Only a couple of months after the last DC animated movie Justice League Dark, we now return to the Teen Titans to adapt arguably their most iconic storyline.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) is a direct-to-video DC animated film directed by Sam Liu. It follows the Teen Titans steadily breaking down the international cult organisation known as Hive when Deathstroke the Terminator (Miguel Ferrer) is hired by their leader Brother Blood (Gregg Henry) to take them down from the inside.
One of the most successful and well known comic arcs in their history, Judas Contract has plenty to live up to, and thankfully this time keeps it solely focused on the adaption with little in the way of extra content (*cough* Killing Joke *cough*). While I haven’t read the original arch, I know enough of the broad strokes to say this will likely please fans of the storyline – many of its critical (and somewhat controversial) beats are kept intact in the adaption, with only a handful of characters and moments shuffled around. It may not be up to the standard of the comic, but at least its focused – something that the last Teen Titans movie struggled often with.
Something that this film doesn’t struggle with is the Titans themselves. They get them so right. The dynamics, relationships and camaraderie is the heart of the movie, and the screenplay is good enough to give almost every character a reason to root for and a mini-arch all for themselves. While its not necessarily the Titans of the TV show, its definitely familiar enough that fans of both the comics and the series will get a kick out of this.
The person who does struggle with characterisation is unfortunately the villain. Deathstroke the Terminator is one of the Teen Titans most prominent adversaries and in Judas Contract he’s unprofessional (a big deal for Deathstroke), cracks bad jokes and is weirdly perverted. Part of that is from the source material and previous film Batman and Son, but it heavily undermines this incarnation of Deathstroke and removes some of the menace from a guy who is quite literally dubbed ‘The Terminator’.
As for the usual animation, there’s a strange sense that a number of the shots weren’t quite finished – characters seem to stretch and bend in ways that seem to conflict with the usual art style. Its still good animation for its direct-to-video roots, but its definitely not on par with the visual splendour of Justice League Dark. The action isn’t up to par either – while its decent, at no point is the standard on the level of the best DC animated films.
While DC animation doesn’t look like it’ll be getting back to their peak any time soon, Judas Contract is a step in the right direction following the mediocre Justice League vs Teen Titans and Killing Joke. Comic afficionados (as long as they’re not looking for an exact adaption) are likely to be satisfied with the goings-on and everyone else will watch and enjoy.
General Audience: Recommended
True Believers (DC): Recommended