The first live-action adaption of the classic teenaged superheroes shows potential but wastes so much time on unnecessary flack.
In creating Titans, showrunners Akiva Goldsman, Geoff Johns and Greg Berlanti take some cues from Zack Snyder’s entries in the DC Extended Universe. As a result, the series successfully distinguishes itself tonally from the 2003 animated series Teen Titans and its follow up. Unfortunately, it lacks the sophistication brought to the small screen by the same teenaged heroes more than a decade ago. The series suffers from a lack of focus in its plot and characters but fortunately, the last few episodes hint at a promising future for a second season.
The show starts off introducing Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft), a teenager possessing a demonic force inside her is on the run after being chased by a mysterious organisation who want to use her for their own means. This leads her to detective Dick Grayson/Robin (Brenton Thwaites), the amnesiac fire-blasting alien Kory Anders/Koriand’r (Anna Diop) and animal shapeshifter Gar Logan (Ryan Potter). Together, they work together to help Rachel fight off her pursuers. Overall, they are a charming group of heroes, but it takes too long to bring them together, as the show tries to set up character dynamics and tensions that are left behind at the mid-point. Titans also sports a surprisingly large roster of superheroes with some receiving more screen time than deserved. Towards the end however, the series rebounds from its sluggish start as it carefully constructs an exciting setup for the next season.
Thwaites’ Dick Grayson is easily the best aspect of the show. This version of the first boy wonder is incredibly violent and a little bit unstable, but Thwaites is careful not to push the aggression too far. His relationship with the Robin mantle is turbulent: he resents the role but struggles to let go of it. With the shadow of Batman looming heavily over the series and with members of the Bat family popping in some episodes, the show provides a compelling look at Dick’s former life. Unfortunately, the rest of the team are not given the same amount of thought and care by the showrunners. Split between Dick Grayson and setting up the main villain, the rest of the show’s time is spread unevenly amongst the other titans. Diop does a good job portraying Koriand’r. She’s badass, quippy and works as a cool older sister to Gar and Rachel. This take on Koriand’r is quite intriguing and the series explores this nicely throughout the show’s duration. Although there is an attempt to further develop her character in the second half, the show is too busy focusing on minor characters to fully realise her character arc. Besides demonic powers, this version of Rachel is rather dull as Croft does not leave much of an impression. It does not help that the VFX on her character’s demonic side appears to do most of her work for her. Potter is delightful in his role as Gar Logan. However, it appears the series doesn’t really know what to do with him since he’s not given much to do.
The fight scenes in the series are well-constructed overall. The hand-to-hand combat sequences are bloody and the show makes sure you don’t miss it. Besides a few tracking shots, the camerawork usually does not linger on each shot for too long, allowing for some pacey action. They do lose a bit of momentum when certain characters use their powers but it’s not too noticeable. The VFX is fairly good but it does falter in some areas. The way the flames generate throughout her body – including her hair – is a nice touch. The streams of fire she casts from her hands are also well rendered. The series works hard to establish Koriand’r as a powerful hero. On the other hand, Rachel’s powers are not given the same attention to detail. The malevolent force inside her mainly appears as reflections in mirrors with black sclera and cracks underneath the eyes. It’s a little creepy but it’s far from menacing. When she uses her powers, it manifests as a black, sludgy mass which doesn’t appear very threatening at all. Gar Logan continues to receive the short end of the stick, with only one animal transformation. It’s fairly convincing nonetheless and its hinted towards the end of the series that there will be more in the future.
The series has a lot going for it with some strong lead performances, good visual effects and a clear setup for the future. However, the show’s treatment of its characters is uneven and the pacing is also inconsistent. Time is spent on unnecessary character dynamics and plot points that really slow the show down. A lot of work will need to be done for its next season if it’s going to stand out from its competitors.
Titans is available to watch on Netflix in the UK.