Released: 13th September (Australia)
Seen: 8th September (Advance Screening… in Australia, I know the movie’s been out everywhere else for months)
When historian’s look back on this point in cinematic history, they’re going to be stunned at just how many superheroes were overwhelming the box office. In 2017 alone five of the top ten movies of the year were Marvel or DC superheroes, and 2018 looks like it’s going to match that number or even beat it, depending on how Venom and Aquaman do. It feels like every month there’s a brand new movie with someone wearing lycra and flying about saving the world. What we haven’t had yet was a really good parody of the genre… until now.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is the cinematic debut of the Cartoon Network series that began in 2013, a series that followed Robin (Voiced by Scott Menville), Starfire (Voiced by Hynden Walch), Cyborg (Voiced by Khary Payton), Raven (Voiced by Tara Strong) and Beast Boy (Voiced by Greg Cipes) on wild adventures like “Making a sandwich” or “Stop Santa taking over Halloween”. With over 214 episodes to its name, the series has become a Cartoon Network staple and has a legion of fans that have followed it since day one. I’ve not been a part of that fanbase and with 214 episodes, no way was I going to have the time to catch up with 214 episodes of this series for full context so if there’s something important about this series I miss, I’m sorry. Luckily, this is mostly a sharp satire about the state of Hollywood and it’s abundance of Superhero movies. I’m genuinely surprised that this is where we’re getting our much-needed mocking of Superhero movies but it works wonderfully.
The story of the movie is mostly focussed on Robin who is really sick of the fact that he and his friends are constantly considered to be nothing more than jokes. The only way that they’ll ever be taken seriously as Superheroes is if they get to have a movie of their own since every other major superhero is getting one. So they travel to Hollywood to try and get a meeting with the person who keeps directing all of these major superhero movies Jade Wilson (Voiced by Kristen Bell) who tells them that the only way that anyone will ever want to make a movie about them, and therefore the only way they will be considered Superheros, is if they get an arch nemesis… preferably a nemesis with a name that’s fun to say in deep intimidating whispers. Fortunately, as if by cosmic coincidence, they manage to find such a nemesis in the form of Slade (Voiced by Will Arnett) who is not only intimidating, resourceful and has a brilliant evil plan but he also has a name that’s fun to say in deep intimidating whispers. He’s basically their dream nemesis and so the Teen Titans fight him in order to prevent him from stealing a mystical thing that will help him to take over the world with his (oh hang on this power requires all caps) MIND MANIPULATION!!!
What follows is a genuinely clever dissection of superhero movie tropes, everything from “The bad guy always has a backup plan” to the shocking twist that we’re never meant to see coming is in some way covered here and called out by name and mocked endlessly. Raven constantly has to remind everyone “Guys, I can just make a portal” to solve their problems and the casual ease that she does it in makes the joke genuinely hilarious because it’s clear that she probably could just send the bad guy to an alternate dimension, right alongside the Challengers of the Unknown, and it’s nice to finally have a superhero actually use their powers sensibly. They even have an entire “What if?” moment where we learn what would’ve happened without Superheroes (Spoilers, NOPE) and it’s a moment that leads to the darkest joke in the film that’s also one of it’s most brilliant. This film is so dedicated to poking the superhero genre in the eye, it finally shows us what it might sound like if Nicholas Cage got to be Superman (Spoilers, YES!) Even the music gets in on the act, helping parody superhero movies using the classic versions of Superman and Batman movies themes to underscore certain moments… or just having Michael Bolton sing an upbeat inspirational song about life, whichever gets the job done. By the way, this song genuinely needs to be nominated for an Oscar just so we can get Michael Bolton belting this out to the audience. If “Everything is Awesome” can get a nomination, this can too!
The comedy comes thick and fast in this one, if you’re not into jokes about the main characters taking a poop in a prop toilet then don’t worry because there’s a clever reference to the failure of Green Lantern to look forward too, or just a joke about waffles or the uselessness of The Atom. You want them to take on the DC movies overuse of dark depression as an aesthetic? They got you covered. How about mocking the stupidity of the infamous “MARTHA!” moment in a way that I genuinely did not expect DC to be OK with? Hell yeah, that’s here too. There’s even a Stan Lee cameo to look forward too, see if you can spot it because it’s super subtle (It’s not subtle in the slightest, but god did I cackle when it happened). If a joke doesn’t work for you, give the film another 30 seconds and they’ll have found a joke that’ll tickle you just right.
This movie went even further than Deadpool did with its jokes about the genre because Deadpool, for all the great things that movie did, was always a very linear story that just threw out references here and there before going back to the main plot. Here? The meta-narrative around superhero movies is literally the plot, the entire film works up to this idea that the Teen Titans need a movie just like every other superhero, that’s the only thing that they’re focussed on and it lets them tackle so much more. Sure, they can do the best fart joke I’ve seen in a movie for a long time, but they can also do a commentary about streaming and how it’s effectively dictated how Hollywood releases things. This film has a Back to the Future joke in it that made me howl with laughter, and 30 years on it should not be possible to make someone laugh at a reference joke to that movie but the tone of this movie just works. When I tell you that I’ve barely even begun to scratch the surface of this movie’s best ideas and joke concepts, that should tell you everything. You will, inevitably, come out of this movie with at least a handful of jokes you will be giggling about for a long while after which is insanely rare. The last joke in the movie is going to actually destroy you… and possibly lead to a very awkward conversation in the car ride home, but it’s worth it
This movie should not be this good. It just shouldn’t. A film adaptation of a children’s cartoon series that is more widely known for being hated than almost anything should not be getting a grown man to laugh his ass off for 90 minutes but it did. This is the best superhero movie DC have in some way put out since Wonder Woman, it’s gloriously silly and smarter than it has any right to be. If you are a superhero fan wanting to find the right movie to take your kid too, this is the one. This is a great family film that will make everyone in the family laugh at something different and with the exception of a few moments of animation that just didn’t really work for me and a few jokes that I personally didn’t really get, it just works so well and makes you feel super upbeat.
Oh, and yes, there are after credit’s scenes. One early and is actually a teaser for a TV series moment that genuinely looks cool, and one that’s just a funny callback. But you should just be sitting through credits for superhero films anyway because we all know by now that there’s going to be something there… or at least, we’re supposed to know that but considering that the entire audience I was with cleared the cinema before the first one, apparently people don’t know that yet.