For this entry, we’ve reached the culmination of a series of films set within the New 52 DC Universe. Starting off with the universe’s birth due to the actions of a scarlet speedster, we’ve seen the World’s Greatest Heroes fight great forces from the stars and from the oceanic depths. Also, we’ve seen the Dark Knight raise his Boy Wonder as they’ve tangled with a skilled assassin, a historic group dating back to Gotham’s early days and have even grown their own Bat-Family while dealing with a femme fatale. Now, a new evil from beyond our dimension beckons. However, it’ll take more than our main superhero team to tussle with it. Join me as we dig into…
Originally released on March 26, 2016 at Wondercon, March 29 for Digital Download and April 12 on DVD & Blu-Ray, this film not only serves as a sequel to the Justice League films “War” and “Throne of Atlantis”, but also the three previous Batman films (“Son of Batman”, “Batman vs. Robin” and “Batman: Bad Blood”). With two super-powered teams for the price of one, let’s dive into this tale.
We open in Metropolis where TV newscaster Angela Chen (voiced by Laura Bailey) is covering a super-powered fight. It turns out the Justice League was having a ceremony to commemorate the opening of their new headquarters called the Hall of Justice. However, the celebration was interrupted by a group of villains called the Legion of Doom and have engaged our heroes via a surprise attack.
Within the mighty power struggle, we have Kal-El a.k.a. Clark Kent a.k.a. Superman (voiced by Jerry O’Connell) fighting his archenemy Lex Luthor (voiced by Steven Blum) while Diana Price a.k.a. Wonder Woman (voiced by Rosario Dawson) clashes with Cheetah.
Meanwhile, Victor Stone a.k.a. Cyborg (voiced by Shemar Moore) is tangling with Toymaster (also voiced by Steven Blum) while Barry Allen a.k.a. the Flash (voiced by Christopher Gorham) faces off against Weather Wizard (voiced by Rick D. Wasserman).
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman (voiced by Jason O’Mara) is in the rampaging cross-hairs of Solomon Grundy (also voiced by Rick Wasserman). The Dark Knight manages to lure the zombified behemoth towards the Metropolis Electrical Company before it takes itself out by running into some transformers and ends up shocking itself into unconsciousness.
Afterwards, we find out that Batman didn’t come to Metropolis by himself. He brought his son Damian Wayne a.k.a. Robin (voiced by Stuart Allen) to help out, but it was only to work on crowd control.
While Wonder Woman takes care of Cheetah inside of a parking garage, Superman uses his Heat Vision to swiftly dismantle Luthor’s warsuit and defeat him.
Meanwhile, the Flash manages to take down Weather Wizard by using his super-speed to step on some massive rain droplets and ultimately snatch his staff away. The scarlet speedster saves his foe from falling to his death before he ends the fight with a flurry of fists to the chest.
Finally, Cyborg manages to take down Toymaster by firing a series of cables that latched onto the hovercart and sends a massive jolt into his foe. Afterwards, he relieves his adversary of his control glove. With that, the remainder of the Justice League gather around him.
After Cyborg quickly mentions about the absence of fellow members Green Lantern and Shazam, Weather Wizard regains consciousness and tries to flee. Just then, he’s confronted by a massive shadow that manages to consume him. Beforehand, Flash noticed his foe’s escape attempt and dashed after him. After catching up, he tells Weather Wizard to surrender. However, his nemesis reveals his new demonic features and starts rising into the air. Fortunately, Superman followed behind the Flash and offers to go get him.
However, Weather Wizard manages to smack the Man of Steel away without the use of his staff. Suddenly, he creates a massive tornado out of his newly-acquired magic. The Justice League try to get him under control, but his newfound ability is initially too much for them. Fortunately, Superman starts to gain the upper hand as he forces his foe out towards the Atlantic Ocean.
During the tussle, Batman contacts Robin and tells him to get the civilians inside. However, Damian ignores the orders and comes up with an idea that will end the fight. As he hops into the Batwing and starts flying towards Weather Wizard, he tells Batman that he’ll rig the plane’s missiles and fuel cells to detonate upon impact. Robin manages to eject in time before the Batwing rams into Weather Wizard and explodes.
Afterwards, Wonder Woman uses her Lasso of Truth to catch Weather Wizard in the air. Just then, a shadow demon ends up expelled through the foe’s mouth as he’s brought back in front of the Hall of Justice without any memory of what he just did.
After Robin parachutes down towards the Justice League, Batman proceeds to berate his son for his actions, since they’re now unable to interrogate Weather Wizard. Damian chastises his father for initially keeping him away from the action since he ultimately defused the situation. Batman counters by saying that he lacks teamwork, to which Robin says that it’s nothing more than “ineffectual grandstanding” and that he prefers to work solo.
Following the title card, we then cut to sometime later where Robin is in the Batmobile and is being driven to his destination by Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing (voiced by Sean Maher). Because of his actions and his disdain for teammates, Batman has sent his son to go learn about the value of teamwork. It turns out that Damian is going to end up at Titans Tower, home of the Teen Titans.
We then cut to a training session in progress where Jaime Reyes a.k.a. Blue Beetle (voiced by Jake T. Austin), Rachel Roth a.k.a. Raven (voiced by Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story fame) and Garfield Logan a.k.a. Beast Boy (voiced by Brandon Soo Hoo) proceed to take out their holographic opponents.
Shortly afterwards, they’re approached by their team leader Koriand’r a.k.a. Starfire (voiced by Kari Wahlgren). After they’re quickly reminded of their main goals as a team: “To help each other control our gifts” and “Help one another become our best selves”, she tells them that they’re getting a new member.
Just then, Nightwing arrives and introduces Damian to the group. However, Robin isn’t interested in formalities and proceeds to head inside to find his room. From there, the scene ends with Raven sensing a sadness from him.
That night, Superman and Wonder Woman (under their guises of Clark Kent and Diana Prince) are having a phone call with each other. Essentially, they agree to go to the movies for their upcoming date.
After hanging up, Clark proceeds to do some laundry. Suddenly, he’s confronted by some supernatural occurrences, such as the room getting unnaturally cold and the door slamming shut. Just then, an unearthly shadow starts to descend from the ceiling and ultimately manages to consume him.
We then cut to the next day at Titans Tower where Robin is fighting numerous holographic assassins in his training session. However, Damian has been working for 90 minutes straight and is cutting into his teammates’ practice time. As such, Jaime intentionally shuts down Robin’s training program.
In response, Damian throws a batarang at Jaime. Thankfully, his blue scarab managed to shoot the projectile down. Starfire tries to defuse the rising tension between her two teammates and tells Robin that they only want to help him as a group, but Damian continues to show disrespect towards his fellow Titans. Blue Beetle tries to tell him that he has to “show some respect”, but it only served as the final straw as Robin subdues and kicks him.
Enraged, Jaime armors up and proceeds to engage Damian in combat. They fight each other for a short while before Robin sends Blue Bettle to the ground with a pair of explosive batarangs. Afterwards, he boasts over his fallen comrade saying that he only wears a weapon while he’s one himself.
Just then, Jaime’s blue scarab unleashes a surprise attack and blasts Damian with a powerful chest beam. Starfire comes in and stops the fight as Jaime says that he tried to prevent his suit from blasting Robin. The Teen Titans soon discover what the scarab did as nearly half of Damian’s face ended up badly burned.
Fortunately, Raven steps in and uses her mystical power to heal the singed sores. During the process however, she inadvertently sees flashes of images from his vicious past (notably from the first two Batman films of this series) as she ends up passing out. As Beast Boy transforms into an ape in order to carry her back to her room, the scene ends with Damian waking up to discover that his face was healed and that Rachel is in need of the team’s attention.
Back at the Hall of Justice, Batman is working a late-night investigation just as Cyborg shows up with a pizza. The Caped Crusader tells him that he picked up a series of dark spots from their grid of security cameras. After Cyborg uses his personal tech to enhance the picture quality, Batman shows the area where Weather Wizard ran through during his escape attempt. Our heroes notices that there was a streak of shadow that wasn’t being cast naturally from a pillar, not to mention that it wasn’t connected to it in the first place. Batman thinks that it has its own intelligence and that it’s looking for someone.
Meanwhile, Clark and Diana have just finished up their date night at the Metropolis Film Fest. While she jokingly talks about the cliches from an action movie that they just saw, Clark starts to feel an immense pain in his head. He sees a brief flash of demonic images where his eyes turn entirely black. He manages to regain his consciousness just as Diana tells him that he can always discuss any “burden” that he has with her. However, Clark suddenly shrugs her away and runs off.
Over at Titans Tower, Damian continues his training in his room. However, he starts getting carried away when he throws his sword through a nearby wall, nearly stabbing Beast Boy. After getting rightly berated, he notices a light gleaming from the nearby trees. He heads down to discover Raven in her personal meditation. From there, he thanks her for healing his face. However, he didn’t appreciate her glancing at the various moments of his past. He also states that he doesn’t really belong here since he desires the high calling that his grandfather (Ra’s al Ghul) had in store for him before his untimely death. Rachel says she mentally felt his grandfather and that he had a demonic nature. After saying that she “knows her demons”, Damian states that when she was in his head, he saw a man who was “something more”. Despite him wanting to know who that man was, Raven shrugs his question off as she opens a portal and takes her leave.
Following a quick scene where Damian apologizes to Jaime for their ill-advised clash…
…we quickly find out what happened to Clark after he bolted from his date. He went into an alley and proceeded to repeatedly slam his head into the wall in order to keep the demons in his head at bay. Unfortunately, he ends up getting entirely possessed as he proceeds to fly off. Later, a fire has erupted at a building due to Atomic Skull (also voiced by Rick Wasserman). After Superman arrives, his foe tells him that he’s gotten stronger since their last tussle. However, the newly-possessed Man of Steel doesn’t say anything as he proceeds to decimate Atomic Skull.
After the beatdown reaches ground level, Wonder Woman arrives and scolds him for beating his foe to within an inch of his life. Just as she’s about to tussle, Batman also arrives and uses a shard of Kryptonite to weaken Superman. Just then, their possessed comrade tells them that a “rising” is coming and that a “girl will be taken” before he flies off into the night sky. Afterwards, Batman tells Wonder Woman that he just contacted Steve Trevor of the situation and that military satellites will track Superman’s movements. Before he takes his leave, Batman tells her that they and the rest of the Justice League are targets and that they should take to hiding.
Back at Titans Tower, Starfire discovers Damian in her room and scolds him for entering her personal space without asking. It turns out that he accessed the team’s profile database, where he discovered that they don’t have any background information on Rachel and he scolds her for not knowing her teammate’s ins-and-outs. Starfire then proceeds to tells him what she does know about Raven: A 14-year-old who’s parentless and grew up on a hostile realm before escaping. She also brings up the facts that Beast Boy was 11 when his genetic makeup finally kicked in to give him his powers and that the team is still trying to understand the full extent of Blue Beetle’s scarab. In the end, Starfire’s teammates were united under one roof thanks to her having faith in them. However, Damian doesn’t believe in such a philosophy since he thinks that it only “invites disaster” as he takes his leave.
Following a shower, Starfire proceeds to have a web call with Dick Grayson. She tells him how frustrating it’s been with Damian under her roof, to which Dick agrees and mentions how combat and training under strict figures has been his entire life. Just then, he inadvertently gives Starfire the idea she’s been looking for her team: “Fun” as she concludes her web call.
Back at the Hall of Justice, Cyborg tells Batman that the satellites have lost track of Superman. Upon uploading the footage of their possessed comrade from the Batmobile, the Dark Knight says that the “entity” was able to take control of a Kryptonian, but it’s unable to stay inside if its host body takes too much damage. After telling Cyborg to search the internet for any notable sightings and supernatural occurrences, we cut to the possessed Superman who has flown across the Atlantic Ocean and winds up in the middle of the Sahara Desert. After plunging into the sands, he then emerges from the heated grounds with a massive stone ring.
Sometime later, we cut back to the Teen Titans who have arrived at a carnival. Starfire tells her teammates that for this one night, they’re going to skip their training in order to relax and take in on the festivities. Despite Damian bringing his sword with him, he’s ordered to keep it in the car.
From there, we have a montage (set to Siddhartha Menon’s “Down To Nothing”) where the teammates take in the carnival attractions and rides. During all of this, Damian and Rachel start to form a liking to each other, thanks to a ferris wheel ride and some funhouse mirrors. The montage ends with Damian’s impressive display of skill at the ring toss, giving him the necessary amount of tickets to win a high-priced carnival gift, only to show his softer side by giving his prize to a little girl.
Following a quick scene where Damian and Raven continue to discover how similar they are with each other while sharing some cotton candy, they oversee a crowd of people gathered in front of a gigantic Dance Dance Revolution-style game. It turns out that Jaime and Garfield are competing against each other, with Beast Boy’s dancing skills ultimately besting Blue Beetle. Afterwards, Damian decides to challenge Garfield. With Sara Choi’s K-Pop tune “Crazzee Boi” playing as their competitive song, the two of them proceed to have their Dance-Off. While the rest of her teammates look on with excitement and amazement, Rachel notices some nearby possessed citizens who tell her to go towards the nearby hills. As such, she takes off towards the assigned area.
Later, Raven arrives at a forested hillside just outside of the carnival. She’s confronted by a small group of demons proclaiming that their master wants her. She initially doesn’t believe it, but her worst fear has come true. It turns out that these underlings serve her devious father, Trigon (voiced by the Netflix Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal). It turns out that he’s trapped in his own dimension and needs his demons to help him with his goal: Use his own daughter in order to cross over into the main dimension.
After Rachel proclaims that she’ll do everything in her power to fight back, Trigon’s demons proceed to blast her with their fierce powers. After he taunts his own daughter by saying that she’s weak, Raven uses her magic to change into her outfit and start fighting back.
Back at the carnival, Damian and Garfield continue their dance-off. After initially struggling out of the gate, our Boy Wonder manages to take advantage of an eventually-exhausted Beast Boy and win the competition. From there, Jaime and Kori congratulate Damian for his impressive performance. Just then, our heroes hear a scream. It’s then immediately followed up by a small explosion as Rachel’s fight has worked its way back into the fairgrounds as the patrons flee to safety.
In a transformation sequence (a la Sailor Moon), our Teen Titans proceed to change into their uniforms and go help out their comrade. Raven warns her teammates that they’re facing demonic emissaries sent by her father. Meanwhile, Damian is forced to smash the car window in order to retrieve his sword.
Our heroes put up a valiant fight, but they’re ultimately shot back towards Rachel. She uses her magic to create a protective field, but she and her teammates are surrounded on all sides as their demonic powers continue to blast away. Fortunately, Robin returns and manages to attack Trigon’s forces in order to give the Titans some breathing space.
Despite the ability of Trigon’s demonic forces to regrow severed limbs, our heroes ultimately manage to defeat them. However, one of them manged to knock out Starfire. To defend her teammate, Raven taps into her own demonic power and forms a shadowed raven to encompass her foe and finish it off.
After the Teen Titans reunite in victory, Starfire confronts Rachel for lying to the team about being fatherless. She tells her fellow teammates that Trigon isn’t trying to kill her. To reveal what bigger plans her father has in store, Raven proceeds to teleport herself and the team to somewhere that Trigon is unable to locate. After their arrival, she proceeds to tell her backstory.
It all started with her mother Arella (her name is never given in the film), a naive and rebellious young woman who joined a cult. One night, they performed a “Bride of Satan Rite” and she wound up being chosen to be the bride. They proceeded with the ceremony and it ended up working, as Trigon emerged in human form.
The two of them wound up being with each other and eventually consummated their wedlock in sexual union. However, Trigon revealed his true form and proceeded to rape her.
Ultimately, Arella took her baby girl and escaped from both Trigon and the cult. They were eventually saved by a group of people from the peaceful realm of Azarath. As she grew up, Rachel was taught how to use her magic powers. Unfortunately, an attempt to find out about her father in order to better understand herself inadvertently summoned him to the realm.
Upon arrival, he proceeds to wipe out Arella, her fellow empaths and the entirety of Azarath. Afterwards, he took Raven back to his domain. It turns out that Trigon is a conqueror of worlds and he needs his daughter in order to enter the various realms, since she’s part-human. Fortunately, Rachel managed to trap him inside of a crystal and left it deep within his domain. After a long period of time, he’s finally reemerged with plans to return and continue his evil scheme.
When Jaime asks why she didn’t return to her previous home, Raven reveals that their current position IS what’s left of Azarath.
Afterwards, Rachel transports herself and her teammates back to Earth and ends up in front of Titans Tower. She tells her fellow Teen Titans that she’s leaving in order to keep Trigon off of her back. In addition, she’s placed protective spells on them so that he can’t use them as bait. Just as Raven prepares to take her leave, Robin tells her that she now has super-powered friends who can help in taking her father down once and for all. Just as his fellow Titans agree with him, a Boom Tube opens in front of them as the Justice League arrive. After quickly learning about Trigon, Batman says that they’re taking Rachel with them.
Suddenly, Raven senses her father detecting the Justice League’s presence and prepares to use them for his own purpose. Robin tries to tell his father and his fellow heroes to leave, but they refuse to do so without Rachel. As such, more of Trigon’s shadow creatures have arrived and start to take control over the Justice League. Fortunately, Batman manages to prevent himself from being compromised by injecting a nerve toxin into his own body. As he falls to the ground and wretches in pain, Robin tells his teammates that the substance he took was meant to subdue strong foes like Bane. As such, the shadow demon ends up getting expelled from Batman’s body.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the Justice League ends up getting possessed as the newly-seized Wonder Woman tells the Titans that Superman has brought the Infernal Shrine (an alter that was built by Satanists) back from the sand-riddened depths, with the possessed-Flash saying that Raven is the final piece. From there, the Teen Titans proceed to tangle with the corrupted Justice League in order to protect their comrade. Despite their efforts, they’re ultimately outmatched and viciously beaten up.
With her teammates defeated, Rachel is told to come with them and help bring Trigon to Earth or else Starfire will get strangled to death and Robin’s heart will end up viciously mangled at possessed-Flash’s hand. She agrees to go with them as they release their death grip on her friends. With her defeated teammates helplessly watching on, Raven and the possessed Justice League begin to step through her portal.
Fortunately, Blue Beetle managed to shoot a powerful tranquilizer dart that knocks Cyborg out and expels the shadow demon from his body. Afterwards, the remaining Teen Titans proceed to take him inside Titans Tower.
Upon her arrival at the Infernal Shrine and under the watching eyes of the possessed Flash, Wonder Woman and Superman, Rachel proceeds to take her place on top of the construct. Despite begging her father to spare Earth from his wrath, Trigon refuses to hear her pleas as the portal restrains her and begins to open via her magic.
We cut back to Titans Tower where Cyborg has awoken from his tranquilized sleep. After seeing Batman resting nearby, Robin tells him that it’s been a day since the unintended attack. With the desperate need to rescue Raven hovering over our heroes, Damian exclaims that he can find out where she is since he discretely placed a tracer on her, as well as the rest of the Teen Titans. He manages to find her location: 60 miles north of the fictional Middle Eastern city of Kahndaq. Even though Cyborg is able to take them there via Boom Tube, he’s doubtful of their success since they couldn’t combat the combined possessed strength of Wonder Woman and Flash, not to mention that Superman is still on Trigon’s side. Fortunately, the scene ends with Robin giving a confident grin, letting the Titans know that he’ll handle the possessed Man of Steel.
Back in the Middle East, the process to release Trigon from his diamond prison is still going on. Suddenly, the possessed Superman notices a noise and a bright light in the nearby sky and proceeds to check it out. After noticing a Boom Tube opening up, he flies up to engage the Teen Titans. However, Starfire, Blue Beetle and Cyborg were just the first wave distraction as Beast Boy flies in and releases Robin onto him.
From there, Damian manages to stab Superman with his father’s piece of Kryptonite. The radiating shard weakens him just enough for the shadow demon to get expelled from his body before he and Robin slam into the ground. Fortunately, they survive the impact as Superman regains consciousness. With the rest of the Titans gathered together, they notice that Trigon’s portal is nearly open. Unfortunately, the possessed Flash has noticed them and is heading their way. Superman tells the Teen Titans to go save their friend while he takes care of the incoming speedster.
After the Titans take off, Superman proceeds to engage the possessed Flash by using his super-breath to initially slow him down. After withstanding a series of quick punches, the Man of Steel manages to defeat him by breaking his leg. Fortunately for Barry, this caused enough physical damage to expel the shadow demon from his body. After the Flash tells him that he’ll recover fairly quickly (thanks to his access to the Speed Force), Superman sees one last challenge coming his way.
It turns our to be Wonder Woman in all of her possessed anti-glory. They fight for a brief moment before Superman manages to take the Lasso of Truth and ensnare her within its bindings. Its sacred makeup manages to physically burn the host body just enough for Wonder Woman to expel her shadow demon and collapse out of exhaustion. From there, Superman manages to comfort her in his arms.
Meanwhile, the Teen Titans manage to reach the shrine and reunite with Rachel. Unfortunately, the process is now complete as our heroes are forced to vacate the premises due to the fact that Trigon has been released from his prison and has now entered their world. As her monstrous father begins his deathly march towards Kahndaq City in order to kickoff his worldwide destruction, Raven says that the only way he can be stopped is if they trap him in the crystal again. After informing the Justice League of their plan, Cyborg proceeds to join the Titans on their deadly mission.
Rachel proceeds to transport herself and her teammates to Hell. After informing the Titans that she’s the only one who’ll be able to touch the crystal, they begin their march towards the shard’s location.
Back on Earth, Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash do everything they can to stop Trigon in his tracks. However, their powerful attacks only serve as minor nuisances.
Meanwhile, the Titans continue their trek through Hell. Suddenly, Raven feels faint for a brief moment, letting her teammates know that various monsters and creatures are approaching them. Just then, Beast Boy starts feeling abnormal. Due to his connection to the main animal spirits being cut off because of his presence in the underworld, he ends up changing into his own monstrous beings. Fortunately, he’s still able to fight as he and the Titans manage to fend off the otherworldly beings.
Our heroes continue to make progress towards their ultimate goal while smiting the numerous creatures. Ultimately, Robin tells Rachel to go get the crystal. As such, she flies up and uses her magic to gain access to the crystal’s location.
With the main platform open, she manages to reach for the crystal. However, a sword flies in and shatters it into many tiny shards before she gets knocked back. Robin, having noticed a strange figure from afar for a brief moment prior, manages to come to her rescue. However, he’s shocked to discover that it’s his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul (voiced by Kratos himself, Terrence C. Carson). Resurrected to work for Trigon, he explains that it was his current master who created the life-restoring Lazarus Pits. He wishes for his grandson to join Trigon, so that their original plans for the world can be fulfilled and that he can get properly resurrected. Fortunately, Robin renounces his grandfather and states “I’m a Titan”.
And so, Damian proceeds to fight his grandfather. Meanwhile, Raven manages to make her way towards the shattered crystal. With the remaining Justice League posing no threat to Trigon as he brawls in Kahndaq City, he mentally tells his daughter to just give up since she’s too weak to stop him. However, Rachel says that the only “weakness” she had was loving him in the first place, since it was her fellow Titans that gave her the strength to persevere. As such, she picks up a shard and begins her incantation.
Meanwhile, Robin continues to battle his deceased grandfather. Damian manages to get the upper hand when he hits Ra’s towards a rock formation. Suddenly, abnormal creatures come out and grab him. Ra’s begs for his grandson to help him, but Robin puts a permanent end to his life by using his sword to decapitate him.
Meanwhile, Raven has completed her spell and sends a magical raven up towards the surface world to go after her father.
Her spell proceeds to wrap itself around Trigon and begins to literally drag him back to Hell. He tries to break free, but it’s no use as the Justice League watch him descend back to his realm. Not only that, but he ends up imprisoned within the shard.
Immediately afterwards, Rachel is confronted by her teammates. However, she tells the Titans that Trigon will search for a new way out of his containment. She proceeds to open a portal for her teammates to go through in order to get home before she tells them that she has to stay behind in order to make sure that Trigon doesn’t terrorize her again. Fortunately, Robin manages to convince her otherwise.
We then cut to 10 days later at Titans Tower where our young heroes are contacted by the Justice League. The Titans learn that there’s been no sign of Trigon-related activity and are thanked for helping them save the world.
Just then, a Boom Tube open behind our young heroes as Cyborg emerges with a pair of pizzas for them to celebrate with. As the Titans take their slices, Victor notices that Raven is wearing the crystal shard on her head. It turns out that she can keep an eye on her imprisoned father and still be with her true friends, even as Trigon mentally demands to be released.
And so, the film ends on a mid-credits scene with a small boulder hovering across the water and approaching Titans Tower. Riding on top is a familiar female from Teen Titans lore: Terra.
As far as character development goes, only Rachel and Damian seem to be prominent enough to receive arcs of some kind. Both started out with authoritative elders who viewed them as the essential piece to their own plans for world domination and both were molded by a small group of heroes into becoming right-sided figures. Another similarity is that both of them were born out of terrible rape situations. If you recall from my review of “Son Of Batman”, Talia got to Bruce with a spiked drink before she “thrusted” herself onto him. After Damian’s face was healed, he and Raven start becoming friends because of their similarities. It took a fun night at the carnival for them to start having a good time with each other, but they’ve grown to respect and care for one another during the experience. In that vein, it’s through Damian that Rachel has here character arc. Early on, she states that she’s been having nightmares. It’s an obvious foreshadow of what’s to come, but it’s effective for her character. She keeps telling her teammates that these bad dreams are nothing to worry about, but the experience ultimately teaches her to trust her teammates since this is a crisis that forces her to not go at alone.
One thing that I’ve always liked about this string of films is seeing Damian Wayne grow as a character throughout. When this series first introduced him in 2014, he was a skilled, yet hotheaded assassin. After getting non-lethal vengeance against a skilled assassin in his inaugural outing as Robin, was tempted to regain his killer instinct by another skilled assassin who stemmed from an ages-old society and found out about his background on the way to stopping someone from his initial family while teamed up with the Bat-Family, here he learns about to function with a group of heroes outside of Batman’s rule. His growing friendship with Rachel helps him realize that he’s not the only one with similar and personal demons. Even though his signature attitude makes him an initial headache to the Teen Titans, Raven’s medical actions sets him on the path to trust his teammates. Even when he broke into Starfire’s room to read up on his teammates’ background history, there’s a part of him that wants to trust the Titans. He just doesn’t do so out of haste, since he’s never worked with anyone outside of the Bat-Family. Through the carnival scene and from learning about Rachel’s backstory does Damian and the Titans finally start clicking with each other, especially with Trigon threatening to spread his tyranny throughout the world. Nothing too dynamic with his character progression, but it works well here. By this point, Stuart Allen has total command over his role. He’s already comfortable with the part and has made it his own.
If there was any other character to talk about, it would have to be Cyborg. While “War” brought us his New 52 Origin before immediately bringing him into the fold as an initial J.L. member, while “Throne Of Atlantis” made him somewhat important but only with league business and little character development since Aquaman was the main focus, here he has little prominence early on. In that section, he only helps the Justice League defeat the Legion of Doom before he does some investigative work with the team’s computer and security system. During that time, he shows one sign of his youthful nature when he shows up to Batman’s side with a pizza, which was ultimately paid off in a way. Only when the Justice League became Trigon’s pawns and Blue Beetle got him out of it does he play a prominent part. After helping the Titans save the day, he rewards the team with pizzas of their own. It’s never stated in the film, but one wonders if he joins them after this venture. After all, it would help him develop his leadership skills and share his knowledge with the young heroes. It would also fit well since Cyborg historically debuted in 1980 with the New Teen Titans. Shemar Moore brings another consistent performance to his role, bringing the sufficient level of importance to his character.
What I’m truly amazed at is the carnival scene. In particular, picking up a pair of songs from lesser-known singers. While I was unable to find anything on Siddhartha Menon (though I constantly came across Indian singer “Siddharth” Menon), the song “Down To Nothing” fits with Damian and Rachel since it’s about trying to make a personal change and needing someone to help them accomplish said goal. They ultimately get that “change” through each other due to their similar backgrounds and through the events of the film where their trust between them and towards their fellow Titans gets forged. Meanwhile, we have Sara Choi’s “Crazzee Boi” serving as our DDR-esque song for Garfield Logan and Damian Wayne to have their dance-off to. Looking at the lyrics, it’s a song that uses both Korean and English. Since this is more of a dance song and would easily fit within any Dance Dance Revolution game (or even Just Dance), I was still blown by the fact that a K-Pop song wound up in one of these direct-to-home video films. This just goes to show how far this series and the straight-to-video market has grown in respectability.
One of the only complaints I have with this film is that Nightwing is completely shafted here. I wasn’t expecting Dick Grayson to get even more things to do like it was with each passing Batman film since this mainly focuses on the Teen Titans, but I was hoping that he would have played some important role here. After all, he was a founding member of the original Teen Titans back in 1964. Not only that, but it was during his run on the New Teen Titans that Dick graduated from his role as Robin and adopted his iconic persona as Nightwing. Maybe if the Titans notified him after Raven got kidnapped and he helped out just like Cyborg did, but still let Starfire call the shots since it’s her team. However, he only shows up to drop Damian off and have an online call to Starfire before he completely disappears from the film.
If Nightwing had more to do AND he helped out the Teen Titans at the end, I would have used this as the cover picture to my review. Alas, this partially seems more like false advertising.
Another complaint that I have is when Rachel’s backstory takes us to Azarath. Sure, the realm is very peaceful and tranquil for its group of spellcasters, but doesn’t this place seem familiar to longtime followers of the D.C.U.A.O.M.?
That’s right. It’s the same layout that was used as Themyscira in the 2009 film “Wonder Woman”, but initially flipped. I didn’t notice it until Trigon started to wipe out Azarath, but the growing explosion didn’t hide the fact that my quick eye (even on my initial viewing) noticed the reuse of a noticeable background from one of my favorite entries in the series. For a direct-to-home video film that went out of its way to get two licensed songs for a carnival scene, it’s a crying shame that the home of the Amazons was reused as Raven’s childhood home. I know that these films don’t have the same budget as theatrically-released films, but I would have liked to have seen an original design for Azarath, even if we’re only there for a minute or two.
The animation is very fluent and rightfully so. With this being the 25th film in the series, the experience of the people who worked on this have made sure that it flows very smoothly. I couldn’t tell a single moment of where there was a snafu or a flub. The action is pretty engaging, since every hero (with the exception of Nightwing) gets a chance to show off their skills and powers. For their first appearance in this series, all four starting Teen Titans are able to display their characteristics and skill set really well. Longtime voice actress Kari Wahlgren is mainly solid with bringing Starfire’s positive vibe to life, Brandon Soo Hoo’s voice fits really well in bringing the playful delivery that Beast Boy has and Jake T. Austin mainly does well in the film debut of the third Blue Beetle as he brings a confidence to the role yet won’t shy away from being good-natured in his delivery. Finally, Taissa Farmiga does pretty well with the role of Rachel. While some of her line delivery does feel a bit rushed, she still brings a low-toned feel for her calm side while having rightly-pitched levels for certain tense situations. Speaking of Raven, the story is essentially “The Terror of Trigon”, but the Justice League is also added to the mix. While it puts the necessary focus on certain characters at certain moments, it makes sure that the Teen Titans stay as the essential focal point. After all, Robin and Rachel are the main linchpins to the tale while the rest of the Titans serve their roles in numerous effective ways.
Overall, this is a nice romp. The story is engaging, the animation is fluent, the action scenes are thrilling & come in just the right amount and the characters (minus Nightwing) get plenty to do. While the Justice League serve just enough as a counterbalance, the Teen Titans are very effective with their series debut. It would be very interesting to see this cast again without the JL training wheels, so they can get even more things to do on their own. Either way, it’s definitely recommended.
Next Time: Once again, it’s back to Gotham City for us. However, we’re not just dealing with another adaptation. It’s an ’80s tale so iconic that the only way for it to be properly conveyed is if we get top-tier talent on it. Familiar voices will return to bring a famous tale involving the Dark Knight’s signature foe to life as we dig into “Batman: The Killing Joke”.
Justice League (created by Gardner Fox), Teen Titans (created by Bob Haney and Bruno Premiani) and all related characters are owned by DC Comics.