Next summer, one of DC Entertainment's most popular (and controversial) superhero teams will make its theatrical debut, as Teen Titans Go! leaps from Cartoon Network to the big screen for the team's first feature-length special. And it's about time.
Titans Go! has had an interesting four years of existence, to put it lightly. A spinoff of the beloved Teen Titans animated series, only with a drastically different look and tone from its predecessor, Teen Titans Go! was greeted with a less-than-enthusiastic response when it premiered in 2013. Although the voice actors reprised their roles from the previous, action-oriented series, the new show was criticized by viewers for its exaggerated humor and animation style.
Petitions were launched calling for its cancellation, and detractors took to social media to present evidence detailing why the show is "bad." That hate has never gone away, over the past four years and 191 episodes, and the announcement of feature film will likely be viewed as a twist of the knife by those critics.
But you know what? Teen Titans Go! is actually pretty funny. The characters are all well-rounded, the voice actors haven't lost a step in their portrayals, and there's a playful dynamic on display in each episode. Combined with the infectious charm packed into each 11-minute segment, it's difficult to argue against turning the show into a 90-minute movie. This iteration of the characters is popular; it's the one show that Cartoon Network airs more than once or twice a day, and its reach has extended beyond that of its predecessor. In addition to the subsequent comics series and merchandise, Teen Titans Go! crossed over into video games earlier this year in LEGO Dimensions.
Teen Titans Go! is instantly watchable, something Warner Bros. is surely banking on come next year. It would be incredibly difficult to adapt the other versions of the Teen Titans -- either the 2003-2006 animated series or the team depicted in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies -- for wide theatrical release. The DCUA Titans are too bogged down in the continuity of its cinematic universe (it also lacks Cyborg), and, as hard as it is to admit, there wasn't a lot left for the previous Teen Titans series to explore. They'd done personal seasons for each character (save for Starfire, who arguably had a mini-season of her own during the series run), met other teen heroes, and deated the two villains who defined the modern Titans, Deathstroke and Trigon.
Teen Titans Go! has no such hangups. Because it's built on the premise of what the young heroes do in their off time, continuity only means something when the show addresses it, which is rare. What moments are spent referencing the 2003 cartoon are infrequent and brief. Aside from some recurring bits -- the Beast Boy/Raven relationship, Cyborg's affinity for '80s technology -- everything is self-contained and easy to digest.
One of the persistent criticisms of the series is how it presents its title characters. Instead of being crime-fighters who happen to be teenagers, they're the inverse, which, really, is what makes the show so fun. Despite the "Teen" part of the name, the Titans in the original show didn't have much semblance of a life outside of saving the world. That's not the case in Go!, where each hero has his or her own quirks that help to bond them as a team. The show isn't afraid to make them oddballs among, either among fellow Titans or the villains they go up against. Go! unashamedly presents the central characters as if they were actual young adults: Cyborg is loud and boisterous; Raven is a bully; Robin's obsessiveness is creepy in a non-heroic light; Starfire's naivety and lingo can be irritating; and Beast Boy is a well-meaning dope. It's a method that's clearly led to success with the Lego movies, as this year's LEGO Batman showed us, and it's easy to imagine it working a fourth time with the Titans.
If there's another element that will make this Teen Titans Go! movie interesting, it's the possibility for more depth. Over the course of nearly 200 episodes, the Titans' misadventures have contained references to Star Wars and Jurassic Park, and poked fun at MacGuffins and the dangers of nostalgia. The show can be goofy and outright random, but to say it's only those things is inaccurate, and a disservice. It also gets unexpectedly raw about student loans, capitalism and even its own budget.
And when it's not getting woke or goofy, the show is having the time of its life, usually through music. The best example of this is arguably the B.E.R.'s Night Begins to Shine. What started as Warner Bros. Animation needing to fill a few seconds of airtime evolved into one of the show's best recurring gags, culminating in a one-hour mini-event that paid homage to the weirdness of '80s rock. It's crazy how quickly and thoroughly original songs like "Waffles" or "Pyramid Mummy Money" can get stuck in your head.
Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. have an unstoppable hit on their hands with Teen Titans Go!, and it was only a matter of time before they decided to take it to a new level. Whether this upcoming film serves as a final note for this era of the property or is simply a fun experiment to learn what new heights the show can reach, it'll be fun to see what happens with the film in July.