‘Teen Titans’ Talent Reflects on OG, New Series Movie Matchup

It’s a clash between the OG and new superheros in the new animated movie Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans, available on digital Sept. 24, and Blu-ray combo pack and DVD Oct. 15 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

The movie had its world premiere July 21 during San Diego Comic-Con International, attended by cast and creators.

The direct-to-video movie is a clash of two superhero universes, pairing the modern-day Teen Titans from the current ‘Go!’ series with their 2003 counterparts from the original in a fight to foil Trigon, Hexago and even Santa Clause to save the multiverse.

“It’s really fun, and fans of the new one will be happy because there are so many funny moments. It’s so comedic. Fans of the original will be happy, too, because the stakes are very high, the danger’s very real, the acting is very authentic,” said voice actress Tara Strong, who plays both versions of Raven. “It’s the perfect dichotomy and both fandoms really get to come together and appreciate each other, and then of course there’s this multiverse of Teen Titans that you never knew.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

In a way, the movie allows the two fandoms to air their differences, filmmakers said.

“If you’re a fan of the original I feel like the original Titans in this movie are speaking for you because you are seeing the ‘Go’ Titans through their eyes,” said producer/director Jeff Mednikow.

Voiceover stars had to play both the new and old versions of their characters, sometimes having conversations with themselves.

“I think the ones that are furthest apart are probably Robin and Robin,” said co-writer Jeremy Adams.

“I think the new Robin tests the original Robin’s patience,” said Scott Menville, who plays both.

The two Trigons were the “most fun” villains to play against each other, said co-screenwriter Marly Halpern-Graser.

“Switching between Cyborgs is like me with a lot of caffeine versus maybe just a half a cup,” said Khary Payton, who plays both Titans.

“The original Beast Boy is more like a dog, and ‘Teen Titans Go!’ Beast Boy is more like a hyena,” said Greg Cipes (Beast Boy), who brought his canine friend to the screening to emphasize the point.

The cast members are close and have a rapport that informs the project.

“They just know what they’re doing,” said co-writer Adams. “They know it so well.”

“They know these characters better than I ever could,” added co-writer Halpern-Graser.

News of the comeback of the Titans for “Go!” was the “best phone call I’ve ever gotten,” said Hynden Walch, who plays both Starfires.

“We play off of each other a lot,” Walch said, noting that sometimes the script will say “Titans argue” and the actors will improvise.

“We really vibe off of each other a lot,” Payton added, joking that his ad libbing didn’t work as well for his role in “The Walking Dead” and producers asked, “Khari, could you please just stick to the script?”

Batman Ninja

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Street 5/8/18;
Warner;
Anime;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $29.98 Steelbook Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action, and for some suggestive material.
Voices of Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale, Grey Griffin, Tara Strong, Fred Tatasciore, Yuri Lowenthal, Adam Croasdell, Will Friedle, Tom Kenny, Eric Bauza.

Batman Ninja isn’t just another high-concept direct-to-video animated movie with a fun premise to guide the characters’ latest adventure. This is a full-on anime experience that blends traditional notions of Batman with many of the genre’s tropes. When the movie’s plot involves Batman has to call upon an army of monkeys to fight a giant robot, you know you’re in for a wild ride.

The concept is best summed up by one of the filmmakers in the Blu-ray’s bonus materials: it’s not Japan through the eyes of Batman, but Batman through the eyes of Japan.

This isn’t just an Elseworlds concept that re-imagines the Batman characters into similar roles in a historical setting. Rather, the story finds Batman, along with his allies and enemies, transported from present-day Gotham City to Feudal Japan, where the villains begin to take over different territories.

Though Batman has friends to fight alongside him, he finds his many gadgets are useless in the past, forcing him to adapt to the fighting styles of the day if he is to round up the bad guys and return to modern times.

The animation is complex but beautiful, shifting styles at times to reflect the tone of the scene. The colors are vivid, and the look, feel and plotting of the piece is distinctly Japanese in its craftsmanship. The Blu-ray includes both the original Japanese audio with subtitles, and an English audio track with an American cast, highlighted by a manic Joker performance from Tony Hale (“Veep,” “Arrested Development”).

Fans of the project will also find many interesting behind-the-scenes details revealed on the Blu-ray, especially in a 49-minute video of the film’s 2017 New York Comic Con panel discussion with the filmmakers (before any of the cast was announced).

There are also a couple of more traditional making-of featurettes, with “Batman: Made in Japan” clocking in at 14 minutes, as well as the 17-and-a-half minute “East/West Batman,” which delves into the cultural impacts of Batman and anime and why they were a natural fit for each other.

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street 4/10/18;
Warner;
Animated Action;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence throughout, sexual content, brief graphic nudity, and some drug material.
Voices of Christian Slater, Billy Brown, Liam McIntyre, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Gideon Emery, Tara Strong, Vanessa Williams, C. Thomas Howell, Dania Ramirez, James Urbaniak, Julie Nathanson, Jim Pirri, Greg Grunberg.

This ain’t the “Super Friends.”

There have been ‘R’-rated movies from the DC Universe brand before, but Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay pushes the limits of its rating more than those previous installments, and not just by increasing the level of violence. The film also has a lot of fun turning the dial up on sexual material and nudity in a way viewers might not have expected from a comic book movie.

Then again, this is a “Suicide Squad” movie, and that’s probably going to bring a harder edge by default. As comic book fans would have known even before the live-action movie version came out in 2016, the Suicide Squad is a team of supervillains assembled by a shady government operative named Amanda Waller to undertake dangerous missions for which they can take the blame if anything goes wrong. And they follow orders because Waller installs explosives in their head that she can detonate if they betray her.

For this mission, Waller wants the team to retrieve a mystical artifact that can guarantee the soul of whomever is holding it will go straight to heaven. But it will only work once, which makes for some great plot dynamics since anyone who wants it can’t get it from someone who has it by killing them.

Waller’s not the only one seeking the “Get Out of Hell Free” card, providing plenty of opportunities for action as several teams of bad guys confront each other to take control of it. The plot also allows for a nice connection to the previous DC movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, which paved the way for this string of 10 movies that share a continuity.

The lineup includes a few characters familiar to those who have seen the live-action version, including the assassin Deadshot (excellently voiced by Christian Slater), the snarky Captain Boomerang (Liam McIntyre) and, of course, Harley Quinn (Tara Strong), whose primary contribution to the team seems to be her immense popularity.

This is a much more satisfying treatment of the material than the live-action attempt. The ‘R’ rating has lifted the constraints from the creative team, and everyone seems to be having a lot of fun pushing the material as far as they can. And with bad guys versus bad guys, there’s a lot of ways to push, and no reason to expect that any of them can’t be killed off at any time (except for Harley, maybe).

And that brings us to the commentary track by producer James Tucker and writer Alan Burnett, who wrote the script as one of his last projects before retiring. They can’t help but talk about Burnett’s long career in superhero animation, dating all the way back to the squeaky clean “Super Friends” cartoons of the 1970s and ’80s. So it’s only natural that they would joke about how any 10 seconds of this movie would make the network standards-and-practices suits responsible for “Super Friends” blush.

Comic book fans will enjoy seeing appearances from some of the more obscure characters in the canon, including Tobias Whale, who can also currently be seen in live-action as one of the main villains on the new “Black Lightning” TV series. And another member of the team is Killer Frost (Kristin Bauer van Straten), a version of whom is part one of the heroes on the current “The Flash” TV show. Frost was also part of the team in another great Suicide Squad adventure, the 2014 standalone animated movie Batman: Assault on Arkham, the success of which supposedly helped get approval to make the live-action movie.

The Blu-ray also includes short featurettes about the histories of the Deadshot and Boomerang characters, as well as a 10-minute pontification about the power of the “MacGuffin” — a good plot device to set the story in motion.

Finally, the Blu-ray offers a sneak preview of the next DC Universe movie, The Death of Superman, which will be the first of two films to adapt the legendary comic book storyline that was the basis (in a much abridged form) for the first DC Universe animated movie, Superman: Doomseday, back in 2007.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Warner;
Animated;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for some violence.
Voices of Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, John DiMaggio, Grey DeLisle, Scott Patterson, William Salyers, Yuri Lowenthal, Anthony Head, Tara Strong, Kari Wuhrer.

The idea of exploring familiar characters in alternate realities has become a staple of storytelling. This is especially true in comic books, where characters must constantly be updated and often re-defined for new eras and generations.

The medium of comics naturally lends itself to presenting “what if” stories that shed new light on the characters without subjecting them to situations that would hinder or alter their ongoing storylines. Decades ago, they were called “imaginary stories.” In 1989, DC Comics started calling them “Elseworlds.”

The first of the Elseworlds brand was that year’s Gotham by Gaslight, which re-imagined Batman as a vigilante detective at the turn of the 19th century confronting Jack the Ripper. That was the conceit of Elseworlds: to put superheroes and their supporting cast in alternate timelines, either by exploring them in different eras, or changing something in their own personal history to create a ripple effect (a later story that often gets mentioned for potential adaptation found Superman raised as a hero of the Soviet Union).

The latest entry of the animated DC Universe is loosely based on the Gotham by Gaslight on-shot graphic novel, while also drawing heavily upon its sequel, 1991’s Master of the Future. In deconstructing the original story, the filmmakers have given the concept a new life, presenting a satisfying mystery that plays out quite differently from the book. This lets the film stand quite well as its own thing while honoring the spirit of the books, allowing longtime fans to watch without any fear of spoilers.

The animation is distinctive and beautiful, and the screenplay is filled with fun nods to Batman lore that fans should appreciate.

The Blu-ray includes a 20-minute featurette about the original graphic novel, as well as a nice audio commentary from the filmmakers. Both delve into just why Gotham by Gaslight has become an iconic Batman story.

The Blu-ray also includes an eight-and-a-half-minute preview of the next DC Universe animated movie, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, plus some bonus cartoons from animated Batman TV shows.