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Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Titans Is So Much Better Than That First $%@&ing Trailer Suggested...


Titans, the flagship show of the new DC Universe streaming service - and now Netflix's baby - is full of surprises.

The biggest being just how darn good it is.

After the notorious first grimdark trailer, my expectations were low.

But it turns out that potentially damaging piece of marketing grossly misrepresented the show.

Not only isn't the show all about the Zack Snyder-style bleakness as portrayed in the trailer (which isn't to say its all unicorns and flowers) but even Robin's potty-mouth comment about Batman is taken out of context.

Titans mixes the gritty violence of the Marvel Netflix shows with the superpowers of The CW's Arrowverse shows and serves it up with the f-bomb quota of an HBO stand-up special.

And, to be honest, the show's weakness is in the dialogue. I have no problem with harsh language myself - being a frequent practitioner - but here there is the unavoidable undercurrent of it sounding like it was penned by sniggering schoolkids who've just found the keys to their parents' liquor cabinet.

The swearing is largely hollow and unnecessary, trying to big and clever, when really it's just using oxygen. Ninety percent of the f-bombs could be excised from the script and it wouldn't make a jot of difference.

Which is a shame, because there's some snappy dialogue in Titans as well and the rest of the show is surprisingly magnificent.

From stately Wayne Manor to spaceships, from alternate realities to demonic entities, from the Doom Patrol to Donna Troy, Titans doesn't just lean into its comic book roots, but dives in headfirst.

You can't take too many steps in this world without stepping on another Easter Egg, but, conversely, they aren't gratuitous fan-service, but integral parts of the show's DNA.

Titans has it all: sci-fi, horror, and street-level vigilante action, all serving the greater mystery of why a strange cult wants to get hold of a young girl called Rachel Roth and how this is connected to amnesiac Amazon Kory Anders.

Beyond the show's main four characters - Dick Grayson aka Robin (Brenton Thwaites), Rachel aka Raven (Teagan Croft), Kory aka Starfire (Anna Diop), and Gar Logan aka Beast Boy (Ryan Potter) -  we get to meet a whole bevvy of other comic book heroes and villains.

Titans truly feels like it takes place in the actual universe of DC Comics - not a constrained parallel world - where we get glimpses of Batman, The Joker, Two-Face, and Ventriloquist; Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Justice League are name-checked; and if you hang around after the credits of the final episode there's a squeetastic introduction to a couple of fan-favourite characters for next season.

It does a long-time fan of the comic book medium proud that Titans isn't ashamed to present costumed characters on the screen that are actually recognisable from the source material, both in their dress and physicality.

Major kudos to the main quartet  of Titans, who all capture the spirits of their characters and deliver convincing performances.

The only one who fell short - and this is in no way the fault of Ryan Potter - was Gar, who the showrunners decided (a) wouldn't be green (except when changing shape) and (b) would only be able to change into a tiger.

Now I realise the latter point was almost certainly a budgetary restraint, but it was also a disappointing cop-out, and a bit of an insult to his original incarnation.
Brief sidebar: The comic book adventures of the Teen Titans, under the guidance of creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez, were the team that converted me from someone who bought the odd comic into a rabid collector. And of the characters in that team, my favourite was the puckish Garfield Logan. End sidebar.
That said, the special effects, overall, are very engaging. Raven's supernatural powers are particularly well-handled, with a definite horror movie vibe to them.

The fights are gorgeously choreographed, although there is a high body count in their wake. But then that's a problem I've found with most live-action superhero outings since the dawn of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I'm not going to pull up Titans on that point.

This first season - sensibly limited to 11 episodes, meaning it's tight, well-paced, and devoid of filler - is all about getting the gang together (a team origin story), building up to a shocking cliff-hanger that lays the groundwork for the already commissioned second season.

I would argue that - overlooking my gripes mentioned above - this could actually be the best serialised live-action comic book superhero show to date.

After this, I can't wait to see what they do with the upcoming Doom Patrol show (the episode they appeared in Titans was wonderfully weird and engrossing, and the costumes looked so much better in context than in stills or even the recent quirky trailer).

I'd also be willing to campaign for a Donna Troy/Wonder Girl (Conor Leslie) series, as we didn't get to see much of her this season, but what we did was very impressive... and Wonder Woman-ly.

No one is more surprised than me that not only did I really enjoy this first season of Titans (way more than I was expecting), but I'm superpumped for the next season... and whatever else the DC Universe streaming service has to give us in the way of live-action shows!

But, please try and curb the juvenile foul language. When superheroes say it, it's neither big nor clever.

2 comments:

  1. I watched 2 episodes last night, and thought it was fantastic. I agree with you that it is probably the best TV super-series yet. Maybe they'll have a bigger budget for the odd bird or ape next season?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would be good.

      I'm such an old school Gar fan I kept thinking "he should turn into a [different animal] at this point", but, of course, he never did.

      Delete

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