I swore to myself that I would never pay money to watch Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans. Alas, I discovered last night that it was streaming on Hulu (darn loopholes!), and I have this borderline masochistic habit of giving every movie a fair shot at impressing me, no matter how utterly abysmal it looks.
And to be perfectly honest, I was expecting Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans to be irredeemably shitty.
I’ve been an avid fan of the original Teen Titans animated series since it premiered on Cartoon Network back in 2003—indeed, discussing the show on various Internet forums kickstarted my hobby of posting reviews online. I always admired its narrative versatility in particular; the tone would vary wildly from episode to episode—a whacky, whimsical, comedic romp (“Mad Mod”, “Bunny Raven, or How to Make a Titanimal Disappear”, “Don’t Touch That Dial”) might be immediately followed by a tense, moody character study (“Mask”, “Betrayal”, “Haunted”)—lending each week a sense of excitement, anticipation, and unpredictability.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Teen Titans Go!—its sitcom successor—is a one-note joke. And it isn’t even especially funny.
To its credit, this straight-to-video crossover film actually starts promisingly enough. It has a plot. There is a conflict, complete with a concrete goal, obstacles, stakes—essentially, the bare minimum of what counts as storytelling, which is a significant improvement over the usual quality of TTG’s writing.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take very long for Go!’s typical brand of mean-spirited “humor” to intrude on the fun. During the first battle between the two teams, for example, a bald, overweight, obnoxious bystander loudly cheers on the ‘03 Titans—an obvious jab at the 2013 cartoon’s “haters.” Later, during a gratuitous musical number, the Go! versions of the heroes take a moment to flaunt their superior Nielsen ratings. Worst of all, the OG Titans are reductively depicted as excessively serious and dour, outright contradicting the diverse and distinctive personalities that they exhibited in the source material.
Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans isn’t a total loss; the whole “convergence of Infinite Earths” gimmick results in some genuinely imaginative set pieces, and the voice actors (Tara Strong, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Greg Cipes, Hynden Walch, and Kevin Michael Richardson) all bring their A game. But ultimately, it’s just a shallow exercise in self-congratulation, existing solely to elevate Teen Titans Go! by mocking, insulting, and otherwise disrespecting Teen Titans.
And that is simply unforgivable.