If you’re a comic book fan, you’ve probably know or, at the very least, heard of The Judas Contract storyline that ran in Teen Titans during the mid-80s. This was a landmark story as it introduced a lot of things, such as the debut of Nightwing and an in-depth look at Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke the Terminator. However, it’s also notable for being one of the most mature stories to come out from comics (during the time, anyway) and a major twist that not many people saw coming. So, when DC announced they were going to adapt it into a direct-to-video animated movie, fans were stoked. But that was way back in 2008. Now, almost a decade later, DC Animated Studios finally released the animated version of The Judas Contract. But was it worth the wait?
The short answer: Yes… kinda. The animated version of the Judas Contract does manage to hit most of the notes and plot points that make the original story a big hit. However, they’re also a lot of superfluous points, both from the original story as well as added into the film, that could be distracting. I’ll go into detail below but, if you’re worried about me revealing major stuff about the story, don’t fret! This will be a SPOILER FREE review.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract takes place roughly a year after the events of Justice League vs. Teen Titans. Nightwing has temporarily rejoined the team in order to investigate the operations of Brother Blood and the possible terrorist cult known as HIVE. Little does Nightwing and the Teen Titans know that HIVE has already designs for the team and has already enlisted the mercenary Deathstroke to make sure their plan is executed properly…
First thing I have to say is that The Judas Contract is decidedly not a frame-by-frame adaption of the original source material. Technically, it’s a sequel to Justice League vs. Teen Titans so the roster is already is somewhat different. However, that doesn’t matter and they actually had to make some modifications to the original story as there was an incredibly build up to the event in the comics. They essentially had to cram in a bunch of history and character development in a short amount of time and they did an admirable job.
The animation is pretty gorgeous as well. The character designs really work as, well, they’re Teen Titans, emphasis on “teen.” Unlike the other DC Animated Movie entries, most of the characters have a softer look to them, which makes a whole lot of sense. They’re definitely not muscle bound like Superman or the rest of the adults. Even Nightwing, who is the oldest of the team looks more sleek and agile, which does suit the way he fights as he’s more acrobatic when he enters a battle. However, I will say I really liked Starfire’s overall design. Granted, that partially because she looks really sexy and hot. But I love how she’s actually the tallest of the team, even towering over Nightwing. It makes her look much more powerful and imposing despite her curves.
The action is also fantastic. The fights are dynamic and well edited and DC did a great job of playing around with how each character uses their abilities. It’s also nice that the Titans like to work like a team instead of attacking solo. In fact, they even feel like a more well oiled machine than the Justice League! It’s also great that, even though they’re battling against some baddies, they still have time to show their personalities and banter with each other as this allows the viewers to still get to know the individual characters on a more personal level without having to tear us away from the action.
With that being said, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is far from perfect. One issue I have is overall pacing of the story. The plot closely mirrors the comic version with some minor alterations. However, there’s a lot of additional material that just feels like filler and is only touched upon just to tie into a major plot point. It feels incredibly forced. The biggest glaring plot point can actually be found at the start of the film and it deals with Starfire’s origins on how she joined the Titans. It’s a great action scene and is a superb way of introducing the character but is totally unnecessary in the grand scheme of the movie.
If you want to see, what I’m talking about, here’s an official clip below but it may be considered to be a SPOILER. So, if you really don’t want to know anything about the film, don’t watch the clip.
Additionally, there are some bits that really feel incredibly trite and felt like they had to make sure it kept the “teen” element in the film. There’s this one scene where the Titans throw a party for one of their members and they do a montage of still photos with some god-awful teenybopper song that made me cringe. I know they’re teens and they’re supposed to be living it up and having fun while listening to that terrible song. Thank God the scene was incredibly short. It’s much like that dreadful carnival scene in Justice League vs. Teen Titans but, as it’s much shorter, it wasn’t as bad.
Most of the voice acting is good. Raven’s voice actress still sounds like she’s eating her words and it’s kind of difficult to understand what she’s saying but, thankfully, she doesn’t really say much throughout the film’s 84-minute runtime. Everyone else does a decent job but that’s mostly because they’ve already had some experience with voicing their characters in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and the other DC Animated Movie films. But the standout has to be Christina Ricci as Terra. She does an incredible job of bringing the character to life and because the film devotes a significant amount of time on her personal story, you get to hear her go through a myriad of emotions. If I were to nitpick on Christina Ricci’s performance, I guess it would be that her screams don’t really sound all that natural and “in the moment” but it’s a minor quibble.
Now, the biggest problem I have with The Judas Contract actually has to deal with the major twist in the story. But that’s mostly because I read the comic so I knew exactly what was going to happen so I wasn’t surprised. However, they do reveal it just before the halfway mark of the film so people who don’t know the “big thing” of The Judas Contract won’t feel it’s impact. It worked so well in the comic as it came from practically nowhere and they took their time in building up to it. The animated version could’ve devoted a little more time on focusing on the characters so that the twist would be a little more stunning and shocking.
Overall, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is worth a watch. It’s one of the better entries to the DC Animated Movie universe. The action and animation is beautiful and I actually like the characters this time around. It is a little disappointing that the overall story and pacing wasn’t tighter but it’s good enough.
Have you seen Teen Titans: The Judas Contract? If you read the original comic, how does the animated version stack up? Let me know in the comments section below!