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Teen Titans The Judas Contract: Then Versus Now

Guest Contributor Jeremy Harrison compares the new DC Animated Movie Teen Titans: The Judas Contract to previous incarnations of the same story

So the long awaited animated movie version of the penultimate Teen Titans story, The Judas Contract has finally been brought to life as an 88-minute animated movie. The original book gave its readers many memorable moments such as Dick Grayson (the first Robin) finally becoming Nightwing, Slade’s backstory of how he became Deathstroke and the introduction of Jericho, the son of Slade who was an invaluable member of the Teen Titans.

Now, it should be noted that an adaptation was done before in the original Teen Titans 2003 animated series. The creators of that show used four episodes to retell the tale which many consider to be Marv Wolfman and George PĂ©rez greatest Teen Titan story.. and they nailed it.

  • Terra (Season 2, Episode 3) – We are introduced to a young girl that needs help and the Titans take her in. Sadly, we learn that as awesome as her powers are she can’t control them and we get some very touching moments with her and Beast Boy
  • Titan Rising (Season 2, Episode 8) – Terra returns Beast Boy is happy to see her again but Raven has her doubts and tells her that she needs to earn trust which by the end of the episode she does 
  • Betrayal (Season 2, Episode 10) Beast Boy and Terra finally go out on a date, just before Terra gives Slade access to Titans Tower. I should note that is my personal favorite from this season. 
  • Aftershock: Parts 1 and 2 (Season 2, Episodes 12 and 13) – The Climatic Ending to a great story which ends slightly differently than book did with Terra’s redemption. Not that much differently but it is notable that Terra is sympathetic in the show where as in the book she is irredeemable
This version of the Judas Contract is excellent and credit should go to Amy Wolfram who did every episode -except for Aftershock part 1, which was written by David Slack.

Sadly, the current version does not hold up as well as the original show’s version of it. I would like to point out that at 22 minutes an episode, the show devoted roughly 110 minutes total to the Judas Contract -which is only about a half-hour longer than the new movie version.

The problem is the movie gets muddled and there’s a perfect example within the first five minutes when the audience is asked to focus in on characters that won’t be seen again for the rest of this movie. The opening also has no connection to the Judas Contract whatsoever which is a terrible way to start the movie.

Yes, it provides great action but we need to be introduced to this version's Terra Markov because she’s supposed to be Judas. It’s called the Judas Contract! We need her arc?! Where are her parents? What has she done before? How did the Titans meet her?

As a fan of the comic book, I know the answer to these questions and yet, since this is a new version of Terra; I don’t know.

She does eventually tell us ( via Beast Boy) these things in a very heart-warming moment between the two, but here’s the issue: SHOW don’t tell! If you can devote animating action scenes to tell us how Starfire learned English (by kissing Robin) then that time could have been better utilized by showing us how Terra met the Titans.

Unlike with the earlier movie Teen Titans Vs the Justice League, the audience really doesn’t feel like any tension or threat that is growing and the focus for this movie is just on too many characters that ultimately leaves the audience caring about nothing.

First, we have Robin and Starfire’s relationship. Then we have a contrived plot with Jaime Reye (Blue Beetle) who can’t see his family again because his sentient super suit doesn’t like his father, which is just dumb when you think about it. And thirdly, we have Beast Boy and Terra’s relationship.

All that we actually needed was Beast Boys and Terra’s relationship. Amy Wolfram knew that if she had a limited time to develop the Judas Contract she had to put the focus on Beast Boy and Terra; and I can understand why maybe the writer and/or director, probably, not wanting to focus on that so much since again it was already done in the original animated series. Maybe they could have done a controversial spin on that third element by doing a love triangle featuring Beast Boy, Terra Markov and Slade Wilson (aka Deathstroke).

The original book had Terra in sexy lingerie for Deathstroke which many fans interpreted to mean that the two had a romantic relationship

A lot of fans might not have liked that route but it would have been memorable and you would have to give points for trying. Moreover, it’s not like they would have just made it up to be controversial; it is in the original book. In this version they sort of put it in there, but they don’t really commit to it. Instead, they use their PG-13 rating to focus on lame sex jokes between Starfire and Robin and added swearing!

The original story left Slade and Terra’s relationship somewhat ambiguous.

The movie loses points for actually answering the question that he wasn’t attracted to the 15-year-old, Terra. The answer they give in the comics and is the answer you’ll get from Marv Wolfman if you asked him today about it is this one.

Tales of Teen Titans Issue 55

That’s Beast Boy and Slade having a cup of coffee after Beast Boy tried to kill him. See- Slade wasn’t originally a big bad villain. He was a guy who just made a lot of wrong choices and ultimately he was ready to pay for them.

Same issue

An accidental antagonist according to the creators in the Blu-ray special features. He didn’t really want to kill the Titans but he was forced into it because he gave his word to the wrong people. Plus, he actually endorsed his second son being on the Titans team and he told Beast Boy that the Titans would be good for him and that ultimately they could give him what he can’t: a loving family!

The original story of the Judas Contract explained why he was after the Titans but there was also a sense that he didn’t really want to do it. Terra, on the other hand, wanted them to die! She was an incurable psychopath who wasn’t going to be redeemed at the end and she was going to die because of it.

Unfortunately, this new version is an amalgamation of the current status of DC Comics and the original story. You can’t have Dick Grayson (the original Robin) become Nightwing because he’s already been introduced to the audience in previous stories as Nightwing. Slade is more of a villain rather than just being an “Honorable Assassin for hire” and Terra Markov has sympathetic traits for better or for worse.

But again, there is still plenty they could have done with it to give us some memorable moments. Like, introduce Jericho or Wonder Girl in the climatic fight at the end. Just to be clear, they do introduce Wonder Girl at the end of this movie but she doesn’t appear in the big fight at the end she appears after the big fight is over. I’m surprised they did bring her in at all, because rumor has it that DC has some sort of weird licensing issue with Wonder Woman and her extended family.

In general, I do like this movie but it should be noted that I’m also a big Titans fanboy and have waited over a decade for this to come out after rumors that it had been shelved.

And yet, I can’t overlook the errors that keep this from being great, like Teen Titans Vs. The Justice League which I recommend seeing if you haven’t seen it already -especially if you plan to see this movie.

The new movie is enjoyable enough for a first time viewing, if nothing that memorable. However, unlike the original book, or even the original animated series version, this won't have you coming back to the well for more.