Fans of DC were treated to Justice League Dark dropping on home video this week, and hot off its heels is the trailer for the next feature-length animated film. Fans of DC’s younger heroes are in for a treat as the next film to drop will be Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.
The title of the film already tells us a fair bit about what kind of threats the team with will dealing with. Based on the Judas Contract storyline from the comics of the 1980’s, DC people will have a idea of what to expect already, but for the sake of new blood joining the fandom through the current generation of animation, we won’t spoil who the ‘Judas’ ends up being. DC/WB animation has surprised viewers before by adding new details and twists into adaptations of iconic story arcs, so there still may be surprises in store.
We can glean some of what to expect just from the film’s rating. Unlike The Killing Joke and Justice League Dark sitting at R ratings, this film returns to form with a PG-13. Does it mean that a certain May/December romance from the comics will be omitted here?
The trailer gives us a hard open with a good look at the H.I.V.E., a villainous cult that abduct people to steal their powers. It sets up the kind of conflict and threats that we can expect the Titans to be up against. True to form for DC, just because it’s a team of kids doesn’t mean the storytellers are shy about giving them some pretty darn bleak subject matter to deal with.
The classic Teen Titans baddie is along for the ride, making his debut to the DC animated film franchise, working for the H.I.V.E. to retrieve the Titans so the group can harness their power. There’s also a satisfactory amount of fanservice for Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke in the trailer. Every DC animated film seems to have a ‘hook’ character where the film team goes, “We know this guy is the reason you’re watching this movie, nerds”, and here it seems to be Slade. His dialogue isn’t plentiful but voiced by Miguel Ferrer, in one of his last roles before passing away last month. Jay Oliva’s strength as a director shines with the talent of his voice cast, with Slade sounding the right mix of terrifying, apathetic, and oddly Jack Bauer-ish.
A look at the team roster shows a rather noticeable difference from the Teen Titans cartoon of the early 2000’s. The tricky thing about telling stories about teenagers is that a choice must be made about whether or characterize them as big children, or small adults. This film sits firmly in the latter camp. In particular, we get to see more of Princess Kori/Starfire as an adult and her relationship with Dick Grayson/Nightwing, whom has decided to rock his New 52 red suit here. Damian Wayne makes up the team’s mandatory Robin. They’re joined by Titan staples Raven and Beast Boy, the totally trustworthy Terra, and Jaime Reyes/Blue Beetle rounds out the team as the cyborg/tech-based hero, since Cyborg is part of the League in the animated film universe.
A lot of asskickery goes around, showing the kind of conflicts that are in store for the team and the opposition they’re up against. They learn the hard way that Deathstroke isn’t just talk, although there’s other treats in store, like Starfire throwing down and Damian on the warpath. Suffice it to say that whatever inner demons Damian has dealt with in previous films are settled – or at least buried – and he’s ready to let his tiny fists do the talking. And maybe I’m imagining things, but don’t these baddies look a smidge like the Loader Bots from Borderlands 2? Something you wanna share with the class, DC?
A look at an imperiled Beetle likely ensnared by the H.I.V.E. is thrown in for drama, but Jaime’s got too much spirit to be beaten so easily. Just… save the combat one-liners for people with sharper tongues, kid. You are too good and pure for this game.
Following the trend of the past few years for trailers to have their own comical stinger, the trailer wraps up on a bit of brotherly banter between Dick and Damian. It’s a rare moment where the Wayne/Al-Ghul child actually gets to be a child, sitting on the receiving end of some grilling from Nightwing, which he handles in his own particular idiom. It’s an attempt by the team at DC to explore the humanity of a character whom is, frankly, kinda messed up.
The Judas Contract will be slated for release sometime this year.