I’ve been reading comic books since the mid-80’s and watching them on screen since the first Christopher Reeve Superman, Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman, and those horrible cheesy 70’s live action movies of both Captain America and Spider-Man. I’ve got a good background in comics and their adaptations, and, since I review almost every comic book based tv show and movie, I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about them. Arguably too much at times. What I’m saying here is I’m not new to the concept and I’ve got a decent background in it.
One of the rules I’ve worked out for myself is that, by and large, when the adaptations start making random changes from the source material for no reason, it usually doesn’t bode well for the project. Examples would include the horrible Jonah Hex and Green Lantern movies, the Inhumans tv show, and X-Men: Origins Wolverine. When they stay close to the body of work that inspired them, the translations work really well, like Black Lightning, Black Panther (hell, most of the Marvel Studios movies), and Deadpool. That said, I’ve watched the trailer for the new Titans live action tv show coming to the “If you want to see more DC stuff you have to pay for it” network.
The trailer really has me questioning a lot about this series. Going off my own knowledge and reactions, here are some of my concerns. The most glaring one is that whoever is writing this apparently doesn’t know the difference between Dick Grayson and Jason Todd. Todd is a violent man who enjoys hurting people and I absolutely could see him acting like the character shown in the trailer. Grayson is a hero through and through, a light spot in the darkness of the Bat-verse, and not a rage monster. Deforming a character to make them fit something arbitrarily never goes well, and this looks like it’s going to be another example. Why use Dick Grayson and write him like Jason Todd? I’m guessing for the better name recognition. They also change a few bits of Dick’s origin for no apparent reason.
But aside from Robin issues, the trailer has other problems. Hawk and Dove are essentially avatars of War and Peace, or Chaos and Order in some versions. Dove uses logic and reason, finds weak points, and brings foes down with minimal injury. Hawk is the big damage dealer, although we see next to nothing of him. And yet, in the trailer, we see Dove using her cape to cut through a man’s legs. How is this peaceful? Do the writers know what the traditional archtypes are for a hawk and a dove, let alone the comic characters they are theoretically writing?
Beast Boy is seen for just a few seconds. He looks fairly close and his powers seem to work the same way. No complaints from me on him so far, with the proviso that we’ve seen nothing of his character yet. Raven looks like she’s at least ballpark close, and she did bring the New Teen Titans together when she first appeared, which she seems to be doing here. So far, she looks and sounds about right, aside from the line about her mother telling her “There’s no such things as monsters.” Raven’s mother, Arella, slept with the demon Trigon to have Raven. She’s seen monsters more closely than most.
Now, on to Starfire. There’s already controversry brewing around this character, so let me be really, really clear here. The so-called fans who are complaining because they cast a black actress are racists, and need to shut the hell up. I do not support that position, never have, never will. Grow up and stop giving comic fans a bad name. BUT. A big part of Starfire has always been her looks. She’s a model at some points in her career, so her look is distinctive and more important for her than other characters. Anna Diop is gorgeous from all I’ve seen, but she’s not orange like Starfire has pretty much always been colored. I don’t care who they have playing her or what race that person is. I do care that they get the look at least close, and they don’t seem to have. The trailer shows nearly nothing of her, but I’ve seen enough to know she looks very, very different. Why? Well, there’s no good reason for that. I’ve seen cosplayers do a great Starfire, nailing the comic book look. Are you telling me people working on their own, on a limited budget, can do better than a professional studio?
Then there’s the tone of this. Marvel has varied their products, from spy thrillers like Winter Soldier to noir in Jessica Jones to comedy with Ant-Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy. They make it work because they get good writers and actors. DC seems to be stuck on “Our movies must be DARK and GRITTY no matter what.” You’d think they’d have learned with the very different performances of Man of Steel/Justice League vs. Wonder Woman. But Titans is more of the dark and nasty and brutal stuff the current management seems to adore. It works for Batman. Not so much for most other DC characters, and especially not for Dick Grayson or the Teen Titans.
The Titans are a family. They bond together because they grew up together, and they look out for each other in ways most hero teams skip. One of the best Teen Titans issues was the wedding of Donna Troy. There was no fighting, no violence, no bleeding. It was a character driven story that played up the relationships between the characters. This trailer seems to be the exact opposite.
The Titans started off as a bunch of sidekicks, and that’s proving a problem for them here. Of the original three Titans, only one is in this show, and the “Fab Five” that ran together so long, also only one. Maybe the rights are tied up elsewhere, but I like seeing Robin with Aqualad, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, and Speedy. This is a weird group of sort of the New Teen Titans line up, but without Kid Flash or Wonder Girl or Cyborg (yes, he was a Teen Titan long before DC retconned him into the Justice League). They aren’t respecting the source material. They don’t have a few of the looks right. I have a lot of reservations going into this.
I’m going to watch the premier of this. I want to like it, I do. But I’m not hopeful, and I’m not even sure I’d be watching if I wasn’t going to pay up for the Young Justice series, which looks a lot better. But that’s a review for later.