I am officially sick of superhero movies. A few weeks ago I watched Ant-Man and the Wasp with the kind of grim determination one usually reserves for assembling furniture. As I left the theatre every mild joke and barely coherent action scene vanished from my brain, as, truth be told, most superhero movies do.
Enter the Teen Titans. Specifically Teen Titans GO!, a deliciously bonkers TV cartoon that serves up demented superhero stories in jam-packed ten minute servings. This is one of those shows that feels like it was created with little to no adult supervision; for example there’s an episode solely devoted to Robin teaching the rest of the Teen Titans about building equity. Another sees Beast Boy, who can turn into any animal, turning into an adult man, and discovering the horrors of having a job.
The Teen Titans consist of Robin (who we all know), Cyborg (who anyone subjected to Justice League kind of knows), and Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy (known only by those well versed in DC comics). They are the lowest of low-rent superteams, which stands as a direct refutation of Marvel’s everyone-is-awesome philosophy and DC’s everyone-is-sad mantra. The Teen Titans are usually more interested in dropping sick rhymes than fighting evil, and when they do go up against a big bad it’s often purely for personal gain.
As much as I love the Titans, I was a little skeptical that directors Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath (who also co-wrote) could stretch ten minute shorts into a 90 minute feature. I needn’t have worried – this movie works like gangbusters from the opening shot to its end credits scene. It’s funnier and more inventive than Deadpool, more coherent than Infinity War, and, yes, darker than everything the DC Extended Universe has yet offered us. Seriously, there’s a sequence involving going back in time that is so deranged I genuinely have no idea how it ended up in a kids movie – it’s wonderful.
The plot in brief: The Teen Titans head to the theatre to watch the new Batman movie, Batman Again. The director (voiced by Kristen Bell) introduces the film as well as the hundreds of other superhero movies in the works. Every hero from Atom to Night Owl is getting a movie – everyone except for Robin that is. The team suggests that what they need to secure a feature film is an arch-nemesis, so that’s what they set out to find. From here, the movie bounces from one unhinged set piece to another – from parodies of the Lion King, to an 80s power ballad, to the aforementioned time travel on sweet timecycles powered by radness.
If you, like I, are getting a bit rundown on superheroes, Teen Titans GO! To the Movies is just what the doctor ordered. DC and Marvel are skewered with equal mercilessness, but what deals the biggest blow to each franchise is how little regard the Teen Titans have for traditional superhero movie plot structure. While Deadpool bafflingly insists on plodding through the expected beats, this movie effortlessly rockets along with Robin’s surprisingly engaging arc as the only real tether.
Sadly it looks like this movie has already left most theatres, but I recommend watching it on VOD as soon as humanly possible. If you’re only going to see one superhero movie this year, watch Black Panther. But if you’re going to see two…Teen Titans are the heroes you deserve.