Wednesday, May 10, 2006

REVIEW: "Teen Titans" Like Nothing You're Expecting

[Review for Toon Zone News: 14th July 2003]

My god -- what an awful pile of tosh! Chuck it in the waste bin, lock the bin in a safe, drop it on a coyote's head and then leave the country in shame. Even better, sneak back across the border and make another season of Batman: The Animated Series.

Well, that's what you would want me to say about Teen Titans, is it not? It's what I would have wanted to hear a few months ago.

Well I, like a leopard, can change my spots. Or in the case of this DC animated cartoon, the leopard has gone and changed its spots, whiskers and even bought itself a rather snazzy Wilderbeast mask. What I'm trying to say -- in what's becoming some painfully awkward imagery -- is that this cartoon is nothing like anything we've seen previously from the DC animated genre.

And Teen Titans better for it.

The series premiere, "Final Exam," opens on a teaser, and a well-animated sequence it is. It's a careful blend of all the key elements that make the show: gentle humour, confident visuals and just a very slight touch of malice. I wasn't sure what to expect after this opener. All my preconceptions were falling by the wayside. What could follow?

From the opening titles (and I must say I prefer the Cartoon Network Teen Titan website trailer as an opening sequence) you can tell this is not going to be anything akin to the masked flying rodent. The music is far better that what was anticipated and I think it will be a big hit with the fans. The title sequence is a positive reflection on the show. It’s slightly retro, very colourful and very dynamic. It certainly gets you into the right mood for what is to follow.

The story? Well there is very little story as such; an unknown evil named Slade has sent three young mercenaries to destroy the Teen Titans. Will they succeed? As I am sure you can guess, probably not.

The characters are different enough to be distinctive, yet gel comfortably. We have the standard team character archetypes and once again, five seems to be the magic number. Already group dynamics are starting to develop. Beastboy and Cyborg are playing some good banter off each other, and Starfire and Robin have some seriously good chemistry. Raven, the "Daria" of all superheroes, looks to be a firm favourite. A glib tongue and a dry sense of humour make her a lot of fun. I'm not sure yet who she'll end up working best with. At the moment she remains the enigma of the group.

Best character? Starfire. Definitely. She’s cute, naive with some fantastically funny lines. I was totally surprised as to how she stole the show for the first two episodes. I never expected that.

So what can we say about the show itself?

The story ambles through familiar plot movements, but the dialogue and characters remain fresh and interesting. The "anime" visuals complement the light-hearted nature of the programme.

Teen Titans cannot be compared to Batman and ilk. It's too different. Aside from the lack of secret identities and character references, the whole ambience of the show is so distinctly alien to B: TAS that comparisons are pointless. This means the show can stand without being compared to its forefather. This also means it's not restricted by any limitations.

Grumbles? The plot for ’Final Exam’ is rather weak and predictable. This didn't stop it being fun though. A little more character introduction would have been welcome, but it seems the creators wanted to throw us into the middle of things.

The result? A tangy, tasty, troublesome mix. Get a jug of lemonade, put your feet up and get into the comfortable, light-hearted world of Teen Titans. You won't regret it.

Interview Copyright: James McLean

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