Warner Bros. // 2003 // 151 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // May 19th, 2005
Hip heroes crash the world of crime in super adventures!
I must confess that I didn't know what to make of Cartoon Network's Teen Titans at first. Naturally, I was delighted at the prospect of having the animated DC Comics universe expanded even further, but with this show following on the heels of the acclaimed Justice League, and being aimed primarily at a younger audience, I wondered if it would be up to snuff. I'm happy to say, then, that Teen Titans: Switched turned out to be an enjoyable experience, following in the proud tradition of character-driven stories begun so many years ago with the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series, but with an altogether distinct style and a feel all its own.
With the second volume of Teen Titans episodes collected for DVD (under the banner of the "DC Comics Kids Collection"), Warner Bros. has found a good compromise between the boxed sets that we all adore and the abysmal three- or four-episode discs that plagued the early DVD presence of shows like Batman: Switched offers a satisfying seven episodes -- roughly half the season -- without forcing parents to commit to the pricier full-season set.
For those who came in late, Teen Titans -- loosely based on the comic book of the same name -- follows the adventures of a group of west-coast juvenile crime fighters. Led by Robin (Scott Menville), the analytical and highly trained partner of Batman, the core members of the group include Cyborg (Khary Payton), a victim of a terrible accident who was rebuilt using super technology -- technology that he cannot yet fully control; the warm-hearted, optimistic and naïve alien Starfire (Hynden Walch), a Tamaranian unfamiliar with the ways of Earth, whose powers include super-strength, flight, and the ability to throw devastating "starbolts" from her hands; the hyperactive prankster Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), who can transform into any animal he chooses; and the grim and reserved Raven (Tara Strong, voice of Batgirl on The New Batman/Superman Adventures as well as Bubbles of The Powerpuff Girls), who possesses mysterious mystical powers. Other "Teen Titans" regulars occasionally show up for guest appearances; this collection features an adventure with Aqualad (Wil Weaton, Star Trek: The Next Generation), but Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy, classic "Titans" heroes Bumblebee and Wildebeest, and the traitorous Terra are also featured in other episodes. The Titans' base of operations, like that of their comic-book counterparts, is their T-shaped tower headquarters; but for the show, the team has been placed on the Pacific Coast as opposed to New York City. Regular Titans villains are pulled from the comics and adapted for the show, like the demonic Trigon, cult leader Brother Blood, and the high-tech criminal organization called the H.I.V.E.; this collection features Titans arch-enemy Deathstroke the Terminator (Ron Perlman, Hellboy), referred to on the show only by his alternate identity Slade, no doubt to avoid messy trademark issues.
The first featured episode, "Switched," finds the Titans the victim of a criminal mastermind called the Puppet King (Tracey Walter, Batman) -- loosely based on a character from the comics called the Puppeteer -- who uses magic to imprison the consciousnesses of Robin, Cyborg, and Beast Boy into puppet doppelgangers, allowing the Puppet King to control their real bodies. When he attempts to do the same to Starfire and Raven, an accident keeps them from becoming puppets but switches their bodies, forcing the two girls (who have previously not understood each other) to learn about their respective powers and personalities in order to free the other Titans and defeat the Puppet King. In "Deep Six," a strange new threat from beneath the sea called Trident hijacks a barge filled with toxic waste. When the Titans head beneath the sea in their T-Sub to stop Trident, they get some unexpected assistance from a new friend: Aqualad. Starfire and Raven become quickly smitten with the dashing young hero, but Beast Boy is less than thrilled to have someone stealing his thunder.
Slade sends a commando force to steal a valuable technological component in "Masks," bringing to the forefront Robin's obsession with discovering the arch-villain's identity and stopping him once and for all, even as the Titans match wits with a mysterious new enemy called Red X. "Mad Mod" finds the team captives of the titular character (voiced by Malcolm McDowell, A Clockwork Orange), a psychedelic bad guy with an Austin Powers sort of flair who's bent on teaching the heroes "a lesson" in his mind-bending madhouse of a school. And in "Car Trouble," Cyborg has finished his labor of love, the built-from-scratch T-Car...but while the heroes are battling the supercharged villain Overload (James Arnold Taylor), the car is stolen, setting the Titans off on a mad chase as they try to recover the vehicle before it causes any damage -- and before the thieves scratch the paint.
The final two-part story arc, "The Apprentice," brings Robin's obsession with his arch-nemesis Slade to a head, as the villain threatens to detonate a sinister super-weapon that could stop time forever. Robin is separated from the rest of the team while on the case, only to find that Slade's master plan really involves recruiting the Boy Wonder as his apprentice -- by force, if necessary. Threatening the lives of Robin's friends unless he obeys Slade's every command, the master criminal places Robin in the most difficult quandary he's ever faced.
Audiences accustomed to the moodier, less frenetic pacing of shows like Batman: TAS or Justice League may be caught off guard by the hyperactive energy of this show; from the deliriously catchy rock-n-roll theme song (performed by Japanese girl band Puffy Ami Yumi, now the stars of their own Cartoon Network show) to the exaggerated anime-style comedic elements and nonstop action, this cartoon is a full-on sensory assault. Nevertheless, the wild elements are grounded in solid stories featuring well-developed characters and clever writing: A kids' show this may be, but the creators feel no need to talk down to their intended audience. The production qualities are equally top-notch; the vibrant colors seem to pop off the screen, especially in episodes like "Mad Mod," and the sound mix is equally vibrant, adding up to a very nice overall package.
"Fun" is the operative word when talking about Teen Titans; wild fun, but not the sort that requires leaving your brain behind. Even though it's geared toward kids, adults should be able to enjoy Teen Titans too, at least in measured doses. Teen Titans go!
Review content copyright © 2005 Maurice Cobbs; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 151 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* ToonTopia Bonus Cartoon: The Hiro's Episodes 1 & 2
* Puffy Ami Yumi Featurette
* Trident's Clone Challenge
* Official Site
* Teen Titans Animated Site
* Teen Titans at ToonZone