April 6-7, 2024
When the trailer for Titans, the first show to be released on DC Comics’ new DC Universe streaming platform, was released last year, the usual criticisms were levelled at the publisher’s latest attempt at translating their comic-book properties to the screen.
Too gritty. Too dark. Oh, my stars, Robin even swears. On and on, as though they’d never heard someone speak about a figure of authority they’ve fallen out with before. People calling themselves fans but displaying none of the behaviours usually associated with that term were eager to tear the series apart before it had even premiered.
Despite what you think about Titans’ trailer, the reality is that the show itself is actually incredibly strong. The series will premiere on Netflix Australia on January 11, and we’d recommend that you take the opportunity to get on board, for a few reasons.
Firstly, the cast – the target of so much ire in the lead-up to the show’s premiere – is excellent. If there is any member of the Titans cast who has copped more undeserved flak than anyone, it’s Anna Diop (Starfire). Armed with reasons from the asinine to the hurtful, an army of angry people made their feelings known based on a couple of photographs and two minutes of footage. They couldn’t have been more wrong.
A recovering amnesiac with a hidden connection to teenage runaway Rachel Roth (Teagan Croft), Diop’s Kory Anders/Koriand’r is both strongly written and performed, displaying both power and vulnerability with aplomb as she seeks to recover her memories and protect her friends. Kory – Diop – is great.
Similarly, Brenton Thwaites’ Dick Grayson/Robin, prematurely dismissed in some quarters as too dark and violent based on footage seen in the trailer, is actually more complex than that: he knows he’s too violent; it’s part of the reason for his split from Batman. Thwaites does an admirable job making a compelling protagonist out of an angry young man trying to work out where he fits, away from the angry, slightly older man who raised him; he doesn’t want to beat people’s faces past the point of recognition, but he also can’t seem to leave the life behind, a matter only complicated when he, too, finds himself connected to Rachel.
Rachel, and her actor Croft, thus, are essentially the crux of the show’s first season; the rest of the Titans, including Supa-Star Ryan Potter as Beast Boy, incidentally galvanise around her, as a mystery unfolds involving the shadowy cabal who are chasing after her, for typically nefarious reasons.
Along the way, we’re also introduced to seasoned super-duo Hawk and Dove (Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly) and the Doom Patrol, who are set to get their own show spinning out of the events of Titans. Cyborg is even going to be in it (which, uh, maybe doesn’t bode well for the DCEU Cyborg).
Curran Walters, as Jason Todd, brings effortless braggadocio to his turn as Batman’s brash, streetwise replacement Robin, and Conor Leslie’s Donna Troy – the former Wonder Girl – is cast, pitch-perfect, in a sort-of older-sister/confidant role to the conflicted Grayson, having both come up together as the child sidekicks of The Most Famous Heroes Ever.
And here is where Titans truly shines; although the series itself is new, the world it occupies doesn’t remotely feel that way. Where other shows – such as the Netflix Marvel stable, for example – have traditionally skirted the idea of the larger world of superheroes around their own, Titans makes repeated and explicit references to major characters – Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, to name just a few – and past, albeit unseen, superheroic adventures. That’s not to say those sorts of figures overshadow the heroes at the centre of Titans; but their existence, and the larger implications thereof, inform, at least partially, why the characters are as they are when their story begins.
In short, it’s not ashamed of its comic-book roots, and while it may get dark and violent – it is an adult show, after all – it’s a stretch to say it’s particularly worried about keeping things grounded. And why should it be? The team behind the show are – forgive the pun – titans of the industry, and it’s clear that, firstly, this is a team they hold close to their hearts, and, secondly, that they know what they’re doing. Look at its creators: revered comics writer and until-recently long-serving DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns; Arrowverse co-creator Greg Berlanti, by now a veteran of telling such stories on television; and Akiva Goldsman, who wrote both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, but also wrote A Beautiful Mind, and he won an award, buddy, so shut up about Batman & Robin.
The point is: these people all love and respect comic books, and that care and expertise is absolutely obvious across Titans’ initial run. Renewed for a second season before it even premiered, it couldn’t be in better hands – and, if you’re sitting on the fence about whether or not to invest time in watching yet another superhero series, the least you could do is give it a chance. Odds are that it’s a choice you won’t regret.
Titans begins streaming on Netflix from 11 January.