The Judas Contract Film Featured Movies Reviews 

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract

By | May 16th, 2017
Posted in Movies, Reviews | % Comments

Earlier this year, DC/WB Animation released an adaption of ‘The Judas Contract,’ the classic Teen Titans story that we reviewed here yesterday. This is an inspired choice for an animated film, if not one that presents a few problems due to the structure of the DCAU. So, the producers streamlined the story, updated the cast, and attempted to present a compelling, if adjusted, version of ‘The Judas Contract.’ How did they do? Keep reading, and be warned that spoilers for the film and the storyline follow.

The inherent problem with adapting a story as beloved as ‘The Judas Contract’ is that you’re never going to nail it as perfectly as the original did and, of course, no one expects you to. But what WB/DC did with this film is take the story and simplify it down to its essential parts, swapped out characters for ones that fit in better with their prior films, and gutted the story of much of its emotional resonance.

Due to Cyborg being a part of the Justice League in the DCAU, and due to Damian Wayne and Deathstroke’s history from Son of Batman, where Slade was passed over to lead the League of Assassins for Damian, we get a team with both Damian Wayne and Dick Grayson on it, as well as Jamie Reyes Blue Beetle. Damian and Jaime replace Cyborg and Donna Troy, and so the team is made up of Nightwing, Robin, Blue Beetle, Raven, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Terra. The story is pretty Nightwing-centric, so I understand why Dick is here, but it seems silly to have two Bat-sidekicks on the Teen Titans at the same time.

The other big change is how Deathstroke is involved. Here, he is a simple mercenary with limited investment in the Titans, aside from his anger at Damian. His hatred for Damian is his driving force behind taking this contract; he wants to make Damian pay. That doesn’t have nearly the emotional heft that Slade picking up his dead son’s contract – a son he believes was killed, at least in part, by the Titans – and the total elimination of his ex-wife and living son from the story further ratchets down the intensity.

One of the best parts about Deathstroke over his history has been his lack of ‘evil’ motivations – he’s a pragmatic contract killer. ‘The Judas Contract,’ the comic, goes to great lengths to show his decidedly measured approach to all of this. He knows the contract is bad for him, but this is how he channels his grief. In the film, Deathstroke is just your run of the mill villain, and that greatly affects the quality of the story itself.

The animation of the DCAU has always been above average, and this particular film continues that, even if it does so in a relatively straightforward way. There are very few sequences in the film that feel like they’re taking many chances; director Sam Liu doesn’t have an overtly stylized approach, and sticks to a simple approach to storytelling. That isn’t to say the film is boring or uninteresting, it just doesn’t take advantage of its potential scope very well.

Also present is something that the DCAU has had for years, and I’ve never really heard a good explanation of why: here, and elsewhere in this universe, characters linger just a bit too long between dialogue frequently. A character will say something, and their counterpart will stand there, not doing anything, just a hair too long and then respond. This happened all the way back in the Justice League days, and you can almost forget about it if you’re frequently viewing these projects. But since it has been about a year since I’ve watched any DCAU stuff, it became very clear to me again.

Another odd choice here is the decision to include some swearing in the film. Now, I’m not prude, nor am I under any delusions that a parent will buy this for their Teen Titans GO! loving kid, but it doesn’t add anything to the story. Dick calls Slade an asshole, and it instantly seems out of place. It is ‘adult’ for the sake of being adult, and that’s it. While I don’t think I was going to put this on for my five year old anytime soon, it shouldn’t have to be said yet again that superheroes should, ideally, be accessible to kids.

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The one thing that is not changed from the comic is the sexual relationship between the teenage Terra and the old man Deathstroke. I thought for sure they would quietly eliminate this, but nope! Still some statutory rape going on around here!

Overall, the film just feels flat. Obviously, I can’t see this through the eyes of someone who has never read the book, but to me, this strips the story of so much emotion and tension, and tells a story that winds up not being much of a story because of it. There is a way this could have worked, but without giving the team enough time to really gel, without giving Slade the connection to the team, without giving Terra much time to grow on you before her betrayal, it just all feels rushed and inconsequential.

And that’s a real shame, because ‘The Judas Contract’ is anything but inconsequential – hell, we are feeling the repercussions of it right now in ‘The Lazarus Contract.’ But even beyond that, we see this story bandied about as one of the most influential in all of comics. This adaptation only influenced me to pick up the book again.

//TAGS | Movies | The Lazarus Contract

Brian Salvatore

Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).


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