The Other Side of Animation 86: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s actually quite refreshing to see DC get back on its feet after the failure that was 2016. So far, it has had two great movies with The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, both being fantastic films that are fun to watch and have a lot of great personality to them. Neither of them feels like they were trying too hard to be edgy or focused on the wrong aspects of the film that completely ruin everything else. So, where does Teen Titans: The Judas Contract stand among the DC fodder of this year? The Judas Contract is a follow-up to 2016’s Justice League vs. Teen Titans, a film that I really despised, and felt like it was wasted, based on the fact that one unlikable character took too much of the main story-time from the other members. So, how good is the follow-up? Is it as fantastic as the 2005 original show, or is it just another dud in the basket of other duds from DC? Let’s find out.

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The story takes place one year after Justice League vs. Teen Titans. The team has gotten bigger with the newest member, Terra, voiced by Christina Ricci, a girl who can control rock. Nightwing, voiced by Sean Maher, has become co-leader of the Titans, along with Starfire. The main driving force and threat of this film centers around Brother Blood, voiced by Gregg Henry, a leader of a cult. He plans on taking the powers and life force from the Titans to ascend into godhood. He won’t be alone in pulling off this plan, as he has the help of Slade/Deathstroke, voiced by the late Miguel Ferrer. Can the Titans stop Brother Blood and Deathstroke? Is Terra a fully trustworthy character? Does this film have similar story beats to the 2000s series?

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Right off the bat, I want to say that this film does everything better than the previous film in every single way. First off, Damian Wayne does not steal the spotlight, as this time, everyone gets shared screen-time. For the most part, everyone gets their own little story arcs, like Blue Beetle and his divisive relationship with his family, Nightwing and Starfire being a couple, and Beast Boy with his relationship with Terra. This is what the first movie should have been instead of Damian Wayne being the worst thing on earth and hogging up what was pretty much Raven’s story. I liked a lot of what was going on between the team members, and found their chemistry to be leagues better than the last film. Even Damian Wayne is toned down in this film, and becomes rather tolerable. I can’t believe that he would be toned down, since the writers adore making him a power fantasy character. Sure, I can see some people not enjoying the pairings or story arcs of what is going on between the different characters, but at the very least, it’s a step up from Damian hogging the spotlight, while everyone else is either poorly written or not fleshed out. This time, it really does feel like a team, and that is what you look for in these types of films. It’s why the Justice League in this film universe really bugged me. It’s because they always acted like they didn’t really like or respect each other, and they seem to be at each other’s throats, and willing to kill each other.

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The animation is the typical direct-to-video DC film quality. It has good animation, even if at times they slow down the framerate, making the movements look iffy. However, that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the film has some fantastic action sequences. Granted, when you have Deathstroke and a bunch of characters that have super powers, you should be able to make the action top-notch. I personally prefer the action in Justice League Dark, but that’s mostly because it’s all magic-based, and you can get away with cool spells and pretty visuals with magic. I also liked that everyone was pretty competent in terms of being able to hold their own. The previous film had some good action, but some characters felt like they got the short end of the stick.  The voice cast is also stellar. Everyone from the previous film reprises their roles, and Terra’s voice actress, Cristina Ricci, and Miguel Ferrer in one of his final roles as Deathstroke do great jobs at their own characters. The rest of the voice cast is decent, like I think Gregg Henry as Brother Blood does a solid job as a creepy cult leader. Oh, and if you are a comic book fan and haven’t seen this film yet, they do keep the creepy Deathstroke and Terra relationship that happened in the comics.

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The only real major complaint I have about the film is that the lead villain, Brother Blood, is not entirely original or unique. I have seen a couple of different versions of him, and each time that I have seen those iterations, he was way more imposing and threatening than this version. This version was simply boring, and he was just another zealous cult leader. Granted, Deathstroke had more of a character arc, alongside his relationship with Terra, but if Brother Blood is supposed to be the bigger threat, they didn’t do a good job. I also felt like the romance plot between Beast Boy and Terra was done way better in the show. Granted, a lot of storylines in films could be done better if they were spread across multiple episodes, but here it felt forced, even though that is what happens in the comics and the TV series. I think it also loses a lot of that emotional weight, because fans of the franchise have seen this story arc before. The only interesting change would be if we see the effect it had on Beast Boy in the next film.

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While I think The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark are better, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract gets my “Redemption from Something Awful Award”, due to how it improves upon everything the first film failed to do. Heck, if Wonder Woman and the future DC-animated films continue to be good, Warner Bros. could have what can be considered their best year in terms of DC films. If you haven’t checked this one out, definitely do so. Well, as I wait for Batman & Harley Quinn to come out, how about we take a look at Smurfs: The Lost Village next time? Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the article, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 78: Justice League Dark Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

As we move into 2017, DC is under a microscope in terms of their movies. To be honest, I’m quite looking forward to Wonder Woman, and hope that Justice League Part 1 will blow everyone out of the water. I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded that DC went through some rough times in 2016. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to impress everyone, resulting in the film underperforming, and while Suicide Squad was a financial hit, it didn’t fare well with critics and audiences being split with it. Personally, I find both films to just be middle of the road. I’m sure if I thought long and hard, I could explain why they don’t work for me, but this is about animation so how did they do in 2016? Not well either. Besides the amazing Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, their offerings were boring, underwhelming, or terrible. Luckily, if DC’s 2017 offerings are anything like The LEGO Batman Movie and Justice League Dark, then they are in good hands. Let’s just dive in and see why Justice League Dark is one of the best starts in terms of animated films for 2017.

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All over the world, normal law-abiding citizens are going on murderous rampages killing innocent people in the process. The problem comes into play when the Justice League try to stop them, and they find out the people doing these horrible acts of violence are apparently seeing demons. Batman, voiced by Jason O’Mara, then decides to enlist the help of the more magical/supernatural heroes of the world. These include John Constantine, voiced by Matt Ryan, Zatanna, voiced by Camilla Luddington, Boston Brand a.k.a Deadman, voiced by Nicholas Turturro, Jason Blood/Etrigan the Demon, voiced by Ray Chase, Black Orchid, voiced by Colleen Villard, and Swamp Thing, voiced by Roger Cross. It’s up to them to find out who is exactly causing all this chaos.

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So, what does DC do right in this Jay Oliva-directed animated film? Well, I can tell you one thing that a majority of DC’s film line-ups didn’t have last year, charm. Justice League Dark probably has one of my favorite casts of characters in terms of DC animation. The way they work off one another makes them very likable and endearing to watch. I’m not fully on the DC hate bandwagon, but I’m not going to lie and say I found a lot of their recent iterations of characters in film form interesting or worth liking. Justice League Dark has a great balance of characters who are engaging and worth investing into. I think the best example of this is a scene early on in the film where John Constantine and Jason Blood are playing poker with The Demons Three. This one scene balances out action, comedy, and personality. Outside of that one scene, there are other points in the overall story, where the characters were engaging, and it helped that there was a good mystery of where the paranormal incidences were coming from. I was hooked in terms of what was happening, the villains behind this whole shebang, and let’s not forget how great the action is.

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The animation is fantastic. While it might be straight-to-DVD quality animation that you normally see in terms of DC’s animated features, and yes, there is a tiny bit of stiff movements, it’s definitely easy to tell that this film had a bigger animation budget than, say, The Killing Joke. Due to this being a story that revolves around magic and demons, you not only get great visuals of the spells, but also action that takes advantage of said magic. It’s why animation is such a great form of entertainment. While you do need to create it, you are not limited by real life physics or limitations. Let’s face it; unless you are Game of Thrones, or you get a really good effects team, TV-grade effects are not going to be that impressive. It’s just so satisfying to watch the action in this movie, and see how creative the spells got.

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The voice actors that were chosen were superb. It was a nice touch that they got Matt Ryan, who played John Constantine in the cancelled-too-soon NBC series as well, for this film. It’s like hearing Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop. If it’s not Steve Blum, then it’s not the same character. The other cast members, in addition to the ones I mentioned above, include Alfred Molina as Destiny, Enrico Colantoni as Felix Faust, and Roger Cross as Swamp Thing. They all did a great job at their roles.

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Unfortunately, some of my complaints for this film come from some of the characters. They don’t really do much with Swamp Thing, and he doesn’t appear in the film until the 40-minute mark. He’s not really that interesting, and when he fights the big baddie of the film, he gets taken out rather quickly. I also didn’t care for what they did to Etrigan. Granted, I enjoyed about 80% of his screen-time, but what happens in the last 20% f this film bugs me. I won’t say what happens, but still. Deadman could also get somewhat annoying at times. I get why he couldn’t do much because he’s a soul, but he was very much the comic relief.

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Justice League Dark might be the newest entry in the flawed rebooted DC animated film universe, and it does have its share of problems, but it’s easily the best one since Batman versus Robin. I liked the fighting, the comradery between the characters, the animation, and the story. I wish they were able to flesh out some more characters and not one-shot them, because the team in this film were easily the most endearing and entertaining. If you are a DC fan, and haven’t picked this film up yet, then I highly recommend doing so. Even though it’s early in the year, and I still think after Justice League Dark and The LEGO Batman Movie, this could very well be DC and WB’s year in animation. Well, that was fun, but next time we shall take a look at China’s highest grossing animated film that wasn’t made by other studios with Monkey King: Hero is Back. Yes, it’s spelled like that. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Go see it!

 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Here we are with part two! If you haven’t checked out part 1, then you should, since I may or may not reference the previous films on this list. Here is the link to see part 1, and once you are done reading that list, you can go to this list. These films are the middle ground/”I wouldn’t want to watch again” films with the exception of the 11th film. Let’s begin!

18. The Croods

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Oh my golly gee, two DreamWorks films are in the middle of the list? Yeah, this is easily one of their worst years in terms of movies. The Croods definitely has more to it than Turbo, with some interesting concepts, like the old dealing with the new, adaptation, and evolution via the family and the evolved male they meet. The film also has some amazing visuals that are definitely more…Avatar-inspired, with lush vibrant plant life and animals. However, it unfortunately sticks into the “just okay” category of films, due to how it has some interesting ideas, but goes for a more generic tone of the father vs. the guy who’s crushing on his daughter, and becomes a mostly macho competition as they all avoid the danger of their ever-shifting earth. Some of the designs are neat, but they really oversexualized the daughter in this movie. Like, it’s trying so hard to be pleasing to the eye that it does the opposite. It’s a film that also falls under “great ideas and concept, but bad execution” category, which is something this year’s list of animated films are good at.

17. Alois Nebel

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This is easily one of the more visually impressive films from 2013. Alois Nebel is a Czech drama based on a graphic novel about a train dispatcher in the 1980s. He begins to deal with memories of when he was a young boy during World War II, as well as the problems of today after meeting a mute man at the station where he works. Its rotoscope animation and comic book art style definitely brings a personality to this morose story. It’s an ambitious film that’s unfortunately bogged down by a very slow pace. It can be very atmospheric and touching at times, but those parts are few and far between, due to how “plotless” the story can feel. It also has a bit of cultural history behind it, due to this period of time when this film takes place and the point of the WWII flashbacks. It’s not going to be for everyone, and I honestly had a hard time sitting through this film from beginning to end, but I respect it for doing something different than what we normally get with animation. It might be flawed, but it stands out among the 2013 animated films. Definitely get a copy of this, if it is your type of film.

16. Epic

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This film is infuriating, because there is a good dark fantasy film hidden somewhere in this inconsistently toned “epic” adventure. They didn’t need to make a Ferngully-style story, they should have taken out the stunt casting of Beyonce and Pit Bull since they had no reason to be there, a lot of the modern dialogue was distracting, and the comedy relief was grating. The only stunt casting I didn’t mind was Steven Tyler, and that was because he had some of the better lines in the overarching story. If they had just made it its own dark fantasy adventure film, with a more timeless script, mature story, kept the modern elements out, recast some of the stunt casting, and gotten a director like the Russo Brothers or J.J. Abrams, this would have been easily one of Blue Sky Studios’ best movies. It has a solid script (minus the distracting elements), beautiful animation, and some good action. Sadly, it’s a bunch of wasted potential, with villains with no reason to do what they are doing, and in the end giving the movie-goers a very forgettable time. I can understand why some people like it, but it’s more so a very expensive tech demo to show off how good they have gotten with their designs and animation than anything else.

15. Monster’s University

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Even though I already said this about a lot of films on this list, Monster’s University encapsulates the entire “studio mandated/pointless sequel/prequel/cash grab/wasted potential”-style movie perfectly. Yes, there are touching moments, yes, the voice work is entertaining, yes the moral at the end is rather well done, and yes, seeing the different elements of ‘scaring’ broken down into different categories is creative. However, it’s a purely inconsequential movie. We know what’s going to happen in the end, the characters are forgettable, the jokes were either decent or flat, and it’s yet another college frat movie that you saw a million times during the late 70s early 80s, like Animal House. I would have been fine with this film if they either did something clever, or made fun of those college comedies. There is a reason why I call this film the “film that forced Pixar to take a break”, since they didn’t release a film until 2015’s Inside Out, due to their string of failed movies including Cars 2, Brave, and Monster’s University. It’s harmless, but there could have been much more to this film, but Pixar decided to sleepwalk on it.

14. Superman Unbound

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While I don’t hate Superman, I never found him interesting as a character. This movie, Superman Unbound doesn’t really help the case. My overall thought on the movie is that it’s okay. It has some great action, a cool design for Brainiac, and the overall story is told decently, but the art style is very distracting. Superman, Lois Lane, and a lot of the characters don’t look great, and have these weird body types. Even Brainiac ended up being a bit of an idiot, which is always funny when even with how smart characters can be, they can still make some pretty big mistakes, and I don’t know whether it was intentional or not. Still, it was a decent action movie romp, but I would definitely skip this one, and move onto something like Superman vs. The Elite or Superman: Doomsday.

13. The Rabbi’s Cat

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I also reviewed this one in one of my earliest reviews, but I still stand by what I said about it being one of the more interesting, weird movies that I have seen. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable French animated film based off a graphic novel series about a cat that gains the ability to speak like a human after eating a parrot. It’s a slice-of-life-style film, where it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but the dialogue interactions of the characters keep it interesting. I also enjoyed hearing the characters talk about Judaism and their points of view on it. The ending is definitely underwhelming, and the story can be a bit unfocused, but if you are up for something that has a unique art style and a different kind of personality to it, then definitely check this out.

12. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

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This is definitely a great and epic way to end one of the better animated comic book adaptations. I still don’t think that The Dark Knight Returns needed to be two parts, since I would rather judge it as a whole, and I don’t like the fact that DC keeps only making 75 minute-long films, but I digress. The second part of the overall story was dark in all the correct ways, I was glued to the screen watching how the story progressed, and while Superman and Batman are definitely older, the fight sequence between the two was intense and epic. I kind of call a stack of bologna on the ending, but it’s comic book stuff. Even then, it’s a great movie. Just try to find a way to get both parts in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition.

 

Stay tuned for the Part 3 of this list!

The Other Side of Animation 63: Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Oh, my goodness, it finally happened! In 2016, DC released a superhero film that wasn’t terrible or super-divisive! 2016 has definitely been an uneven year, but we finally have a product that changes that! Granted, it’s another Batman film, but hey, you’ve got to take the victories as they come. What is also interesting is that this universally praised DC film is based off of one of the best cheesiest shows of all time, this is Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. This new animated film from DC is directed by Rick Morales, and has Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their roles from the 1960s Batman TV series. So, how good is this movie? Is it DC’s Deadpool? Or is it meant to be yet another divisive, but mostly in the middle of the road DC film? Let’s find out.

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As previously mentioned, Adam West and Burt Ward reprise their roles as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. While enjoying a lovely night of television, they realize that the ghoulish team-up of Joker, voiced by Jeff Bergman, The Penguin, voiced by William Salyers, The Riddler, voiced by Wally Wingert, and Catwoman, voiced by Julie Newmar, are joining forces to pull off the heist of the century! Can the dynamic duo of Batman and Robin stop the four?

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So, what makes this DC’s best film? Well, it’s because it takes full advantage of its setting and characters. Unlike the previous movies that tried to either a.) shove two comic book storylines into one, b.) have two cuts, and release the one that people were criticizing due to its editing, c.) add additional story that hurts the main story, or d.) have a story focus on the most unlikable characters of all time, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders knows what it wants to be. It loves its setting, and the writers and director took full advantage of it. You get corny lines, captain obvious lines from Robin, Adam West trying to connect current events to them fighting crime, the police being utterly useless, and cheesy lines everywhere. Oh, and I do mean everywhere! It’s easily one of the most consistently funny films that I have seen this year. And in a year where we have had Sausage Party and Storks, that’s saying something. It also has some not-so-subtle commentary about the darker incarnations of the iconic superhero. Listen, I love stuff like Tim Burton’s Batman, The Dark Knight, and the Batman Arkham games, but there is a point to where being “dark” comes off as “trying too hard” and “edgy”, which seems to happen a lot to Batman. Not to say I like the corny fun Batman over something like Batman: The Animated Series, but when you can do well with both, then both have a reason to be entertaining to watch. You even get a cool little twist about halfway through the film with commentary about a darker Batman. I was at first concerned about how they were going to handle this, but in the end, it still felt like one giant joke, and it was pulled off perfectly. It’s one of those rare experiences where the entire story and the characters are enjoyable from beginning to end. I think my favorite part about the experience is the trope of how easy it is for the dynamic duo to solve the riddles when they seem like something out of a Sierra adventure game, or how overly, and I mean overly prepared they are for situations.

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The animation is leagues better than Batman: The Killing Joke, since it feels like characters have actual movement. It can be a bit stiff, but it doesn’t become super-distracting. The voice cast is also pretty solid. I have some complaints, but I feel like Burt Ward, Adam West, and Julie Newmar give off the best performances. The cheesy music is nothing too memorable, but it fits the mood of the story.

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If I had to complain about something, it would be some of the voice acting. The villain’s dialogue comes off as clunky, and it might be due to how the actors behind them deliver it. Some of the main characters’ dialogues also felt weirdly delivered at times, but that’s probably due more to their age. I also wish the ending could have been more over-the-top in silly action. I understand they didn’t want to put all of their eggs in one basket, but when you have a plot as funny and goofy as 60s Batman can get, you want to go out on the ultimate high note.

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Still, even with some weird line deliveries and an ending that could have gone further, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is definitely the funniest animated film I have seen this year in terms of comedies, and is no doubt DC’s best movie of 2016. It’s easily their most well-received film, and is one I would highly recommend purchasing. They even announced a sequel where William Shatner will voice Two Face. Well, this was a fun review to write, since I didn’t have many kind words to DC’s other projects. Next time, we will head upward with the French/Danish film, Long Way North. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 49: Batman: The Killing Joke Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

PARENTAL WARNING/HEADS UP: This film is not for younger audiences. It has cursing, brutal violence, and scenes of consensual sex, and applied sexual assault. It is not for a young viewing audience, and you should definitely skip out on this if you plan on watching it with your kids. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Enjoy the review!

This is going to be an interesting topic to talk about, due to today’s review. Have you ever watched a movie that you either love, enjoy, or hate, but then find that one scene that everyone talks about or notices about the film at hand, and it hurts the movie on many different levels? For example, the ending to From Up on Poppy Hill bothers me, even though I love the entire movie. The conclusion is so abrupt, and has no real closure for the viewers. They get the answer to their long requested, well, question, and then the credits roll. Heck, a lot of Japanese animated films do these abrupt endings, and it’s incredibly distracting, like in The Secret World of Arrietty, REDLINE, and Whisper of the Heart. The Wings of Honneamise has an incredibly uncomfortable moment that is essentially the male lead almost assaulting the female lead, and then the movie tries to paint it like it’s the female lead’s fault that it happened. Yeah, when you spot these moments, they can lead to a lot of problems in terms of the execution of said scenes, and how they impact the overall film. That’s why I decided to talk about the recently released (digitally at least) Batman: The Killing Joke. Directed by Sam Liu, produced by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, with a script and story written by Brian Azzarello, The Killing Joke was definitely one of the more infamous events during the San Diego Comic Con of this year, with the controversy of the additional 30 minutes of story added to the original 45 minute run-time. It also got a lot of heat for a specific scene 19 minutes into the movie where Batgirl and Batman have sex. Yeah, we will get to that part in due time and talk about it. The overall reception of its release digitally (physical release in August) has definitely been mixed with much criticism aimed at the additional 30 minutes and the apparent sex scene. Anyway, what do I think of it? Well, let’s find out.

The Killing Joke is based off of the 20 or so paged graphical novel of the same name, revolving around The Joker, voiced by the always amazing Mark Hamill, essentially ruining the life of Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon, voiced by the also always amazing Tara Strong. The Joker essentially shoots Batgirl in the spine, causing her to be paralyzed, and kidnaps her father. It’s up to Batman, voiced by the also excellent Kevin Conroy, to stop The Joker and his schemes. The 30 minutes of additional footage are essentially about Batgirl taking down a sociopathic thug that has become obsessed with her while Batman attempts to teach Batgirl about not taking certain situations too far.

Yeah, let’s get to the biggest problem with this film, the additional 30 minutes. They have no reason to be there since they don’t connect to the main story. The thug Batgirl has to deal with is never brought up, or those incidences are never mentioned again from within the main plot of the film. They essentially said that they wanted to add more to Batgirl’s character so she isn’t just a plot item in the original story. I can respect that, but they don’t find a way to make it interesting enough to make the tragic thing that happens to her mean more. Instead of connecting the new footage and story with the obvious main villain, The Joker, they instead waste our time with what feels like a lost episode to one of the many Batman animated cartoons. They throw in this sociopath thug that has no real weight to the second half of the story. I have talked to a few people, saying that the thug is essentially Batgirl’s version of The Joker, but still. Not to say what happens to Batgirl and this thug wasn’t deep and scary, but if you are going to simply dump him in the second half, then why have him at all? Why not do what Jessica Jones did with Jessica and Purple Man? That could have given the reason for  The Joker to be obsessed with wanting to partly ruin her life in the main story. Have her humiliate The Joker in one of his heists, and then have him escape and cause the deed that made the original story infamous, or have The Joker be humiliated by the Gotham police which triggers him to “do the deed”. I know giving  The Joker logical thinking would be odd, but hearing him talk in this film made him seem like a logical individual (even if he is still a bit nutty). Now then, let’s talk about the notorious scene of Batgirl and Batman having sex on a rooftop. Thankfully, she is of legal age so it doesn’t get too creepy, but I have seen this happen a couple of times in the comics, and once in Batman Beyond, and, well, I don’t think it works. I never thought it worked having Batgirl be romantically tied to Batman. I can see her being sort of fan-girlish around him or like a daughter he never had, but sexually tied? Yeah, no. Also, it’s never mentioned again when the actual plot happens. It’s so infuriating to watch this movie, knowing that the additional footage really doesn’t do anything new with the actual plot, because there is some real good stuff in the later part of the film. They don’t even fix the main problem with The Killing Joke, where the incident of Batgirl getting shot and worse (I won’t say what was suggested happened to her), with how she was more of a plot element than an actual character or have any major reason to be there. They call this “Stuffed into the Fridge”. Essentially, something bad happens to a character just because they wanted it to happen.

By the way, this film got an R rating, and it really didn’t earn it. This is no more edgy than a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit or Criminal Minds episode. This has to stop, really. Unless your movie deserves it, don’t think giving it an R rating is going to make it any more desirable. Just because Deadpool and Batman v Superman made it cool, doesn’t mean every movie needs to be doing it. Sometimes, having creative limitations can make you work harder on making a better product within the barrier. And whoever says you should enjoy this as two movies needs to go rework their logic. I don’t agree with that statement that you should enjoy both plots individually. The additional 30 minutes should have been connected to the main story, and it isn’t.

The animation and art is also a mixed bag. The designs of the characters are fine, and the voice work is excellent, but the animation itself is super janky. It feels very cheap. It comes off like the film’s budget went towards the action sequences and the voice actors. It’s definitely very distracting to see clunky animation for such a famous story in comic books. Even with some of the technical problems Justice League vs Teen Titans had, it still looks good in terms of animation.

So, what is good about this movie? Well, when you get to the actual plot, the story is creepy, atmospheric, and dark. Even though we have seen dark Batman and Joker storylines in animated form, like Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, this is probably one of the creepier stories with how far The Joker goes to break Commissioner Gordon. It’s easily one of the darkest moments ever in DC animation. The voice work is also excellent. It shouldn’t be a surprise with Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong delivering great performances. The two scens of The Joker talking to Gordon, and the ending conversation between Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy are easily some of the best moments of DC animation.

I was hugely underwhelmed and annoyed by this movie. If the 30 minutes were done better, the Joker had more of a presence in the beginning with Batgirl, take out the pointless sex scene, and they fix the elements of the original story to be better, I think we could have one of the darkest and best written DC animated films around. I don’t agree with what Bruce Timm said in terms of defending what happens in the movie, and I think they should be ashamed they couldn’t find a better way to make the end product fantastic, which is a word I can’t use on any of the DC animated films that came out this year. If you love the original book or want to own every animated film made by DC, then by all means get it, but I can’t see myself buying this movie physically in the future. I have had a hard time thinking about where I would put this in terms of films, from worst to best of this year. I could argue and point out how terrible the first 30 minutes are, but could put it up in the middle ground area because the second half, while still having problems, is pretty fantastic. I guess I would just say to see it for yourself, and you tell me what you think. I might not like this movie, but believe me, I would rather watch Batman: The Killing Joke over and over, instead of what will be the 50th animation review. Thank you for reading, and see you all next time.

Rating: Lackluster

The Other Side of Animation 36: Justice League vs Teen Titans Review

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SPOILERS/HEADS UP: I have seen the previous movies and I am going to spoil what happens in this movie. If you have not yet seen this movie, go buy the movie, watch it, and then come back. Plus, this will apparently help make sure we get more Young Justice/Teen Titans-related projects down the pipeline.

If there was one company that is not doing well with their movies and projects based off of their comic book properties, it would have to be DC. Seriously, think about it. Batman Arkham Knight’s PC port was and still is a disaster, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is underperforming since Warner Bros. thought it would be a good idea to get Zack Snyder and Davis S. Goyer to be in charge of one of the most hyped superhero movies of all time (it’s not Fantastic 4 from 2015-failing, but it’s not making a profit), and even some of their better avenues with straight-to-DVD films are lacking in consistent quality. And to be honest, it’s a disappointment all around. DC is trying to be dark and gritty in order to try and counteract Marvel, but it is not working all the time. Usually, I think DC’s animated series and straight-to-DVD movies are pretty top-notch, with just one or two exceptions. Sadly, DC and Warner Bros. aren’t flawless with their good stuff either, since they make questionable moves like cancelling Young Justice because the viewership was bigger with female fans than male. Because, you know, apparently shows that cater to either genders or anyone, in fact, can’t be successful. Man, I’m really snarky in this opening bit. Anyway, I decided to check out DC’s newest straight-to-DVD offering with Justice League vs. Teen Titans. This film was released last month in April, 2016, and is in an interesting situation, since if this film does sell well, we could get more Teen Titans, Young Justice, and similar projects including films and TV shows out of this. As you shall soon see, in my personal opinion, I wish this wasn’t the film to be that savior.

The film revolves around Damian Wayne, voiced by Stuart Allan, after the events of Son of Batman, Batman vs. Robin, and Batman: Bad Blood. After helping out the Justice League take down a group of supervillains, Damian, being the most unlikable human being in that universe (we will get to that), decides to chew out Batman and the Justice League for being not as progressive with their strategies as he is. Essentially, Batman has had enough of Damian’s obnoxious attitude, and with no exaggeration, forces him to join the Teen Titans, a group of teenage superheroes. The Titans include Beast Boy, voiced by Brandon Soo Hoo, Raven, voiced by Taissa Farmiga, Blue Beetle, voiced by Jake T. Austin, and their leader, Starfire, voiced by Kari Wahlgren. While this is all going on, a sinister evil is trying to make his way into the real world, and is known as Trigon, voiced by the Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal. Can the Titans stop the evil from coming to this world?

Let’s get the bad out of the way. Why? Because for the few good things this film does well, it does a lot more wrong than right. Let’s start with the actual title of the film, Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Well, it’s a blatant lie. Sure, the Teen Titans do fight the Justice League, but instead of being a well-executed reason to have such a conflict, in reality, it’s more, “Trigon-possessed Justice League members wiping the floor with the Teen Titans in a very one-sided fight.”  If this was called Teen Titans: Day of Trigon or something that actually had anything remotely close to actually what happens, then it would be fine. It’s just bad marketing. Plus, the fight only lasts about three or four minutes, and that’s it. However, I can forgive the marketing, since it’s not the biggest problem with this movie. No, the biggest problem with this movie is Damian Wayne a.k.a, the newest Robin. He is by far one of the most unlikable, obnoxious, tedious, overpowered male fantasy, cocky, arrogant, and most despicable characters I have ever seen in my time of reviewing. Yeah, you can argue that he is a super-strong character because he is the son of Batman and the grandfather of Ra’s al Ghul, but that doesn’t mean that he’s a good character or that the stories that Damian has been a part of support his horrible traits. He is so incredibly disrespectful towards everyone, and doesn’t really change. I mean, technically he does, but it doesn’t feel rewarding or natural. They don’t do enough story-oriented events to make Damian more humble or have any known character arc. Heck, since he is in the film, he basically takes up 70% of the time that could have been used for the other characters, since they barely get any screen time, and it takes away from the actual lead of the story, Raven. It’s her story, since she is the daughter of Trigon, and yet, she doesn’t get a lot of development because Damian’s story hogs the running time. Over his development of the DC animated films, he has shown to be able to take down villains, and have encounters that overpower groups of heroes. For example, in Son of Batman, he takes down Deathstroke, a.k.a one of the most dangerous assassins in the entire DC universe by himself with no help! He even takes down a bunch of unkillable Trigon demons when the Titans couldn’t take them down by himself. Damian even beats Beast Boy at a DDR-style game that he has never played before on his first try. They show him struggle a little, but in the end, he bests Beast Boy. I just can’t stand this character, and throughout the entire film, I wanted reach through the screen and punch his disrespectful face. He shows no respect towards anyone, and the story keeps supporting his attitude. Even when he gets blasted by Blue Beetle and almost dies, he doesn’t give an apology for how he acted. Nope, he just gives one of those half-baked apologies that you know aren’t really serious. Again, due to how much Damian hogs the movie, in terms of screen time, it leaves everyone else pretty boring and one-dimensional. It’s ironic since the other members of the team are much more likable and interesting than him. Oh, and it’s sad how Starfire is the leader of the team and a pretty likable character in her own way, but is constantly getting the tar kicked out of her. It’s funny that Trigon, the big baddie of the film, played one of the more interesting character actors of recent history, is barely in the movie. When he arrives, it’s basically the last 10 minutes of the film. Really, due to Damian, everything else suffers. And they need to stop trying to push Raven with Damian. He doesn’t deserve her.

The animation is nicely done, and the overall tone of the film is similar to Young Justice, but I think there is a bit too much blur used, and they could have made certain characters not act like punching bags. The voice acting and script are also hindered with a lot of the voices and lines either sounding flat, clunky, forced, or not really interesting. I mean, how do you have all these talented actors and not be able bring out an overall great job? Oh, and check this out, Blue Beetle isn’t even on the cover. Cyborg, who doesn’t have a lot of airtime in the movie, gets a huge slice of the box art. I understand they wanted to bring in the viewers and fans of the original Teen Titans, including the cool Terra Easter egg at the end, but that just seems crummy that you leave out a character on the box.

So, how would I have fixed this movie if I was in charge of it? Easy, make this a stand-alone film, or not part of the current animated DC universe that was started with Justice League War. I would have not added Damian, or at the very least, made a more likable and enjoyable version to watch, give everyone equal time to develop, and probably focus on a different story other than another “rise of Trigon”-style story. I would have also made the film longer than 70 minutes. The biggest problem with this film being connected to the current DC animated universe is that the overall universe has not been that great. It had potential, but due to different story problems and boring characters, it feels like a disappointment in terms of potential.

Okay, so I went on and on about how Damian almost single-handedly takes down this entire film’s story, but what do I like about this movie? Well, even if they don’t get a lot of time to develop, I love the interaction between Beast Boy and Blue Beetle. The two were very interesting, and had decent chemistry. I like this film’s Raven, and even though she could have had more non-forced snark, she was the only character I felt invested in. She was always one of the best characters to get to know in a lot of the projects that have used her. The fight scenes are pretty intense and well animated. And even though Damian almost ruins the story, at least the goals and what happens is clear. You know, unlike Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where the logic used in that movie doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I also found some the lines in the movie pretty well done and funny. Especially the little interaction between Cyborg and Batman, where Batman asks where all the food goes when Cyborg eats.

Overall, I’m very disappointed in this project. This should have been a slam dunk, since most everyone loved Teen Titans and Young Justice, but the direction this film takes is 100% wrong. I mean, I think it’s wrong that we have to buy an underwhelming movie to make sure we get more Teen Titans and Young Justice. I might be in the more critical minority, since I’m sure there are people who love this movie, and that’s fine! I just feel like if they weren’t pinning this down as the sole reason for future projects, I would be happier to support it. While it doesn’t hit it out of the park, and has misleading marketing and Damian, there is still some good elements about the film. I can only recommend purchasing this film either because you are A. a hardcore fan of DC or B. wants more Teen Titans and Young Justice-related products. Well, this was underwhelming, and I might recommend purchasing this film with a begrudging shrug, but let’s look at one of the more odd animated films I have seen with Mind Game. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and see you next time!

 

Rating: Lackluster!