Case Number 08253: Small Claims Court

TEEN TITANS: FEAR ITSELF

Warner Bros. // 2004 // 132 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // December 21st, 2005

The Charge

Five Titanic Teens do their justice thing while baddies run scared!

The Case

When there's trouble, you know who to call -- Teen Titans!

Well, actually, they wouldn't occupy the top spot on my speed-dial, but you get the idea. They are definitely the ones to call when you want some big bad dealt an anime-style buttkicking...that's not anime enough to turn off those who don't really dig anime. Confused? Led by Robin (Scott Menville), an ace detective and formidable martial artist trained by the Dark Knight himself, this group of juvenile superheroes take on all manner of dangers, from a giant robot with a bad attitude to the worst blind prom date ever.

Ah, I see you scratching your head in bewilderment. You know the Justice League; you may have heard of the X-Men; but the Teen Titans...? Well, allow me to introduce you. Loosely based on the DC comic, the Teen Titans are a group of underaged crimefighters led by Robin, who I'm sure you already know as Batman's sidekick. Starfire (Hynden Walch) hails from the planet Tamaran; she can fly, has super strength, and can fire "starbolts" -- blasts of energy powerful enough to take out the toughest bad guy. She's very kind but also very naive and is still struggling to understand how we do things here on the third rock. Cyborg (Khary Payton) is a former athlete whose body was mangled in an accident -- they rebuilt him; made him stronger, faster...now he serves as the team's muscle and tech genius as well. We don't know very much about the mysterious Raven (Tara Strong) -- yet (much will be revealed in later episodes) -- but we do know that she has incredible mystic powers and likes her solitude. And the hyperactive Beast Boy (Greg Cipes) can transform into any animal he chooses and is the team's comic relief. From their headquarters, Titans Tower, the Teen Titans are prepared to leap into action at a moments notice, and now with a click of your DVD remote.

As with the previous two volumes of the show, a healthy selection of episodes are presented here, approximately half of the second season -- a nice compromise between the boxed sets and those awful three- or four-episode discs (the horrible treatment that Justice League is currently getting -- join me in a chant: "Boxed sets! Boxed sets! Boxed sets!"). All episodes advertised are included on the disc, although not in the order in which they are listed -- a novel approach to packaging that has a certain "my-intern-threw-this-together-on-his-coffee-break" charm to it.

The first episode, "How Long Is Forever?," finds the Titans battling Warp (Xander Berkeley), a time-jumping criminal mastermind who accidentally catapults Starfire into a strange post-apocalyptic future (When exactly did the future stop being cool flying cars and rocket packs and robot maids and start being all apocalyptic? I blame the hippies and peace protesters.) in which the Titans have drifted apart and are no longer friends; Starfire must unite her former colleages in order to defeat the temporal fugitive and return to her own time.

Next up is "Every Dog Has His Day," and what are the odds? When Beast Boy decides to spend time disguised as a dog, scamming for attention at a local park, who could have known that a visiting alien would mistake the metamorphizing mischief-maker for his own missing mutt? It's a case of mistaken identity in classic Titans style, as the rest of the team races to get back their annoying but loveable friend before he winds up filling in as an extra-terrestrial's best friend.

In "Terra," the team is introduced to a new teen hero (Ashley Johnson, Annie: A Royal Adventure) with spectacular earth-moving powers. She seems like a natural fit for the team, and Beast Boy quickly becomes smitten with her, but the secrets haunting her and a terrible misunderstanding conspire to drive her away -- even as the Titans' arch-nemesis, Slade (Ron Pearlman, Hellboy), moves to use Terra for his own sinister purposes.

Cyborg comes to grips with his cyborg body in "Only Human"; as an athlete, he enjoyed pushing his limits and taking himself to the next level, which simply isn't possible in a mechanical body with built-in limitations...or is it? Cyborg must overcome his mental limitations in order to push himself as never before, if he has any hope of rescuing his friends from the clutches of the super-powerful robot gamester called Atlas (Keith David, Pitch Black). Also starring the voice of animation regular John Di Maggio, better known as the irascible robot Bender on Futurama, and who also provided the voice for General Grievous on Cartoon Network's Clone Wars.

"Fear Itself" introduces a new villain to the Titans' rogue's gallery: The Control Freak (Alexander Polinsky, Charles In Charge). The Titans manage to take out this movie-loving fanboy-gone-wrong without too much trouble, and return to Titans Tower for some much-needed downtime, but when the teens are picked off one by one by a mysterious force, Raven alone is left to confront the creeping evil -- and her own fear!

And winding up this collection is "Date With Destiny," featuring Thomas Haden Church (who had already earned some comic book cred in the superhero spoof The Specials) as Killer Moth, a bad guy with ambitious plans to hold the city for ransom...plans that he must put on hold when his spoiled, obnoxious daughter Kitten breaks up with her bizarre half-spider boyfriend Fang. When Killer Moth makes his ultimatum, there's only one way for the Teen Titans to save the city: Robin must escort Kitten to her junior high school prom -- much to Starfire's consternation!

This show is pure fun, from the delirious Puffy Ami Yumi theme song to the frenetic anime-style action to the off-beat sight gags -- it's not just mindless noise, although there's plenty of mindless noise in the package. It's a vibrant, energetic, dizzying ride; superhero adventure for the ADD crowd. And they even threw in a couple of special features: a pretty neat tour of Titans Tower, and the obligatory lame DVD game -- in this case, you get to hunt down Fang (who really is one of the more bizarre villains I've ever seen). This is worth a look; if you haven't sampled Teen Titans yet, give it a try -- you might be surprised. Even if you're not a hardcore comics geek (like yours truly), you might just find a lot to like in this animated gem.

Review content copyright © 2005 Maurice Cobbs; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* "Inside Titans Tower" Featurette
* Arachnid Challenge

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0343314/combined

* Official Site
http://www.cartoonnetwork.com/tv_shows/titans/index.html

* Teen Titans Animated Site
http://titanstower.com/animated.html

* Teen Titans at ToonZone
http://teentitans.toonzone.net/