the rest of the characters in this movie too. None of them really pop.

 

If you’re looking for a great animated Deathstroke, watch the Teen Titans animated series from the early 2000’s. I was never a huge fan of that show but Ron Perlman as Slade Wilson on that show kicked ass

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One other thing I want to bring up about the film is a very fucked up subplot that is present in both the Judas Contract comic book and film. I’m not advocating for this at all , I just thought it was an interesting creative choice to take this particular subplot from the comics and put it into the movie. There are some mild spoiler so I’m going to mark it and if you want to scroll down to avoid the SPOILER go right ahead…

 

 

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

 

 

OK so even with the spoiler warning I’m going to avoid getting too specific, but one of the super weird, fucked up aspects of the original Judas Contract storyline is that Deathstroke has a weird sexual relationship with the mole on the Titans. Just to put in a perspective how weird this is, Deathstroke is 50 if he is a day, and this character in particular can’t be more than 16 years old. It’s not as explicitly sexual as it was in the comic books, but I really respect the fact that they left this aspect in the movie. Again I am absolutely not advocating older man sleeping with underage girls, but It shows you how fucked up the character who betrays the Titans is. It sort of gives you a window into their psychology and why they do what they do.

END SPOILERS

So just like last year’s disappointing Batman: The Killing Joke, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract falls short of expectations. If you follow these animated movies and you like superhero animation in general, I would still recommend this movie, there’s a lot worse ways to spend the night watching a movie. But if this is your first time watching one of the direct to video DC animated movies, start with the ones I’ve listed below because there are a lot of great ones. I really hope that DC animation starts learning from these creative failures because a lot of these people who’ve worked on these less successful animated films have worked on some of the very best animated movies DC has to offer.
Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the director Sam Lui’s has been responsible for some of the less than stellar DC animated films. I don’t want to shit on the guys work. He’s done some great animation direction,on TV. Hell, I know I’m going to get some blowback on this one, but I even the think The Killing Joke, which Liu directed had it’s moments.
For a while there, DC had a run where they were cranking out some really great animated features. Material that really push the envelope and it’s a shame to see them keep putting out subpar material. Hopefully they’ll get themselves back on track soon.

Movie: 6.5
Special Features:

Sneak Peek at the Next DC Animated Movie “Batman & Harley Quinn: One of my favorite things about the DC animated movies is that the special features include a 10 or 15 minutes sneak peek at the next film they’re working on. It’s cool to see the rough anamatics and the casting process. Say what you want about these films, but the enthusiasm of the people working on them is infectious. I always find myself looking forward to the next DC Animated film even if their last few movies have been mediocre. “Batman & Harley Quinn” looks especially interesting because it’s written and produced by Bruce Timm (Who is of course the cocreator of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series) and the animation is in the style of the Batman: The animated Series (or if you’re going to get technical on me, it’s in the style of the relaunch they did when Batman: The Animated Series became The New Batman/Superman Adventures and they did character resigns… my God I need to get laid)

Titanic Minds: Reuniting Wolfman and Perez: Another cool aspect of the special features on these movies is they’ll do mini documentaries focusing on certain storylines, creators, and/or characters that are in the movie and then give interesting background information about the comics they’re based on. In this case, we get a profile on Marv Wolfman and Georgia Perez who were the superstar creative team that made Teen Titans the biggest book in the comics industry back in the 80s.

Villain Rising: Deathstroke: The second mini documentary is a profile of Deathstroke that goes into the characters history and creation. They take a look into the psychology of a character like Deathstroke, who considers himself honorable while at the same time commits unspeakable acts in the name of profit. It’s a solid profile of one of the best villains in DC comics, so if you’re a Deathstroke fan, you’ll enjoy this special feature.

Other Special Features: There are a few other of pointless and crappy special features. Like, for some reason there are sneak peaks at DC animated movies that came out at least five or six years ago and a gallery of animated stills from “The Judah’s Contract”. I’m gonna go ahead and say you can skip those.

Below is a list of the very best that the DC Animated movies have to offer. Some are available on Netflix or Amazon Prime and all are available on Blu Ray:
-Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition (This was such a major project that DC released it as 2 separate films, parts 1&2, but the Deluxe Edition is the must watch version of this movie)
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
-Wonder Woman (
Very underrated)
-Batman: Under The Red Hood
-Batman: Year One

Though not as good as the list above, here are a few more of the better DC Animated movies:
Green Lantern: First Flight
– Justice League Dark
– Justice League War

Thanks for reading, guys!
– Paul

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