With Titans now only a day away from giving the world its first proper taste of what’s in store from the original content headed to the new DC Universe streaming service, reviews for the live action show are beginning to sail across the internet — and let’s just say there’s no consensus.
From pleasantly surprised to downright excoriating, early critical opinion on Titans appears to run the gamut. It’s not so much that Titans is the kind of show that seems to be polarizing people into love-it or hate-it camps; rather, it simply seems to be striking different notes with different reviewers — regardless of whether they hail from genre outlets or the mainstream press.
Among those who like the show, Titans’ stealth humor, which DC’s previews hadn’t fully prepared critics for, gets high marks. Those who panned Titans had problems with what they felt was a forced edginess; a darkness-for-darkness’-sake quality that its superheroes couldn’t back up with dialogue and action.
For better and worse, here’s a look at what critics are saying after checking out the show's first three episodes — in loosely descending order, from the favorable to the unfavorable.
"The best part about Titans, the first original show to launch on DC Universe, is that it pulls from the vibes of all the other superhero offerings and spits it out into a whole new thing. Marvel’s Netflix shows aren’t that fun, and DC’s shows on The CW aren’t that deep. Titans is the most balanced superhero show out there. It’s skillfully constructed, narratively speaking, and there’s a surprising amount of flavor beneath its classification as a dark, moody, teen drama. Titans has something for every type of comic book fan — casual fans, superfans, fans who only watch comic book stuff, and even fans who want more of the brooding Batman thing.
"…I didn’t feel like Titans was underestimating my intelligence as a comic book fan, or a trained, vigilant millennial binge-watcher."
"Titans mixes the tones of the best teen superhero team comics, where everybody’s dark superhero origin is always catching up with them — but that doesn’t mean they’re not also watching must-see TV like everybody else. Titans reminded me of one of my favorite comics of all time, Gail Simone’s Secret Six, which was a very funny and touching series about deeply broken people desperately clinging to whatever paper thin moral compass they have left.
"...Despite what you may have heard, Titans isn’t dark just for darkness’ sake. And precisely what it decides to say with its darkness will be the reason to watch it week after week."
"Titans starts to feel on the verge of something special when fate begins bringing these DC icons together. The times they’re apart in the first few episodes aren’t nearly as interesting as when they meet, except for Starfire (Anna Diop), who lights up every scene she’s in, literally, and could be the best thing about this show. (And yes, there’s chemistry with Robin — yay, using the dynamic from the comics.)
"...Titans isn’t up to par with a Netflix/Marvel superhero streaming experience. But there are enough things they could do to take it to that level if this series plays its cards right."
"In addition to being a live-action attempt to make slightly older viewers try to figure out what "DC Universe" is — DC Comics' new streaming platform, duh! — Titans is a try-too-hard stab at occupying a middle ground between grumpy, but still family friendly, DC offerings like The CW's Arrow and the definitely-not-for-kids Marvel shows on Netflix. In this case, that means a strain-to-see murky color palette, occasional jarring swearing, a tiny bit of extra blood spatter and the latitude to feature sexual impotence as a plot point. Aren't grown-ups lucky? What it doesn't mean, at least through the three episodes sent to critics, is any sort of extra creative depth or narrative exploration."
“'F*** Batman' is meant to establish that the former Boy Wonder has turned against his old mentor, that he’s in search of his own identity and way of fighting crime. It’s also clearly meant by the creative team behind Titans (including Akiva Goldsman and Geoff Johns, who wrote the first episode from a story by them and Greg Berlanti) to inspire shock and awe among the DC fanboys: Holy s***, Robin just said “Eff Batman!” It’s the sort of thing a petulant teenager — which Robin in this version of the story is not supposed to be (he’s working as a detective for the Detroit PD when we meet him) — might say to sound cool or fearless. But really, it makes him sound like he’s trying way too hard.
"…If you’re going to say 'F*** Batman,' that’s your right. But you’d better back it up with more than what Titans has to offer, or you just seem like a frustrated poseur who wants to seem much tougher and cooler than you can ever hope to be."