Warner Bros. // 2003 // 129 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Mitchell Hattaway (Retired) // November 10th, 2004
Truth. Justice. Pizza.
Based on the DC Comics series, Teen Titans chronicles the adventures of five teenage superheroes: Raven, Cyborg, Starfire, Beast Boy, and Robin. This entertaining animated series, broadcast on Cartoon Network, draws much of its inspiration, including characters, plotlines, and thematic material, from writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Pérez's run on the comic during the '80s (arguably the comic's high point, but who wants to argue?). The first six episodes of the series are included on this disc; here's a brief rundown:
* "Divide and Conquer"
The villainous Cinderblock stages a jailbreak. The Titans attempt to stop him, but Robin and Cyborg bungle the job, causing Cyborg to leave the team temporarily.
Blackfire, Starfire's sister, arrives on Earth, ostensibly to visit the Titans, who are unaware she's actually on the run from alien authorities.
* "Final Exam"
Slade, the criminal mastermind whose plans serve as catalysts for many of the Titans' adventures, hires Gizmo, Jinx, and Mammoth, three teenage members of the terrorist organization the H.I.V.E. (Hierarchy of International Vengeance and Extermination), to attack our heroes.
* "Forces of Nature"
Thunder and Lightning, teenage brothers whose superpowers are pretty much self-explanatory, are manipulated by Slade into helping him launch an attack. The Titans show the brothers the error of their ways, and Robin finally comes face-to-face with the team's arch enemy. (Just to let you know how old I am, I initially mistook Thunder for Grape Ape.)
* "The Sum of His Parts"
While Cyborg is trapped in the underground lab of the mad cyberneticist Fixit, his companions try to stop Mumbo, a criminal magician terrorizing their city. (This episode contains my favorite moment from the series so far. Beast Boy, who is a vegetarian out of respect for the animals into which he transforms, tries to convince Raven to eat a tofu hotdog. She looks at him and deadpans, "I respect that you don't eat meat. Please respect that I don't eat fake meat.")
After being unable to keep the darker aspects of her psyche in check during a battle with Dr. Light, Raven isolates herself from her teammates. Cyborg and Beast Boy break into her room and are accidentally sucked into Raven's mind, where they must aid her in a battle against her father, the demon Trigon.
I was a fan of the Teen Titans comic back in the '80s, and this series does a pretty good job of updating the Wolfman/Pérez run on the book; the show's producers have wisely chosen not to do straight adaptations of those stories, but they've brought a nice modern sensibility to the tales, as well as incorporating a wide variety of anime influences. (You'll never know how much it pains me to realize something from my teen years can no longer be considered modern.) No backstory is provided for the show (and the Robin portrayed here -- I believe he's the Tim Drake, not Dick Grayson, incarnation of the character -- seems to have no connection to the Dark Knight), which in this case is a pretty good idea; how could you possibly come up with a rational explanation for why five teenagers are allowed to live unsupervised in a high-tech skyscraper off the California coast? I was particularly impressed with the show's handling of the Raven/Trigon relationship. This was a pretty big part of the comic, and I was having a hard time imaging how a paternal, many-eyed demon would play in a cartoon, but I now realize I needn't have worried. (In the comic, Robin and Starfire were an item, and I remember one issue in which they were shown in bed together, but I doubt we'll be seeing that in the cartoon anytime soon.) Without a doubt, though, the single coolest thing about this show is having Ron Perlman (Hellboy) provide the voice of Slade. Sweet!
On disc, these episodes (naturally) look much better than they did during their original broadcasts. There are no real flaws in the video presentation, although the picture in the first episode seemed more subdued than that of the subsequent installments. Colors are vivid and well-saturated, and the blacks can be quite deep at times. The audio is even better; this is one of the best Dolby Surround tracks around, and even trumps some full 5.1 mixes I've heard. The surround channels are loaded with music and directional effects; this is one of those tracks where turning up the volume a few notches exponentionally increases the track's effectiveness. Extras include rather informative interviews with Marv Wolfman, George Pérez, and show producers Sam Register and Glen Murkami, an interactive game I'm apparently too old to play, previews for other Warner Bros./Cartoon Network releases, as well as a video for the show's annoyingly catchy theme song, which is performed by Japanese pop duo Puffy Ami Yumi. (Maybe it's just me, but I think Ami and Yumi would make a pretty fun date. I doubt I'm alone in this thinking, though, as during his interview Register hints at his own unhealthy interest in them.)
Bottom line is this is a nicely-produced DVD release of a nicely-produced series. I'm looking forward to future volumes, as I missed the storyline involving Terra (my favorite from the comic) during its original broadcast. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2004 Mitchell Hattaway; 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: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Comic Creations: From Comics to Cartoon" Featurette
* "Find the Remote" Interactive Game
* Puffy Ami Yumi Music Video
* Sneak Peaks
* Official Site