Another day, another superhero movie. One of the main reasons that the DC animated films have done so well is that there is so much history to use for the stories. Take today’s movie for instance. “The Judas Contract” is probably one of the best stories involving the Teen Titans to ever be written and is notable for Dick Grayson dropping the Robin identity and becoming Nightwing. The funny thing is that this isn’t the first time that this story received an animated telling, as almost the entire second season of the Teen Titans cartoon was loosely based on this story. However, that telling was more of a kid friendly version, so let’s see how they do with a little more adult version as I watch today’s movie, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract.
The plot: 5 years ago, the Teen Titans (Robin (Dick Grayson), Beast Boy, Bumblebee, Kid Flash, and Speedy) are patrolling their city when they see a portal in the sky, and Starfire being attacked by some flying lizard men. When the lizard men capture Starfire, Robin leads the Titans into rescuing her, then has Speedy fire an explosive arrow into the portal, causing it to turn into a vortex that sucks the lizard men back into it. Robin manages to save Starfire from being sucked into the vortex and she thanks him in her native language before kissing him, then thanks him again in English, explaining that she can learn languages through kissing. Starfire tells him that her sister, Blackfire, staged a coup and she was forced to flee her homeworld but she vows to return and free it. As she has no place to call home, Robin offers to let her stay with the Titans and when she accepts, he introduces her to the rest of the team. In the present, Nightwing rejoins the Titans (now led by Starfire and consisting of Beast Boy, Raven, Robin (Damien Wayne), Blue Beetle, and Terra) to take down a hive base. Inside the base, Mother Mayhem is warned of the Titan’s approach by Deathstroke but, seeing no signs of them, dismisses his warning at first but when the Titans attack, she orders the base abandoned, taking the equipment with her. During the battle, Nightwing heads to the computer room to download the data, with Starfire covering him, and the two discuss their relationship. With the battle over, Nightwing asks Starfire to move in with him and she accepts. Returning to Titans Tower, the group unwinds, with Beast Boy trying to get Terra to open up to him, while Beetle has a video call with his family, which doesn’t end as well as he wished. Nightwing is going over the data recovered from the mission, adding it to the data they collected from other raids. As he lets the computer work, he watches an interview on Brother Blood, a cult leader who also leads Hive, before he is interrupted by Robin, Starfire, and Terra. When they notice Beetle acting upset on the monitors, Starfire has Beast Boy and Terra go talk to him. The three end up walking around the city and when they come to a homeless shelter, Beetle decides to volunteer, as it reminds him of helping out at one in his hometown and it will help the scarab get better acclimated to being around humans. While she is there, Terra has a flashback to her own past, causing her to get uncomfortable and she leaves. That night, Terra has a nightmare which causes her powers to act up and when the others go to check on her, she gets defensive and tells them to leave her alone. Meanwhile, Mayhem approaches Brother Blood, who is bathing in the blood of the reporter that had interviewed him earlier, and expresses her concerns about the Titans but he says not to worry, as Deathstroke will take care of them when the time is right. They then head down to the lab, where an experiment takes place that infuses the life force of some volunteers into their test subject, a man named Jericho, making him stronger. Seeing the test is a success, Blood says it is time to move their plan to the next phase, while Mayhem shoots Jericho in the head. Blood then meets up with Deathstroke and tells him to move things up a week, which Deathstroke doesn’t like but Blood tells him he will double his pay and to make sure to capture all of the Titans. The next day, the Titans are doing some training exercises and when Beast Boy and Terra spar against each other, Beast Boy, as a snake, wraps her up but this triggers another flashback from Terra, who loses control and lashes out at Beast Boy. The Titans quickly rescue Beast Boy and stop Terra, who apologizes and is uncomfortable with the Titans showing such concern over her. Later, Robin and Raven express some suspicions about Terra to Nightwing and Starfire but Nightwing says Starfire thinks she is worth giving a chance and shoots there concerns down. That night, Terra secretly leaves the Tower and Robin follows her but she confronts him about tailing her. Suddenly Deathstroke shows up and starts attacking Robin but just when Robin starts to get the upper hand, Terra attacks Robin and captures him, revealing herself to be a double agent. Later, Terra visits Slade and attempts to seduce him but he tells her now is not the time and that they have to finish the mission, as the money Blood is paying them will allow them to start their own League of Assassins, with the two of them at the head. The next day, the Titans throw a surprise party for Terra’s one year anniversary with the team, catching Terra off guard with their kindness, and as the celebrate, the computer finishes it’s analysis of the data and points them to a hive scientist. The Titans head out to the scientist’s lab and find him deleting all his files so they try to stop him but he sends out some robot drones to attack them. The Titans manage to destroy the drones and Raven captures the scientist but before they can question him, Deathstroke, who takes control of a drone remotely, kills him. Seeing that the scientist had photos and files on all of the Titans, Starfire warns them to be careful as they go about their daily routines. Later, Terra is sitting on the edge of the island staring at the water when she is joined by Beast Boy, who talks to her and tries to explain that all of the Titans have faced hardships and she isn’t the only one that has had it rough. The two end up kissing, causing Beast Boy to get excited, and while he celebrates, Deathstroke contacts Terra and tells her that they will take the Titans down tomorrow. The next day, Nightwing goes to check on Beetle and Beast Boy only to find evidence of them being kidnapped. When he returns to his apartment to check on Starfire, he finds her missing just as Deathstroke bursts in and attacks him. The two begin fighting, with Deathstoke overpowering Nightwing, and as the fight carries them outside and onto the docks, Deathstroke ends up shooting Nightwing, who falls into the water. Deathstroke contacts Terra, who has captured Raven, and after he leaves, Nightwing emerges from the water, having used a block of wood as a makeshift kevlar to stop the bullet. After returning to the Tower, Nightwing figures out that Terra had double crossed them and tracks her phone so he can rescue the others. At the Hive base, the Titans find themselves strapped into Blood’s machine when Deathstroke appears and starts taunting them, then reveals that Terra is working with him. When Blood and Mayhem appear, Blood tells Deathstroke that their contract isn’t complete, as he failed to bring Nightwing’s body to him. When Blood suggests that he substitute Terra for Nightwing, Deathstroke agrees and Mayhem shoots Terra with a tranquilizer as she stares in shock at being betrayed. Terra is hooked up to the machine and as Blood gives a speech to his followers, he activates the machine and begins to absorb their powers and abilities. Nightwing shows up and disables the machine, saving the Titan’s lives but Blood begins attacking them with their own powers. Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and Beetle begin attacking Blood, while Nightwing and Robin attack Deathstroke, who is easily able to beat them. Terra regains consciousness and her anger at being betrayed causes her to lash out, striking Blood as she heads towards Deathstroke and begins attacking him. While they are fighting, the Titans get the upper hand on Blood and Raven, using her demon powers, rids Blood of all their powers and Mayhem kills him to avoid having him captured. Meanwhile, Terra’s fight with Deathstroke continues and she eventually manages to bury him in rocks, then cries out in anguish. She sees Beast Boy staring at her and apologizes to him, then uses her powers to push him to safety as she starts to bring the temple down around her. Afterwards, Beast Boy digs Terra from the rubble and holds her as she looks up at him and smiles briefly before she dies. Some time later, Beast Boy is on Kevin Smith’s podcast and is discussing the Titans and how they deal with the pressure of being heroes and after Kevin brings it up, he talks about Terra’s circumstances. Beetle is shown to still work at the shelter and receives a visit from his family and he happily hugs them. Robin is on the roof of Titans Tower staring at Deathstroke’s mask when he is joined by Raven, who shows him a puppy she got while the Titan’s newest member, Wonder Girl, flies overhead, and Nightwing and Starfire are shown to be relaxing on their couch watching TV.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract met with positive reviews from the critics, holding an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, most of the critics felt that it was one of the best movies from DC’s animated line to date. An adaptation of “The Judas Contract” had originally been planned to be the third movie in DC’s animated universe, coming out after Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier but the project ended up being shelved. The movie had a bit of tragedy to it as on the same day Miguel Ferrer was announced as providing the voice for Deathstroke, he ended up dying of throat cancer.
This is a great movie and honestly makes me want to go get my trade and reread it. The acting was good, with Christina Ricci doing a great job as Terra, showcasing all of the various emotions she goes through during the movie. Just from what I remember, the movie seemed to follow the original comic fairly closely but there were some obvious differences, one of them being that Cyborg, who was a member of the Titans in the comic, was not in the movie, as he is a member of the Justice League in the current animated universe. I will say that the whole aspect of Terra trying to seduce Deathstroke, and his playing upon her feelings for his own benefit, was a little creepy. I mean, they never really say how old Terra is, or any of the other Titans for that matter, but it could be safe to say that it she is a teenager and she could be on the older side of that group but the scene where she is in lingerie and trying to get Slade to sleep with her was a little uncomfortable to watch. The animation was pretty good and I liked the design of Brother Blood after he had absorbed the Titans’ powers. A great movie that is definitely worth watching.
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5