Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

| April 18, 2017

Anyone who knows the Teen Titans outside of the stray episode or two of Teen Titans Go is likely familiar with “The Judas Contract” storyline from 1984. It’s seminal Titans, perhaps the most iconic run of Teen Titans comics in the entire history of DC Comics. It was therefore only a matter of time before it got adapted into a DC Universe animated film, what with Warner Bros. and DC adapting so many of the other staple storylines in recent years from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns to more modern narratives like Justice League: New Frontier. Heck, the storyline was already successfully adapted once in the 2003-2006 Teen Titans animated series.

As a part of the DC Animated Universe, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) adds tremendous depth to the characters established in Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016), including Blue Beetle, who didn’t appear in the original run of comics. Writer Ernie Altbecker, who wrote the recent Justice League: Dark, takes full advantage of the PG-13 rating to tell a mature story of relationship dramas and personal trauma that captures the spirit of that original “Judas Contract” storyline as I recall it. As a result, I found a lot to love in The Judas Contract, even if it has its fair share of problems as well.

At the heart of the film are the relationships between the Titans, tenuous and strained though they tend to be. With the team’s leadership in turmoil and newest members Blue Beetle and Terra struggling emotionally, the likelihood of their overcoming any outside threat, much less an internal one, successfully seems nigh on nil. What their enemies fail to realize though is that they function not merely as a team or an army, but as a family, which gives them strength. And that’s as true of Altbecker’s Titans as it is of any other iteration of the team. So if you love these characters as I do, you’ll find the familiar Titans feels on display here.

The only major issue I had with the film is that the Titans are almost entirely reactionary throughout the film. You expect them to serve as the film’s protagonists, the narrative’s decision-makers. Yet they spend almost the entirety of the film just hanging around, waiting for their big fancy computer to process information for them. If any single member of the team is actually the protagonist, it would have to be Terra, but if you know anything about this particular storyline, that doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense in a film that [SPOILERS] so simplistically and continuously choreographs almost every plot point.

Sure, I had some minor problems too, like the continued depiction of Beast Boy as unwilling to take “no” for an answer when pursuing Terra and the lack of Cyborg, who would have obviously added some additional, much-needed diversity to the team. But ultimately my love for the Teen Titans carried me through the film focusing on the positives and I look forward to seeing where they take these characters next, which is something the film also pretty clearly choreographs. The Judas Contracts, as so many superhero movies do nowadays, sets up the next installment of the series well in the post-credit sequence, salvaging a scene in the film proper that would have upset me deeply if left unchanged by the post-credits.

As for the production itself, the animation looks pretty terrific overall. Some of the 1980’s costuming choices were utilized for this story, particularly for Beast Boy and Terra, lending it an air of authenticity. (I would have loved to have seen them do the same for Nightwing though.) And the voice cast features some notable talent too, featuring Firefly’s Sean Maher as Dick Grayson, Christina Ricci as Terra, Meg Foster as Mother Mayhen, and the late, great Miguel Ferrer as the newly-resurrected Deathstroke! Kevin Smith also appears as himself, for all you Kevin Smith fans.

That said, there are a couple oddities in the animation. A few shots are awkwardly zoomed-in to such an extent that the lines of animation are pixelated. And in one shot, Deathstroke doesn’t so much walk as he does half-glide across the screen. These errors I found to be pretty obvious, at that.

Ultimately, though, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract’s pros far outweigh the cons. And if you’re a fan of the characters at all, you too will likely find a lot to appreciate here.

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is now available on Digital HD and in a Blu-ray combo pack from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The Blu-ray release boasts a number of special features including a documentary about the collaborators behind the comics’ “Judas Contract” storyline, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez; a featurette about Deathstroke, a sneak peak of Batman and Harley Quinn; and two bonus, Terra-based cartoons.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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