The DC Animated Universe took something of a gamble a few years back when it was decided that all of its films would now exist in their own shared animated universe. However, as time goes on, the effect of that universe expansion is starting to pay dividends. In fact, it's the amount of backstory and character investment which led to Teen Titans: The Judas Contract that makes the viewing experience worthwhile - maybe more so than the events of the film itself.
The Judas Contract builds on films from the Batman corner of the DCAU (Son of Batman, Batman vs Robin), as well as last year's Justice League vs. Teen Titans, for a story about how the Titans advance and grow as a team, even as an unseen threat targets them.
With the arrival of new recruit Terra (Christina Ricci), the Titans get a powerful yet unstable new ally - so when the threat of Brother Blood begins to show itself, the team assumes the mission is as straightforward as any other. However, what the Titans don't know is that foes of the past have been studying and analyzing them for some time, ready to exploit the weaknesses of the respective team members. By the time the Titans realize what's going on it's far too late: they're already in the crosshairs.
Directed by DC animation veteran Sam Liu, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is, as stated, a nice addition to the continuing saga of the DC Animated Universe - bringing together story threads from several preceding films, with the added benefit of some nice Young Justice-style overtones. That means we get a pretty good understanding and handling of the teen/young adult angst that comes with the Titans characters - as well as some satisfying team-based action sequences. Altogether, it's a lot of what DC fans enjoy from the best entries in the DCAU, making for a pretty entertaining viewing experience.
Where this Teen Titans story (by Ernie Altbacker) drags is in the titular "Judas Contract" portion. The so-called "twists" and "reveals" in the story are pretty predictable, and offer some of the only moments that threaten to go all "CW" with soapy teen drama. Built into that story arc is a romantic subplot that lands way far on the wrong side of creepy - to the point that it might knock even the most loyal DC Comics fan out of the film (if only for a moment).
It's hard to asses or criticize the voice cast of these DCAU movies, at this point, since many of them are carryovers from preceding projects (like Stuart Allen's Damian Wayne). So, however you felt about the voice casting in Justice League vs. Teen Titans is pretty much how you'll feel about much of this film - the exceptions being Christina Ricci's dynamic voice giving Terra some life, and famous character actor (and James Gunn regular) Gregg Henry playing Brother Blood with fanatical menace.
On the animation front, The Judas Contract looks good, bringing a nice balance of the classic Bruce Timm / Paul Dini style, and the newer anime-influenced design. Things look crisp and smooth in the HD format - making the battle sequences even more awesome.
Teen Titans: The Judas Contract arrives on Blu-ray/DVD today, and is already available via digital download (go HERE to WATCH it). It is 1 hour and 24 minutes long, and is Rated PG-13 for language, some violence, sensuality, thematic elements and brief drug use.