Critics were able to watch the first three episodes of Titans ahead of next Friday’s DC Universe premiere, and the reviews are in!
The reviews are a bit mixed, but it seems like most agree that there’s some potential here. A lot of the reviews mention the excessive violence and dark tone, but there’s some fun to be had here too. We won’t know exactly what audiences think until October 12th, so for now, check out what the critics are saying below.
In DC Universe’s Titans, Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites) stabs a guy in the balls with a pair of garden shears. Unfortunately, the powers that be say I have to write more than that sentence about Titans, but I do truly think every aspect of this show—its tone, its aesthetic, its story, its themes—boil down to the image of Dick Grayson, the original Robin, Boy Wonder, charming vigilante do-gooder, plunging a gardening tool into another man’s crotch. Titans is the absolute zenith of the post-Nolan, post-Dark Knight era of “mature” comic book storytelling, a show with both the grittiness and enjoyability factor of sandpaper. It’s Riverdale with zero self-awareness. Gotham without a whiff of fun. It’s Arrow if The CW allowed for gratuitous, minutes-long shots of dudes getting beaten with a stick. All put together, Titans lands just about as gracefully as The Flying Graysons.
Polygon saw the first two episodes of Titans at its world premiere ahead of New York Comic Con this week, and we can tell you that it is dark and violent — in a way designed to seem gratuitous. But the key word there is “designed.” The show’s dirty little secret is that through the darkness, Titans aims to show you the real heart of its characters.
And it has a lot of fun doing it.
The Titans series premiere is an indecisive mix of fun, comics-inspired moments and gratuitous violence, which makes it hard to get a read on what kind of show it wants to be. When the series focuses on its characters and not trying to shock or scare us, it’s an engaging ride – like a fledgling sidekick, it just needs to learn a little more discipline before it’s allowed on the streets unsupervised.
It’s dark, just as the trailers indicate, with a level of violence that races past anything on The CW’s Arrowverse and teeters into Zack Snyder-era DC Extended Universe territory. Heroes maim and kill, with some frequency, in the three episodes provided for review, although not always on purpose. It goes without saying, then, that Titans isn’t suitable for young viewers, who aren’t the target audience for this streaming service anyway. However, neither is the series aimed at fans of DC’s classic New Teen Titans, who will undoubtedly bristle at the tone and quibble with the characterizations, to say nothing of the lineup (a later episode is titled “Donna Troy,” which may salve that particular wound). Yet, for all of those caveats, there is something enjoyable about Titans.
The thing that probably most sets Titans apart from other iterations of the DCU on film is the violence that’s on display. More than anything, it feels completely out of line with the characters in general. Dick Grayson’s angst-fueled alleyway fight scene is entertaining until it gets to the point where he’s almost gleefully running a thug’s face across the jagged edges of a shattered car window. Who is this character? Certainly not the Dick Grayson that audiences might be familiar with. And that really undercuts the serious tone of the show, the violence isn’t scary or intense – it goes so far that’s almost just goofy.
What we get in Titans is a show very much making a statement about what it wants to be. It wouldn’t pair well with the likes of Greg Berlanti’s Arrowverse (despite the fact he is one of the co-creators of Titans), but it also doesn’t belong next to the Snyder-fueled DCEU. Rather, Titans falls somewhere in between. And it’s this fact that will ultimately make or break the series in the long run.
“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.