Since it’s announcement, the DC Universe digital streaming platform’s assembly of classic DC content and original content has been widely well received by fans even if they’ve had some questions about a lot of it. This is not to say that DC hasn’t been successful at producing original content. Television productions such as The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow have all been well received on The CW.
Titans is produced by the creative team of DC television giant Greg Berlanti, veteran screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, and DC Comics all-star Geoff Johns which means that the show definitely has an interesting trio behind it. If DC diehards were hoping that this series would hold fidelity to the legacy of the Teen Titans while reinventing the characters for a new age then they need not look any further than here. In some ways this series does take a lot of notes from the DC Extended Universe series in terms of the way it handles it’s characters, tone, and action which isn’t necessarily a bad thing to me as someone who supports that franchise. Man of Steel, Wonder Woman, and Batman v Superman were quite successful to me in terms of how they were able to honor the legacy of these characters while catapulting them into the future for a new generation. If you are a Zack Snyder fan or a fan of darker takes on DC characters at a time when the DC Extended Universe is moving more towards a tone akin to the Silver Age and the Marvel Cinematic Universe then you will enjoy a project like this.
Titans stars Brenton Thwaites as Dick Grayson/Robin who at this point is a disgruntled police detective in Detroit with his own grievances against his adoptive father, Teagan Croft as Rachel Roth/Raven, a teenager struggling with her own inner demons, Anna Diop as Koriand’r/Starfire, an alien with amnesia and the ability to project fire from her hands, and Ryan Potter as Garfield Logan/Beast Boy, a green-skinned animal shapeshifter. It is mostly the classic roster that fans have grown accustomed to since the classic 2003 cartoon first aired.
The pilot to the live-action series provides an introduction to the show’s cast who are already in the middle of their respective story arcs with some hints at their origins being present but in a way that has them fated to come together at some point in the series and form the Titans. Raven is a misguided teenager who is looking for guidance in facing her literal inner demons, Robin is a distant police detective trying to establish his own identity away from the surrogate father he left behind in Gotham City which causes him to met out justice in his own way. Starfire is trying to solve a mystery about her identity after she wakes up in a car crash in Vienna where she is being pursued by Russian thugs, while Beast Boy only appears in a small scene at the end.
The first episode immediately establishes a connection between Raven and Robin’s arcs after she has dreams about the death of the Flying Grayson, the circus act that Grayson performed in before becoming a vigilante. They are fated to meet which does happen once Raven finds herself on the run after her mother gets shot in the head right in front of her by a mysterious man who has some sort of interest in her. Her run ends up taking her to Detroit, where she has her firs encounter with Detroit police detective Dick Grayson who she refers to as “the boy from the Circus.” That’s a really interesting way to open up a conversation with somebody who you want to help you, Raven. Nonetheless, this does cause him to take an invested interest in who she is. After discovering that Raven is clearly a person of interest to the people who are pursuing her Dick does decide to protect her and mentor her in taming whatever it is that’s inside her that literally made a man gush out his own guts. She’s certainly not mommy’s little angel, but neither is Dick. Like Raven, Grayson has his own personal demons but they aren’t as violent as what she has. When we first see him in action as Robin we learn really fast that he has his own take on how to met out justice to people who like to sell drugs to kids or abuse them. His definition of justice involves scraping people’s faces against walls, glass, and beating them within a presumable inch of their life. You would almost think that this Robin was the protege of Ben Affleck’s Batman in Batman v Superman based on how intense the episode’s alleyway fight scene is. The choreography is very much a love letter to the iconic warehouse fight scene from the movie as well as taking some notes from Marvel’s Daredevil and Arrow.
Anna Diop’s Starfire is on a different trail than Raven and Robin, but it may not be separate. It’s made evident immediately that Starfire is on a mission to find out who she is and I do not mean this in the symbolic narrative sense, either. She seriously has amnesia and has no real recollection of the night before she woke up after a car crash in Vienna, where she gets chased by some stereotypical Russian thugs. She eventually gets away from these thugs and finds out from a passport on her person that her name is Kory Anders and that she owns the entire top floor of a luxurious European hotel. On the top floor she encounters a tied up Russian thug in a closet, which really makes you wonder if 50 Shades of Grey is a readable book on Tamaran and if it is then Starfire sure has some interesting kinks. Anyways, she faces off against this thug in a fight that’s akin to what you’d expect from Marvel’s Jessica Jones that ends with her punching the thug across the room and snapping his neck but not before she gets some answers from him. The recently deceased thug directs her to the nightclub of Russian mob boss Konstantin Kovar who is really upset that Starfire is a gold digger who didn’t really love him, which she confirms. This confirmation upsets Kovar which leads to him attempting to shoot her and getting burnt to a nice crispy crisp by her instead. It’s a really beautiful scene that gave Anna Diop the room she needed to steal the show from everybody else with ease. After her big cook-out with Kovar she finds a picture on her desk featuring a girl that she held some sort of interest in earlier. That girl was none other than our favorite teenage runaway, Raven. The pieces are starting to come together already.
Admittedly the pilot has a deficiency in the Beast Boy department. Ryan Potter’s Beast Boy is barely present for most of it. We don’t see a lot of our favorite green-tinted comedian until we get a short scene where he’s stealing a bunch of Xbox games while taking the form of a green tiger. It’s not a lot, but it does a great job at displaying how the show is going to handle his transformations and the visual effects aren’t bad for a television production. It eases the concerns a lot of fans may have had about how the show would portray Beast Boy’s powers since his power set isn’t exactly like super speed or flight, which are rather easy to show off. It just goes to show far visual effects have come in television and film production to the point that it feels like there’s not a lot of effort put into it now. You would think it’s just something that gets done now and the more practical work like how other DC shows like Smallville handled its effects aren’t special anymore.
In a lot of ways Titans is clearly aiming for an approach that’s similar to what Marvel has done with shows like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. There’s a dark, mature, and hard-edged layer here that has multiple genres to it while departing from the typical cheese of the DC Television Universe. Now while it may be departing from that cheese it does not mean that there’s no humor to the pilot because it is there, but it’s not really cringe-inducing like what The Flash or Supergirl have. As a diehard fan of both the more mature aspects of the DC universe and Zack Snyder’s take on the DC universe, I don’t think it’s a departure from either. Basically, people who are big fans of either takes, be it the DC Television Universe, the more mature DC universe or the Zack Snyder version will feel right at home. The only people who may find themselves dissatisfied with Titans are those who may be looking for extreme comic book fidelity. While the show may homage certain aspects of the characters and moments from runs like the 1980’s The New Teen Titans, which it is based, it is also committed to wanting to do it’s own thing. It’s not your bright, colored, and kid-friendly Teen Titans Go! iteration. It’s loaded with more blood, F-bombs, and head shots than you’d expect for a DC production.
Now is the pilot for Titans good or even great? As a pilot, I would say that it definitely does it’s job as proficiently as any other does. It doesn’t spend a lot of time on the exposition for any one character because they are all important with their own arcs that can be fleshed out in later episodes that we get glimpses of. These glimpses work well to get us interested in at least one character that we’re going to follow more than the others. There’s some intense sequences like the Robin alleyway fight and the scene towards the end of the episode when Raven’s demon-self murders someone which are both showcases of how revolutionary this show might just be. It’s not afraid to embrace the fact that it’s a TV-MA series with no restrictions towards it, which means that we can expect that the trio of Berlanti, Goldsman, and Johns will be trying their hardest to keep us invested in what’s happening on screen as they should. Scenes like that will not be in short supply which makes me ready for the next episode and the one after that with each episode proving how much potential the show really has, which it does have a lot.
You can catch new episodes of Titans every Fruday on DC Universe.
What do you think of this review? Did you enjoy the pilot? Let us know in the comments below!