The announcement of the DC streaming app, DC Universe, brought with it a lot of hype. Here would be a streaming service where one could view the back catalog of classic DC movies and television shows like the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, Batman the Animated Series, and the Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. On top of that, you would have access to the DC library allowing you to dive deep into the comics of the characters you love. As far as streaming services go, DC Universe is quite unique as it is geared specifically to a comic audience. Marvel doesn’t have an app like that and even when they do it’s going to be one that they share with other Disney products. DC finds itself in a very unique position to sort of be one of a kind.
You can’t just launch a streaming service based on old material though, why would fans subscribe to something monthly if they have a number of the products on their DVD or comic shelves? No, with a streaming service you want to provide new and fresh content that you can only get on the app, and DC quickly announced a list of shows that would be available only through DC Universe. There would be a live-action Swamp Thing series (yes please!), an animated Harley Quinn show (voiced by the Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco), and the premiere series, Titans.
The hype around Titans was real and DC handled it excellently. Slowly releasing images of characters in costume to build the excitement before debuting the trailer for the show at SDCC, and that’s where things kind of took a turn. The trailer was… cheesy. It just seemed more of the same from the DC Universe. Dark, doom, and gloom, with a misunderstanding of character, and a really cheesy “f-bomb” moment that quickly become an internet meme. Going into the launch of their new service I highly doubt that this was the reaction DC was looking for. Naturally, you want to entice people into subscribing but all the Titans trailer did was convince viewers that this would be more of the same from a DC who seems unwilling to change the direction of their cinematic universe.
After viewing the first episode of Titans, I can say that it’s a mixed bag at best. There is the potential for something good here but more often than not it relies on what we expect from the DC cinematic universe. Doom and gloom. As far as first episodes go I’ve seen far better but I’ve also seen far worse. The episode is edited poorly and it feels like a lot of interesting story is left on the cutting room floor. For starters, everything to do with Raven (Teagan Croft) is really interesting. Her relationship with her mother has the potential to build on a Carrie like vibe, and I was there for that. Other DC shows like The Flash or Arrow work because there is a willingness to build a relationship with the audience. Yes, we know who or what these characters are to become but the show also wants us to care about these transformations. If we didn’t learn about Barry’s journey his becoming the Flash is less impactful. Titans seemed to be in too much of a rush to get some of our characters on screen together as quickly as possible and bypasses what could have been an interesting story. Just because you present us with the idea of a character mythology doesn’t mean we’re invested because we’ve read the comics. Make us care about this version of the character. Don’t just rely on the fact that it’s a DC app that’s geared towards DC comics fans. A moment between Raven and her mother should have been impactful but it came across as a “why should I care, I don’t know this woman” moment. A missed opportunity.
A team is only as strong as its leader and after one episode I’m conflicted with how I feel about Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites). Here again, we get more of that classic DC doom and gloom that just seems out of place for a character like Grayson who is supposed to be optimistic and hopeful. Grayson comes across just like his mentor at times. Often brooding and closed off. When we first see Robin in action, in a scene that seems violent for the sake of violence, he acts in a manner that is a polar opposite of Batman. Almost relishing on the acts of violence he’s committing on a band of thugs with broken ankles and an unfortunate scene with a face and a broken window. These actions seem like they’re included because “they look cool” and just don’t seem like they’re apart of the Batman school of teaching. Not to mention, they come across as a kid who’s trying to give the finger to his mentor. Of course, that gets relayed moments later with the famous “F Batman” quote from the trailer, which works better within the context of the show, but still seems hollow. Why is Dick Grayson acting this way? What happened to him in Gotham that made him turn into something that more closely resembles Damien Wayne than Dick Grayson.
Later in the episode, we learn why Dick left Gotham and again, it’s a scene that leaves a lot of room for potential but is already contradicted by the Robin beat down. If Dick is a character that’s concerned that he’s turning too much into Batman don’t you think that turning down the violence would be the avenue he would travel? I don’t know, it just seems strange to me that Dick Grayson would turn things up opposed to dialing them back especially when he’s trying to escape the shadow of the Bat. That being said, it’s the most emotion that comes out of the character and opens the door to an intriguing story thread. Clearly, Dick leaves Gotham to find himself but he’s angry as well. What happened between Batman and him, and is it enough to explain his current actions?
It seems that the relationship between Raven and Dick is going to be what drives this show and in that respect, the show did a good job of building that older brother vibe. There are a lot of questions about who and what Raven is and I’m anxious to see them play out. Perhaps her bond with Dick will be the emotional impact that was missing from her relationship with her mother. Here’s hoping because right now it feels like they’re missing the ball completely on the potential of the character. Something that is highlighted by the use of Nathaniel Rateliff’s “S.O.B.” during a traveling montage scene. The song feels completely out of place and doesn’t match the mood or the situation of the character. It’s glaringly bad. In a show that’s filled with brooding this would have been the one time that a broody song would have worked.
While the majority of the pilot is dedicated to Raven and Grayson, the introduction of Starfire (Anna Diop) was hands down my favorite aspect of the premiere. Right off the bat, there is a lot of intrigue and mystery surrounding the back story of Starfire, who is currently dealing with the ”classic” television trope of lost memory, and I want to know more. This had the writing team firing on all cylinders when it came to making me invest in a character but also highlighted the unevenness of the episode. Here’s hoping that the show doesn’t rush Starfire on screen with the other two cast members at the sacrifice of what could be an interesting story thread.
Focusing on three characters throughout the show only allows us a glimpse of Beast Boy (Ryan Potter), towards the end, but it’s an effective appearance. For starters, Beast Boy is a dramatic shift in tone and is both fun and silly. Two words you wouldn’t really think to associate with DC cinematic content. My first impression is that Beast Boy will be the comic relief and perhaps the levity that this show needs. If first impressions are as important as they’re made out to be then it seems that Titans needs to take itself a little less seriously, allow its characters to breath, and not sacrifice interesting story just to get characters on screen together. As far as DC properties go, Titans is more of the same but there’s hope that it could be something different once it finds its legs. I’m pulling for the show but left the pilot feeling that this will be another classic case of DC trying to edgy opposed to being loyal to their characters.