Hello interweb, Nate here! So I just got done watching Teen Titans: The Judas Contract and never have I actually wanted to review a movie as much as this one as soon as it was over. Now the last DC animated movie was Justice League Dark and I had a review written up for that movie but once the review was done I read through it and realized that I really had nothing to say about it. I enjoyed the movie, but that was it I just enjoyed the movie. There was nothing amazing about the movie that stood out to me nor was there anything terrible. Because of this, I decided not to post that review because it just was a really boring review. This, however, is a movie that I loved so much by the time it was over that the first thought that came to mind was that I needed to review this film. This is a spoiler review so SPOILER WARNING but if you really want to know if you should spend your time watching this or not let me just say that this may be the best DC animated movie – no – best DC movie released recently. The DCEU has been struggling and the animated movies have been ranging from sucking to just decent. But I’d say that this is probably the best DC movie in recent years. So no more beating around the bush, let’s get this review started!
Movie Title: Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Produced by: DC Comics
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Animation
Writer: Ernie Altback
Director: Sam Liu
Producer: James Tucker
Running Time: 1 hr 24 min
DC animation was at its peak in terms of pure quality around the 2000s mark and I’m including both cartoons and animated movies in that. DC animation has been dropping in quality with some of its TV shows and movies kinda sucking. In terms of animated movies, it’s kind of debatable when those started going down hill in terms of quality but I’d say it was probably Justice League: War, a somewhat decent Justice League movie based on the Justice League: Origins graphic novel, that really started DC’s decreasing animation quality. And since the current DC animated movie universe started out adapting the New 52 comics, I guess the drop in quality is another thing we can blame the New 52 for. Now, this is a sequel to the Justice League Vs Teen Titans movie a while back which I thought was a decent flick but nothing too spectacular. So I don’t know what they did differently when making this movie, but whatever they did it worked!
So what’s the story? Terra, a new member of the Teen Titans with the ability to manipulate earth, is a double agent working for Deathstroke who is hired by the H.I.V.E. to capture all the members of the Teen Titans. Although while that’s the overall plot of the movie, I’d argue that the focus is more so towards the characters then the story itself since a large portion of the movie has several subplots that give the characters time to flesh out and show the relationships between them. While the subplots may lead to the criticism that the movie seems unfocused, I’d argue that it actually allows this to be a really good Teen Titans movie because it’s rather reminiscent of the soap-opera esque writing of the Marv Wolfman The New Teen Titans stories. Now the Marv Wolfman run on the team is where “The Judas Contract” story came from so this may or may not be a surprise. Now full disclosure, I never read the original “The Judas Contract” story arc from the comics and I’ve only just recently bought a copy of The New Teen Titans Volume One from my comic book store that contains the first 8 issues of the Marv Wolfman run. So don’t expect me to compare this movie too much with the original comics since I don’t have a strong working knowledge of that run as of now. I may compare it to the 2003 animated series that also adapted this story (in my opinion, not as well) but that will be all.
So what is the thing about this movie that makes me love it so much? Simple: the characters. More specifically, the relationships between the characters. One thing I feel DC isn’t really understanding with the original source and why we love the comics so much is that they think comic book readers read comic books for the action and not for the characters themselves. That’s definitely not the case. One of the reasons I love the Teen Titans, or just the Titans often times, is that they operate almost as much as a family than a superhero team. This has actually been addressed recently in the Teen Titans Vs Justice League comic going on right now where Nightwing pointed out that the Justice League runs very professionally with a focus on acting as a team, while the Titans allow themselves to have relationships and even just hang our outside of their superhero duty allowing for stronger relationships. Maybe this is part of why I’ve always liked the Teen Titans better than the Justice League since the Titans are a family while the Justice League is really a team.
My only criticism to this movie may be that it probably would’ve worked better as a cartoon series. While the movie gives time to Terra, establishing her relationship to the Titans (especially Beast Boy), establishing her relationship to Deathstroke, and having the payoff at the end, I feel like the impact would’ve been made stronger if these moments occurred throughout an entire 10-ish episode season. For example, early in the movie it’s established that Beast Boy has something of a crush on Terra and this leads to a really cute scene where he eventually gets to kiss Terra on a beach and celebrates. The scene works within the context of the movie as a way to pay off in the end where Beast Boy gets his heart broken by her betrayal, but it would’ve been better if this scene was part of an entire episode where maybe Terra and Beast Boy goes out on a date like in the animated series. Turning this movie into a season of a cartoon would also allow the subplots to be fleshed out a bit more and maybe even give characters like Raven and Damian (both of which didn’t really do much) a chance to have a subplot of their own.
The animation is good for the most part. There are a few moments where I feel like the animation got a little cheap and just looked off but otherwise it was just typical DC animation.
Another criticism I could give the movie is the H.I.V.E. since they really weren’t all that interesting. Deathstroke is hired by the H.I.V.E. to kidnap the Teen Titans so that their leader can use their combined power. But once the leader gained all of the powers of the Teen Titans, Terra ran over him with a giant rock and after that he went down really fast putting up practically no fight at all. It really is Deathstroke and Terra that holds the backbone of the villains in the movie.
Which means in terms of characters I think we should start with those two. Deathstroke’s only goal in this movie is to capture the Titans with his motivation being that the H.I.V.E. paid him to do so. He uses Terra to do this by having her infiltrate the team as a new member to gain intel. His manipulation of terra is actually quite creepy since Terra wants to be with him in a sexual sense and she’s like 16 and he’s at least 30 (and that’s being generous). So because of Terra’s desire to be with him, Deathstroke promises this if she helps him with the Titans. This is actually pulled directly out of the comics so it is accurate to the source. Although in the comics I’m pretty sure it was implied that they actually did sleep together while here it’s outright said that he won’t sleep with her until the Titans are captured and because of how the movie ends it’s pretty clear that that’ll never happen. Comics, ladies and gentleman! But I doubt Deathstroke ever actually planned to sleep with Terra here so at least he’s not as creepy as his comic book version.
Terra here seems to be a combination of her 2003 animated version and her comic book version. In the animated version, she’s more of a victim of circumstance than anything making you feel sad for her when she sacrifices herself in the end. In the comics, she’s – for lack of a better term – a bitch. In the comics, she manipulates everyone, not Deathstroke, and her relationship with Beast Boy is just so she can gain Beast Boy’s trust. Meaning you feel more sorry for Beast Boy then Terra. In her animated appearances, it seems she has developed some feelings for Beast Boy. Here it’s kind of a victim of circumstances thing as Deathstroke saved her life and then took her under his wing so he can use her to gain intel from the Titans, but she’s also willingly joining Deathstroke here so even though she develops feelings for the Titans she still betrays them for Deathstroke. It’s kind of a complicated mixture of the two versions but I kinda think it works. I just really think this would work better with an animated series since it would’ve given her character more time to actually develop friendships with the Titans even while she’s undercover, making her choice to stick with the Titans vs Deathstroke even harder for her. It’s just made so complicated in the movie that it’s hard for me to explain here without it getting all confusing.
Beast Boy is a character I’ve loved since the 2003 cartoon and in that cartoon specifically he’s probably my second favorite Titan right behind Raven. I still really like his character here, and his relationship with Terra (from Beast Boy’s perspective, not Terra’s) is actually really cute. I mentioned the beach scene earlier but that’s honestly one of my favorite scenes from this whole movie. I just smiled when he celebrated after kissing her. His ending speech actually did get me a little teary-eyed when listening to it. I’m not gonna lie guys, when I watch comic book movies I genuinely do get emotional over them, especially when they’re done well. His speech on what it means to be a Titan was just really well said and it’s why fans love the team so much.
Now let’s move on to some of the other characters. Dick and Starfire has a little subplot of their own where the two decide to advance their relationship by living together. Starfire has done so much to help Dick in the comics as he grew up from Robin to Nightwing that I’m glad that was expressed here. Again, this would’ve been so much better if this was a season of a cartoon so we can see an episode dedicated to the two of them. The two of them do have some references of them sleeping together but it was done so innocently that I thought it was more so cute then risque.
I feel like the animated movies are building up for a Blue Beetle-centered movie based on how they keep showing his conflict with the beetle so I’m really excited to see that. Because of how much the scarab has ruined Jaime’s old life, Jaime decides to volunteer at a place that gives food to poor people. I just liked that since it does see like something Jaime would do.
Damian was captured by Terra and Deathstroke early on so he really didn’t add much to the movie other then a few fight scenes.
Raven didn’t do much either and I think this is probably because the last movie focused on her so much.
Overall I highly recommend any fan of the Teen Titans to check this movie out. I think it would’ve been better as an animated series, but as a whole, it was a really good movie with great character interactions. It’s probably the best DC movie in recent years! It has a few references to previous movies, but you should definitely be able to follow it even if this is the first DC movie you’ve ever seen.