Teen Titans Go! to the Movies (2018)
Written by Michael Jelenic & Aaron Horvath
Directed by Aaron Horvath & Peter Rida Michail
The Teen Titans can’t get any respect from the superhero community. While Batman is on his fiftieth movie while everyone else, including the Challengers of the Unknown, are getting their own films. Robin realizes the team needs their archenemy which they quickly find in the form of Deathstroke. They seemingly foil Deathstroke who remains in the shadows with plans to get his revenge. Meanwhile, the Titans embark on series of hilarious vignettes (traveling through time and preventing heroes’ origins, participating in a motivational music video, and more). A rift grows between Robin and his teammates as his movie aspirations begin to push his comrades away.
Teen Titans Go! has been a relatively divisive animated series on Cartoon Network. It came in the wake of Teen Titans, a more traditional and serious program that ended on a sour note for many of its fans. When Go! was aired, with its brilliant comedy and jokes, many fans of the original Titans series were utterly turned off. I was way outside the age range for both programs, so I was never pulled into them until recently. While babysitting my nephew and niece during the summer, I turned to Hulu for programming to watch and viewed some Go! episodes. I have to say it is an entertaining series, not my favorite one (I reserve that for Adventure Time and Gumball), but it consistently makes me laugh.
Teen Titans Go! to the Movies is a film that operates on two levels: a continuation of the children’s series but also a barrage of hilarious “inside baseball” DC Comics easter eggs. There are the requisite fart jokes and toilet humor, tempered and never gratuitous. However, what had me laughing the most were the meta-commentary on the series itself, the deconstruction of the very nature of Cartoon Network programming and the superhero film genre. The Batman premiere sequence manages to lampoon the deep iterations of every aspect of a character into a film franchise with Alfred, the Batmobile, and the Utility Belt all receiving their feature film in coming summers.
The film goes even deeper featuring a Mad Magazine level parody of the ludicrously dark Batman v Superman, featuring a battle that revolves around the names of the respective heroes’ parents. Stan Lee even has a cameo in the middle of the picture which ends only after a crew member reminds him that this is a DC Comics movie. The Titans save Krypton by playing Jor-El’s crystals like Skrillex. They encounter young Bruce Wayne moments before his parents are killed and tell the family not to take a trip down Crime Alley but rather the neighboring Happy Lane.
Christopher Nolan made a couple of great Batman movies, and for that I thank him. However, the executives at Warner Brothers misread the success of those films and have chosen to apply that grim veneer to all their heroic properties. Films like The Lego Batman Movie and Teen Titans Go! to the Movies are reminders that these characters are at their best when they are fun, whether that is in a complete comedy like this movie or something a little more serious, but with a self-aware nature. I have gotten more enjoyment from the animated wing of DC superheroes than anything that the live action division has produced since Man of Steel. Here’s hoping someone at Warner Brothers notices this about audiences and gives us more of this than the bleak anti-heroism of the DCEU.