Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017)

Sam Liu’s “The Judas Contract” is both a sequel to “Justice League vs. Teen Titans,” and an adaptation of perhaps one of the most iconic storylines in comic book history. And, I’ll just say it: The animated series of “Teen Titans” accomplished this storyline so much better. With “The Judas Contract” we’re given literally eighty four minutes to know, understand and empathize with the Teen Titans and perhaps feel a twinge of shock when they’re betrayed by a close ally. With the animated series, we were given so much more build up and time to understand the betrayal of Terra, as well as dodge all the creepy pedophilia overtones between villain Deathstroke and his assistant. The animated series allowed for a lot of build up and when Terra does make her descent in to the dark side it stings so much that even levelheaded Raven begins to shed a tear.

“The Judas Contract” is another in a series of mopey, dark and unpleasant DC animated movies that thrives on letting us know that this isn’t your daddy’s superhero movie. It’s just another in a line of adaptations in which DC seems to be so intent on shedding their awe inspiring image that they opt for a lot of weird and inexplicable adult themes. With “The Judas Contract” we follow the Teen Titans as they’re now on the track of a cult leader named Brother Blood. He has a devious plan and they’ve been tracking him for over five years. We meet the Titans five years in the past, and then in modern times where Nightwing and Starfire lead the team of young heroes, which also includes the obnoxious Damian Wayne. Brother Blood has an ace of up his sleeve when he begins working with Deathstroke, and soon the team is systematically hunted by him.

After Robin learns that fellow Titan Terra is a double agent working with Deadshot, and is captured, Nightwing steps up his mission to stop Brother Blood and Deathstroke once and for all. There’s a lot of unnecessary filler, including the introduction of Starfire, the flashback to five years prior, and of course the flashbacks to Terra’s back story. Not only does it fail to help us empathize with her circumstances, but it makes her scene of her trying to seduce Slade feel uncomfortable and pointless. The animation is sharp as always, and I enjoy how the voice acting so much better this time around. Christina Ricci is very good as Terra, while the late great Miguel Ferrer lends Deathstroke a menace and focused intensity that makes him a perfect villain who amorality is despicable. Sean Maher is also very good reprising the role of Nightwing.

That said, “The Judas Contract” is filled with action, and drama, but is never fun or exciting. I’m not entirely sure who “The Judas Contract” is even intended for, at the end of the day. It’ll be marketed to tweens, but the movie has so much droppings of the word “Shit,” “Ass,” and “Hell,” a ton of graphic violence, not to mention a ton of sexually suggestive dialogue. “The Judas Contract” feels so much like it’s going through the motions and the audience is never given enough time to engage with the characters before Terra reveals herself as a turn coat. The animated series had this storyline down pat, while “Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” is just another mediocre animated entry in the DC/Batman movie library.