Sunday, August 21, 2016

From the Rental Vault: Justice League vs. Teen Titans (2016)

When your absent father is Bruce Wayne and you've spent a lot of time being raised by your evil megalomaniac genius grandfather, Ra's al-Ghul, you have some problems fitting in. Thus it is for Damien Wayne, currently serving as Robin and not being much of a help for the Justice League. When Damien's headstrong nature endangers lives the League seeks to protect, Bruce Wayne/Batman decides he needs to learn some things, including teamwork. So Damien is packed off to train with the Teen Titans, whom he alienates in fairly short order in the DC Animated Original Movie Justice League vs. Teen Titans.

Raven, Beast Boy and Blue Beetle form the team, led by a slightly older Starfire as combination team captain/teacher/big sister. Damien's brusque manner and disdain for everyone who's not him make him just as many friends on his new team as he had on his old team. But they will have to get along, as a demonic entity attached to one of his new teammates has begun to manifest in the world and it has gained control over several of the most powerful Leaguers. If it can regain complete physical form, it will wreck this world as it has so many others -- and the possessed Justice League is more than up for the job of making that happen, especially when all that stands in their way is a group of under-powered, inexperienced kids.

This animated feature continues in the New 52 continuity, tweaking the Titans from their best-known version in the 2003-2006 TV series Teen Titans by giving Starfire a more mentoring role. It also adds the Jamie Reyes version of Blue Beetle.

It's very much a middle-of-the-pack entry in DC's animated movie lineup, with some fun interactions among the teenaged characters but relying pretty heavily on a lot of punching/blasting fight scenes. The storyline is familiar, originating in a mid-80s arc from Marv Wolfman and George PĂ©rez and already related once in the TT TV series. Some Damien-centric twists and scary Batmania -- the Caped Crusader injects himself with a coma-inducing nerve toxin to avoid demonic possession -- give it a little more life, but the third trip to the very same well brings up mostly the same offering as before. The wrinkle of setting a possessed League against the over-matched Titans doesn't add much to the story.

Justice League vs. Teen Titans is nowhere near as bad as DC's other recent Flashpoint/New 52 offerings, but the company has done much better and probably should have here. Watching it and its "Oh, him again?" villain isn't exactly punishment, but it's not much pleasure either.

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