The new trailer for the DCEU TV show Titans is here. In it, you will find a bunch of surprises. Have a look at this first, and then we’ll discuss what we watched.
WARNING: Dick Grayson drops an F-bomb in it, so be careful about playing this at work or around children.
It looks sumptiously shot, visually stylish, and tightly produced. The acting appears terrific. The direction and show design, though, seems hell bent on reciting the same “dark and gritty” trope that got the DC movie universe into such trouble in the first place.
The trope works for Batman, yes — and maybe for Robin and Nightwing — but not for anything else. Batman does not have to bleed over into everything it touches. If you allow that, you taint everything in sight for the sake of one character, destroying the contrast between the characters with darkened souls and those without them, and drastically narrowing the dramatic scope of your storytelling. While “Edge Lords Titans” may be the cosmic balance to Teen Titans Go, they may not be serving the best interests of the material by going in this direction.
While they tease us with Robin in the trailer, though, it’s clear from both the description of the show presented by DC Comics and the quick clips of a Robin rage quit that he’s Nightwing now, and only just now coming to lead the Titans. In the comics, Nightwing as a character has not yet come to pass, and it’s still Robin the Boy Wonder that leads the Titans.
Beast Boy looks terrific, for the split second we get to see him. Even though we don’t get to see him shapeshift, he’s clearly on the attack in a situation where he obviously expects to be able to. That’s acting.
Starfire is something you can get used to, but if she’s from another planet, she should look alien, like she has in every other incarnation or drawing of her we’ve ever seen, and not like a Beverly Hills mall rat.
And then there’s Raven, a deeply troubled early teen who talks about her mom, her emotions fizzing out of control. In the comics, and every other incarnation of her (other than Teen Titans Go!, which is a parody meant for pre-teens), Raven is cool as ice, and a master of the Dark Arts. In this version, she’s barely got her powers under control, and isn’t sure she wants anything to do with them. This is an interesting point in her character arc to put her into a teamup, but it does feel like the right one. If you’re going to build an interesting story line, put a bunch of characters together who barely have things under control. Story comes from the characters, and the story shapes the characters as they journey forward.
Fan responses have been pretty mixed, from the social media comments we’ve sampled. There is a certain amount of friction for it being on Yet Another One-Studio Streaming Service, thanks in part to the inept sequestering of Star Trek: Discovery on the sometimes reliable CBS All Access service. Others are noting that so much liberty has been taken with the characters that they bear little resemblence to the established characters in the comics. While having this kind of cloud around the release of your new show isn’t necessarily a deal killer, it doesn’t bode well.
Creative license has to cover all these changes. If you’re retelling a story that’s been told and retold, you have to change things up to keep them interesting. This has to be done in balance, though. When writers do this over and over with their own material, it dilutes the strong core of the narrative to the point where everybody has a different understanding of how this universe is supposed to work.
All that said, the show doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be fun, and it looks like it might still be worth a watch.
One interesting facet of the new show is that they’ll be introducing other characters from the DC comics universe who have rarely or never been portrayed as live action characters before. We’ll get to see all four members of The Doom Patrol, who will get a spin-off series. That starts production this year, and will be released some time in 2019, and could be an opportunity for DC to strike some new ground that may not be permitted to them in the Titans series itself.
This new series will air exclusively on the new streaming platform being created by DC Comics, called DC Universe, so unless you sign up for that service, you won’t be seeing this show. It stars Brenton Thwaites as Robin / Nightwing / Dick Grayson, Anna Diop as Starfire, Teagan Croft as Raven, and Ryan Potter as Beast Boy, and releases sometime early in 2019 when the DC Universe service debuts.