Teen Titans Go! To the Movies and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures
Directed by Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath
I’ll admit that I, like many fans of the first show (i.e. OLD PEOPLE), tended to be rather dismissive of Go for amping up the comedy and more or less abandoning the action and drama in doing so; but that said I also didn’t outright hate it or ever have the urge to complain loudly and publicly about it. Still, now that the Titans trailer has given me a bit of perspective, I feel kind of bad about not really giving it the time of day and plan on rectifying that soon. Before that though, we’ve got a movie to see which couldn’t be further in terms of tone and style than its TV-MA counterpart and frankly that’s about all I need to more or less give this movie a pass. Hopefully it’s good movie as well, but considering I didn’t see Robin snapping necks and covered in blood in the trailers for this, I think it clearly has the upper hand. Will the jump to from television to feature films silence the haters once and for all who complained that this interpretation of the characters wasn’t just like the one they had when THEY were kids, or is this yet another show that didn’t need the big screen treatment and will be yet another cudgel to be wielded by rather obnoxious fanboys? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with the Teen Titans, made up of Robin, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy (Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Hynden Walch, Tara Strong, and Greg Cipes), putting bad guys on the run and not stopping until the job gets done… at least until they find an excuse to dance at which point the Justice League has to come in and clean up after them. Well that’s not TOO bad! They got a few hits in before getting distracted by their own theme song, and it means they get a chance to chat it up with Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and even Superman (Lil Yachty, Ashley “Halsey” Frangipane, and Nicolas Cage)! Not Batman though (Jimmy Kimmel) as he’s attending the premier of his latest movie which is NOT directed by Matt Reeves; rather by an up and coming star director named Jade Wilson (Kristen Bell). Wait a minute, movie premiere!? Why didn’t anyone tell the Teen Titans!? Furthermore, why haven’t THEY gotten their own movie!? These are questions that Robin in particular doesn’t like being raised, and so he vows to get his own movie by any means necessary! Up to and including finding an arch villain for the Teen Titans to face which will surely get Jade Wilson’s attention and convince her to give them a shot at the silver screen! Good thing it just so happens that a villain known simply as SLADE (Will Arnett) who is most assuredly NOT Deathstroke (that name is FAR too scary!) is cooking up some scheme and can only be stopped by this group of teenagers with attitude! Can the Titans find a way to stop Slade AND get their own movie in the process? Just how far will Robin go to get his chance, and will his friends be the ones to suffer in the process? Can I just say that SLADE is a better bad guy name than Deathstroke? SLADE!! SLLAAAAAADDDDEEE!!
I don’t care what ANY of you think about Teen Titans Go, the original series, Young Justice, or any of that stuff! This movie is AWESOME!! It’s an irreverent and ceaseless joy ride from beginning to end that blasts you with references toilet humor, and even some surprisingly dark jokes from time to time, and the overall package is something that should appeal to any DC fan, young or old. That is of course if said fan is not so insecure in their fandom that they can allow for some humor and light ribbing at their favorite properties, but hey; those people can keep bleating about the Snyder Cut for all I care. You think YOU’RE pissed about not getting an unfinished production cut of a movie!? I’m still waiting for that freaking Nicolas Cage Superman movie, but no one’s hash tagging MY movement! If you’ve never liked Teen Titans Go then I don’t think this is different enough to sell you on it, but I’m guessing a lot of you out there holding a grudge against this series might just have never given it a fair shake and this would be a pretty solid place to start if you want to reexamine your feelings on it. Come on, they let Nic Cage finally live out his dream of being Superman! How can you NOT like it!?
While I can’t find any DIRECT connections outside of it being a Warner Bros production and the inclusion of Will Arnett (who also produced this), this feels a lot like the LEGO films in terms of its frenetic pace and very dense approach to humor. There’s rarely a moment in this movie that doesn’t have a joke, a sight gag, or a song for the characters to sing while kicking butt and taking names, and while it can get a bit overwhelming and it’s not like EVERY joke lands, it’s reach is incredibly diverse so that it never really feels repetitive which is the problem with a lot of lesser animated films. Too often, kids movies will try to make their humor as broadly appealing as possible which means that they rarely have any bite or flavor to it that makes it stand out which is why the recent Warner Bros animated films like this and the LEGO films (particularly LEGO Batman for obvious reasons) manage to stay fresh and engaging. It’s a throw everything at the wall to see what sticks kind of movie, but it’s done with a lot of discipline to get across a sense of chaotic spirit while clearly having a strong script behind it. In the same scene, you’ll have references to Marlon Brando’s performance in Superman as well as an EDM dance scene and a butt joke. You probably won’t laugh at all three, but chances are one of them will get a chuckle out of you while everyone around you laughs at the other gag. It’s that kind of tightly controlled layering of the jokes that really impressed me and makes this so much better than I think anyone was expecting. Well… that and the amount of MURDER in this! Seriously, the Teen Titans do some PRETTY messed up things in this movie that will almost completely go over your head if you’re not paying attention, and it’s some of the funniest material in the entire movie! It’s not SO dark that I think it’s inappropriate for the rather young kids who will be most interested in seeing this, but I’m glad that this movie was willing to not only take risks like that but make them pay off so well. Take note, TV-MA Titans! This is about as dark as you NEED to get, and it’s STILL more clever and subversive than anything you’re trying!
Even with that though, this is still an animated kids film in 2018 and despite its jokes about Superman movies from forty years ago or random spikes of morbid violence, its humor is aimed at a much younger audience than the average DC fan (maybe even a tad younger than the Marvel audience) and it’s not afraid to embrace it. Did you guess who the villain of the movie is because you know Slade’s last name? Well good for you, but that’ll hardly be the case for most people going to see this and the predictability of the plot as well as its simplistic messaging doesn’t really take much away from the overall package. The plot such as it is works fine even if it’s not all that inspired of a story with Robin’s character arc being absurdly cliché, but it’s all about in how you tell it and this movie is never afraid give you something new to look at or a joke to laugh about while admittedly going through the motions of a straightforward rags to riches to friendship story. It’s hard to really convey just how far this movie goes in strange and outlandish direction without spoiling some of the better moments in here, though I’d say a decent comparison would be the Spongebob Squarepants movies which also were rather light on plot but made up for it with fantastic animation and hilarious set pieces.
If this movie has one problem it’s that its reliance on absurd humor and tangents DOES make it feel like a few opportunities were wasted. I’m surprised that they put Batman in this movie, yet never had Robin talk to him considering the dude is basically his father. Heck, we get more time with Superman than we do Batman which I’m not complaining about (I need SO much more Superman Nic Cage in my life!) but maybe shave off a FEW minutes cutting some of the less interesting jokes and throw them towards a few scenes with those two! That’s all I’m asking! Other than that, it’ really will depend on your taste in the humor. Even though I’m certain you’ll find SOME jokes that work for you, there’ll still be a few that fall flat. For me, a lot of Starfire and Beast Boy’s material felt a bit underdeveloped. Starfire really doesn’t have much to do here so she’s basically adding to everyone else’s jokes rather than doing her own, and I honestly got a bit tired of Beast Boy’s attempt to be cool and hip; something that’s kind of endearing about him in the show itself (at least in the episodes I’ve seen) but is turned up to eleven here which can get a bit grating.
People keep saying that DC is FINALLY going in a new direction with the trailers for Aquaman and Shazam showing a lighter tone from the films that came before it, but the thing is that DC has been doing just fine before their attempt at being a CINEMATIC UNIVERSE, and movies like this (as well as The LEGO Batman Movie) are proof that the problem isn’t DC getting late to the party. I absolutely recommend this movie over most of the other DCCU films (Wonder Woman is still the exception) and I do think you’ll enjoy this if you have any sense of humor about these characters. Should we still be holding out hope for a “proper” return to the Teen Titans? Honestly, I think doing so would be looking back instead of forward which is part of what sunk the DCCU; lest we forget that Batman v Superman was an unholy mashup of The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman. Look, a show called TEEN TITANS should always be for the kids, and what kids are into changes over time. You can either get on board with it or just let it exist for the audience it’s for; otherwise you’ll look very silly when you start using “Cal Arts” as an insult, and no one wants to look THAT silly!