Fire, Brimstone Rains Down in “Justice League vs. Teen Titans”

Warner Home Video and DC Comics unleash the fury in their latest direct-to-DVD offering “Justice League vs. Teen Titans.” The all-new DC Universe Original Movie is brought to us by Director Sam Liu (“Batman: Year One,” “All-Star Superman”) from a script by Bryan Q. Miller (“The Flash,” “Arrow”) and Alan Burnett (“Batman: The Animated Series,” “Batman Beyond”). It is based on an original idea instead of a comic book arc like most of the past animated films.

Frustrated and disillusioned about his work alongside the Justice League, Robin is forced into a new position with a younger super team, the Teen Titans. Readily welcomed aboard, he is immediately intrigued by the mysterious Raven and the unnatural force that looms over them - her father Trigon - a deceptive being powerful enough to destroy Metropolis by pitting the mighty Justice League against the Teen Titans. Loyalties are on the line and lives hang in the balance in “Justice League vs. Teen Titans.”

“Justice League vs. Teen Titans” reminded me of what would happen if an old Satanic Panic flick like “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” or “The Masque of the Red Death” was blended together with a super hero movie. You have the mother who is deceived into giving herself over to a cult and spawning the daughter of Satan (or Trigon as they call him in the DC Universe). The offspring of the Unholy One fights her destiny and chooses to use her powers for good. The only difference between this and a classic horror film starring Vincent Price or Linda Blair is the inclusion of Robin the Boy Wonder, Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

Writers Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett are no strangers to the DC world of super heroes. Burnett has helped create some of the most adored animated television shows and movies from the past three decades, while Miller has brought to life several different comic book characters through live-action series starting with “Smallville.” Director Sam Liu knows how to pull it all together and give it a breakneck speed while not skimping on the story.

I applaud the filmmakers for trying to reach out to a teen crowd with their use of rock and dance pop numbers as the Titans try to blow off some adolescent steam at a carnival. They also do a decent job of creating some convincing chemistry between Robin and Raven, who feel like they’re the outcasts of the supergroup. At the same time, older comic fans might feel as if they’re watching an episode of “DeGrassi: The Next Generation” or “The O.C.”

“Justice League vs. Teen Titans” is rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some suggestive images. Several demons get their heads chopped off and regrow them. Our heroes also go to Hell and battle some very disturbing creatures that get hacked up. It’s definitely not for younger audiences.

Just be warned, parents. These are not the happy-go-lucky super heroes you know from “Teen Titans GO!” The group of youthful crimefighters we see here tend to use some profanity and are dark, angry, and grim. Their leader, Starfire, enjoys wearing extremely short skirts and shirts fashioned with what I call a boob window. I think she might use it as a distraction for her enemies while she battles with them. There’s plenty of fun for older teens and adults to be had, but intense and disturbing scenes and other adult content keep this from being something the whole family can watch.

The bonus material for the Blu-ray of “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” includes everything we’ve come to expect from these releases. Three featurettes entitled “Growing Up Titan,” “Heroes and Villains: Raven,” and “Heroes and Villains: Trigon” are included. Two bonus cartoons from the DC Comics Vault give us more Teen Titans action. We also get a sneak peek at DC Universe’s next animated movie, “Batman: The Killing Joke.”

With a great voice cast including Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Jason O’Mara as Batman, and Jon Bernthal as Trigon, “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” is another action-packed thrill ride from DC Comics and Warner Home Video. Although the frantic pacing and short run-times of these animated movies sometimes feel a bit light on story buildup, they accomplish what they set out to. They’re a comic book put in motion before our very eyes.

“Justice League vs. Teen Titans” is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and as a digital download.