Review: Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016)


Another clash of DC Comics institutions hits screens hot on the heels of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice with the latest feature installment in the shared DC Animated Universe, Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Does this match-up deliver a knockout? Find out in our review.


The DC Animated Universe has always been a highlight for comic book fans. Since Batman: the Animated Series bowed in 1992, it began the tradition of having Warner Brothers animated films dealing with DC Comics characters to exist in that shared universe almost to the present day. This all changed with 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox which officially ended the continuity of voice actors and characters established by Batman: The Animated Series. The film served as a reboot to mirror the comic book event it adapted for film, and a new continuity of films was established, with Jason O’Mara becoming the new voice of Batman. The first few films in this DC Universe, Justice League: War and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis were pretty well done with excellent character design and animation. These films also shared continuity and each was a chapter in the story which set up the next film. Starting with 2014’s Son of Batman, these films went an odd route and decided to make the character of Damian Wayne, Batman’s sidekick Robin (voiced by actor Stuart Allan), the primary protagonist of these stories. The latest, 2016’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans continues this trend with diminishing results.


The film begins with the Justice League of Batman (voiced by O’Mara), Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson), Superman (Jerry O’Connell), Cyborg (Shemar Moore), and Flash (Christopher Gorham) facing off against their arch-rivals the Legion of Doom of Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy, and Weather Wizard. During the battle, Weather Wizard is possessed by a demon from an alternate dimension known as Trigon (voiced by Jon C. Bernthal) who makes short work of the League until Robin single-handedly defeats him by crashing the Batwing into Weather Wizard, exorcizing Trigon from the Wizard’s body. Batman and the League decide the best course of action is for Robin to join the Titans, a teenage superhero group of metahumans trying to understand their abilities and themselves (not unlike X-Men) led by Starfire (Kari Wahlgren). Robin’s arrogance leads him into a violent sparring session with the Blue Beetle, a teenage boy with an alien exo-armor, who badly burns and nearly kills Robin, until he is healed by Raven (Taissa Farmiga, a lonely teenage witch, who bonds with Robin over their outcast status. Meanwhile, Superman is struggling with his new relationship with Wonder Woman – one made more complicated by the fact that he is fighting possession by Trigon himself. These two storylines between Robin, Raven and the Titans group and Superman and the Justice League eventually coalesce into an all-out battle once Raven learns that Trigon is attempting to permanently leave his exile and cross over to Earth to destroy and conquer.


One of my overall continuing issues with these DC Animated films is the depiction of the Robin character. In these films and the source material, Robin is the 10 year-old son of Batman, having been raised by his mother Talia’s League of Assassins to be the eventual ruler of the world and achieve his grandfather R’as Al Ghul’s supposed destiny. The DC films Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin, Batman: Bad Blood, all primarily revolve around the character of Robin/Damian feeling cheated out of his destiny, being a better fighter than any character in the DC Universe (including Batman), not trusting anyone but himself, and struggling between killing and justice. The issue this creates is that every subsequent film repeats the story arc ad nauseaum so there’s no character growth for Damian; it becomes frustrating as a viewer to have to see the same character issues repeated over and over. Especially since the character is presented as being arrogant and essentially unlikeable. Luckily, this film does try to course correct a bit by having the character of Raven (voiced by American Horror Story’s Taissa Farmiga) as the secondary protagonist; one who actually has a character arc and a hero’s journey. Farmiga really shines as a voice actress here, especially voice-acting opposite Allan’s one note petulant Robin.

In terms of hewing close to the source material, Teen Titans have been a staple of many fans’ lives growing up watching Teen Titans GO! on Cartoon Network and Young Justice. This film heeds closer to Young Justice in the team’s depiction as a junior Justice League, although there is one segment where Starfire transforms into her costume in a deliberate homage to Sailor Moon and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers complete with a chant of “Teen Titans, Go!” Raven also bears little resemblance to her previous animated incarnations and is presented much more like the Raven seen in the video game Injustice.

The storyline here explaining Raven’s relationship to Trigon is also a very confusing one and may alienate viewers already confused by Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice‘s attempts at explaining the Fourth World Saga of Darkseid. However, WB should be praised for attempting such an alternate storyline involving witchcraft and the supernatural that doesn’t involve Dr. Fate or Zatanna as these stories often end up doing. The film has a stinger setting up the introduction of a new character, although it is one that is difficult to identify by costume alone. Batman: Bad Blood also introduced Batgirl in its stinger; however, that wasn’t followed up on in this film. Some other issues the film has include the fact that Batman’s role is reduced to not much more than a glorified cameo and the lack of chemistry with O’Mara’s nagging, overbearing Batman continues to be a thorn in the side watching these films. Allan’s Robin does have better chemistry with this film’s version of Nightwing, voiced by Firefly’s Sean Maher, and that is one of the few redeeming aspects in Allan’s voice casting. R’as Al Ghul also makes an appearance in this film that serves to once again undo the Robin character’s supposed growth in previous films.

Overall, Justice League vs. Teen Titans is still worth a rental on VOD, although the continuing issues with Robin’s depiction and role in these films makes them increasingly difficult to invest in like previous standalone DC Animated features like The Dark Knight Returns and Justice League: Gods and Monsters. The film may also benefit from its release date timed to coincide with the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it is not the knockout punch this film series needed to really make a lasting impact.

Justice League vs Teen Titans is available on Blu Ray and DVD on April 12th, 2016.

Purchase Links

Justice League vs Teen Titans (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack)