Once upon a time there was a comic called The New Teen Titans and in its heyday it was a huge hit. Massive. It was bigger than X-Men when X-Men was a monster. Marv Wolfman and George Perez relaunched the book to (much deserved) acclaim adding new heroes Cyborg and Starfire to the roster of Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, and Changeling (formerly known as Beast Boy…who would go back to Beast Boy…but whatever).

The most famous storyline of any Titans comic ever is The Judas Contract. So many different things were happening in that book but most famously was the betrayal of one of their own. It turns out that the Teen Titan named Terra was really a double-agent working with Deathstroke. It was a comic that really hit home with many comic readers and in a decade with Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, umm….most Frank Miller stuff I guess (Ronin, Batman), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Squadron Supreme and SO MUCH MORE – The Judas Contract still stands out as one of the most powerful stories told during that era.

Just a few years ago there were plans for Wolfman and Perez to make the animated film adaptation  but that idea was shelved. Why? I’m sure it has something to do with anything that was not Batman or Superman not selling as well as….Batman and Superman. As we’ve seen a barrage of DC Animated Batman titles time has surely told. But finally we actually have a Teen Titans: The Judas Contract adaptation for the “big screen.” Honestly this isn’t the first time this tale has been told. While I’m not a massive fan of the first Teen Titans cartoon (it could be a bit silly at times but definitely not as stupid as the shitty Teen Titans Go) they did do this story line justice some justice. Of course the writers of the TV show had multiple episodes to tell this story and really flesh Terra out where as this movie has less than 90 minutes to try and tell this tale.

Who did it better? The TV show. Who did it best? Wolfman and Perez.

NOW…I guess this review is going to be spoiler filled because I really can’t talk about this film without dissecting what I liked (and disliked) and probably unfairly comparing to the original comic. Is it unfair? I don’t know. Again I really like the Terra storyline in the Teen Titans cartoon…and that was not a direct adaptation of Judas Contract either. So it really is all about the execution.

This film starts off with a younger Teen Titans (which include Kid Flash and Speedy) meeting Starfire for the first time and helping her against evil aliens baddies out to get her. Starfire is a bit older, taller, and bustier then the rest of the Titans and after the rescue she lands atop of Robin (Dick Grayson to be exact). She shares a smooch with him. It’s love at first sight. I’d say he’s a bit too young for the alien princess but in this sequence Dick is driving a car so he’s at least….17? 18? Either way…good for you Dick because she is waaaaaaaaaay older than you. I wonder if an alien falls under statutory rape laws and what they may be in the state of California?

Anywho the movie then moves forward a couple years with a team consisting of Terra, Robin, Nightwing, Blue Beetle, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy.

Immediately I was like…what? Huh? Why? Why is Blue Beetle in the Titans? Why is there Robin AND Nightwing? What is going on here? How can you make an adaptation of The Judas Contract and not have one of the best parts of the comic book? Where the hell are Flash and Speedy?

I paused the movie and started looking for an answer. It seems that this film is not a standalone film but actually continues storylines from some of the Batman animated films and a Teen Titans Vs. Justice League movie. It is why Damian Wayne is Robin – because Damian had previously joined the Titans in an earlier movie. In this earlier movie Blue Beetle is also one of the Titans. Why no Cyborg? Because in this day and age Geoff Johns decided Cyborg would be a better Justice Leaguer than a Teen Titan so he’s basically been a Justice League member ever since (except for that shitty Teen Titans Go cartoon…which is shitty).

So fine. No Cyborg and we have Blue Beetle – the Jaime Reyes version. Basically the film is about the Titans continuing to take down Brother Blood. There is no mention of the H.I.V.E. nor Deathstroke’s son Ravager. If you read the comic you would know that basically Deathstroke is out to satisfy his dead son’s contract with H.I.V.E. That doesn’t exist in the movie. This film is all about the Titans trying to take down Brother Blood.  Brother Blood wants to capture the Titans and basically steal their powers to become an immortal god with some kickass super powers.  How Robin and Nightwing are applicable in this scenario puzzles me.  Maybe he wants to steal their…acrobatics?

After a raid on one of Brother Blood’s facilities the Titans go back to the Titans Tower. Beast Boy and Blue Beetle are playing Foosball in the game room and I see a bunch of arcade games in their game room. But what do I hear? I hear the sound effects from Donkey Kong. But not Donkey Kong the arcade game. I hear Donkey Kong from the Atari 2600 version. Really? Is one of the arcade cabinets emulating the Atari 2600 Donkey Kong? Lord I hope not. At least emulate the NES version…even if it is missing the pie stage.

We learn that Terra is teamed with Deathstroke and that he is working for Brother Blood. Deathstroke is using the inside information provided by Terra to take down the Titans one-by-one. Surprisingly the take down sequences are pretty much out of the comic book though the update of how Deathstroke takes down Beast Boy is pretty fantastic.

I just got ahead of myself.  Even before the takedowns Deathstroke is able to capture Robin. The team learns that Brother Blood has been watching them and learning all them all after another raid. They go on high alert. But it was very suspicious to me that they were just getting a few texts from Robin (which were really sent by Deathstroke) and they didn’t seem to care that no one has seen him. Glossed over. I mean I know Robin does his own thing but if you were on high alert wouldn’t you ask him to come in so you can see him in person???

Only Robin seems to distrust Terra. Everyone else seems to like the girl. She goes a bit nuts and she’s really an asshole. But everyone seems to still like her because she is “one of them.” She really dislikes Beast Boy in the film but near the third act she seems to have a change of heart. I mean she still totally betrays him but there is a very cute sequence with the two of them on the beach that I quite enjoyed. It was a tender moment and was really well done.

There is no Jericho in this film. Nor his mom. No origin of Deathstroke. It is completely missing. That sequence of the comic book added so much depth. You learn about Deathstroke and everything he had gone through. And you learn all about this son who ended up being wounded for life. Now there is a guy who looks just like Jericho. But it isn’t Jericho. Look at him. IT’S HIM! He’s in the flick and then he’s gone. Very WTF.

So what’s Deathstroke’s motivation here? It’s just money. That’s it. I mean it is A LOT of money but he basically puts Terra under deep cover into the Titans for a full year to learn all their secrets for…money. The thing about the comic is that Deathstroke was basically completing the contract for his dead son Grant. Deathstroke blames Grant’s death on the Titans and thus his hatred for the team is born. That’s completely lost in the translation here. Money can be a great motivator but I just didn’t think this fit.

On the plus side Starfire is pretty rocking in this.  I hate to say that I “have a crush on a cartoon character” but Starfire has always been a babe.  She is totally a babe in this flick too.

As a movie by itself does the movie work if I don’t compare it to the comic book? I’d say …decently. If I knew this wasn’t a standalone movie but a sequel to some other films I might have watched those earlier films first. I’m not big on this DC Animated Films…I watched them at first but wasn’t fairly impressed. I did dig the Green Lantern one and I REALLY liked The Dark Knight Returns adaptation. I was excited for The Killing Joke but that opening sequence…man….why!??!?! The Judas Contract was the first film I was really excited about since Dark Knight Returns and I think not knowing some of the backstory from the previous films hurts this movie a bit. I feel like I shouldn’t fully judge without seeing the films that came previously. So as a standalone film I’d say the movie is “okayish” and kind-of interesting. When taken in context with the other films I’m sure it plays better. But in comparison to the comic book? Y’all messed some shit up.

I really wish they hadn’t shelves Wolfman and Perez’s adaptation. I sure it would have been the Bees’ Knees.

What did they get wrong?

Well one thing they always get wrong (in both the TV series and this film) is the impact of Terra’s betrayal. It is really solidified in the comic because she is actually the sister of Geo-Force – a member of Batman’s Outsiders team. Now Geo-Force was only introduced the year before but he really was an awesome hero. So the fact that this hero’s sister then betrays her own team – that is some deep shit right there. It really is.

Robin quits being Robin in the comic. It is devastating. It comes out of the blue and all of the Titans, including Starfire, are very WTF. So was the reader. Here is a guy who has been Robin since like 1846 and suddenly he’s giving it up? For good? As you read the comic you really don’t believe it’s true. Like you think Grayson is just messing with everyone. But he isn’t. You miss that moment in the film. Having Grayson as Nightwing ten minutes into the film also messes up the other great thing about the Judas Contract.

That is the introduction to the Nightwing character. It’s pretty badass. After learning all about Deathstroke, Dick knows he needs to take him on. He was completely serious about not being Robin anymore so he just shows up in this badass (well – badass for the time) costume and reveals his new identity. AND THEN ON TOP OF THAT Jericho’s costume is suddenly revealed. And when Jericho and Nightwing go out to save the Titans we see the full extent of Jericho’s amazing abilities – being able to take over other people’s bodies. It is a kickass power and he is a kickass superhero. At least he was…damn shame what they did to the character in later years.

You also miss what happens with Deathstroke himself once he finds out that Jericho was captured with the rest of the Titans and how that impacts the rest of the story.

They obviously cut all of this out for time and to simply tell a more simplistic story. Which is a damn shame. Because Dick quitting being Robin, Dick becoming Nightwing, introducing Jericho, and the duo trying to save the Titans is really some of the most memorable parts of the entire Judas Contract. At least it was for me. 30+ years later I still remember those moments vividly. It was some powerful writing. It is too bad the writers of this film chose to just discard that stuff. But, of course, they are enslaved to the past animated films. They really should have just done a direct adaptation and not made this a sequel.

All in all I think I’ll just unfairly compare this to the actual comic and say this is a decent but not great film. I really think that the TV show did it better. Even though they also did away with all those great Judas Contract moments I think they were able to pull of a much better story then what this DC Animated Movie did.

So my suggestion? Go reread Wolfman and Perez’s comic. Go watch Teen Titans Season Two. And if you really wanna…you can watch this. But my recommendation is to watch the DC Animated films that came before this before diving in to this version of The Judas Contract.  I may be too hard on this film…but it really had a lot to live up to.  Still – it was at least enjoyable.

RANK: B-

OH YEAH – I forgot that this thing actually ends with a KEVIN SMITH CAMEO?!?!??!  I mean…weird.  But awesome.  It actually fits in to what was happening in the plot of the actual movie (believe it or not) so it was really cool to see Kevin at the end of this joint…!!!