Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons Review: A fun, blood-soaked animated outing for the iconic DC merc
DC’s deadliest mercenary, Deathstoke, has rose in popularity recent years and fans have been begging to see him not only fight DC’s finest in every medium, but also go on adventures of his own. Those hopes have turned into reality with the character getting a film of his own with Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons that delves into his dual life as a mercenary and a family man.
Now, to answer some probable initial expectations that are easy to make because of the film’s title – no, this isn’t a movie where Deathstroke is fighting knights in armor and dragons. While that would’ve been amazing, Knights and Dragons focuses more on conflicting lives as a deadly merc and as a father.
Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (voiced by Michael Chiklis) has become one of the deadliest mercenaries in the world after an experimental drug have given him enhanced abilities – including enhanced strength and agility as well as regeneration. However, his life isn’t solely about killing for a price, as he has his wife Addie (voiced by Sasha Alexander) and their son Jason (voiced by Asher Bishop/Griffin Puatu) at home completely in the dark about the kind of “business trips” he goes on. Although he’s always thinking of them and reading Jason stories about shining knights battling dragons over the phone, he’s preferred to keep the two lives he lives separate. However, after Jackal (voiced by Chris Jai Alex), the dangerous leader of a powerful criminal organization known as H.I.V.E., seeks revenge on Deathstroke after he denies his offer to join up, Deathstroke must confront these dual realities as his past mistakes and old enemies start to haunt his present.
Right from the first fight sequence, it’s incredibly apparent that director Sung Jin Ahn knows exactly what fans want to see when it comes to Deathstroke – slicing, dicing, and being a total bloody badass. If you’ve ever wanted to see him absolutely massacre anyone that stands in his way and simply move across the screen at furious pace, then this movie is what you’ve been dreaming of. With an R-rating, the film doesn’t hold back on the kind of bloodshed and brutality that comes when he enters the battlefield. The action is easily some of the best I’ve seen in DC animated films as it harness the superhuman, fast-paced movement that Deathstroke is known for and has some moments that raise the hype all the way up. It’s truly Deathstroke unleashed and it’s a glorious site to see.
Honestly, the entire film as a whole is animated very well with unique character designs and a strong voice cast. While Chiklis wouldn’t be my first choice when thinking of people to voice Deathstroke, he’s actually very strong in the role. He perfectly brings out Slade’s calculated and cunning nature every step of the way while also giving him a damaged soul that stems from his family bond. Alexander is also strong as Addie as it’s easy to empathize with her anger when she finds out about Slade’s mercenary life – especially when it basically destroys their family. Even the villain roster is nice as their designs are simple, but easily standout. The rivalries that Deathstroke has with Jackal, Bronze Tiger (Delbert Hunt), and Lady Shiva (voiced by Panta Mosleh) are also a lot of fun and the fights between them are just plain epic. It’s also nice to see some of the background elements, like lighting and settings, contains comic dots as it really makes it feel like a Deathstroke comic is happening before your very eyes.
As for the story, there’re definitely compelling elements to it, especially seeing Deathstroke deal with family matters, but it does showcase some weaknesses. The film definitely shows a more charismatic, anti-hero side to Deathstroke than we’re used to seeing and him trying to deal with his two worlds colliding is actually very compelling for the most part. Seeing him be a loving father who’s desires to be a shining, honorable knight for his son carries over into his mercenary killings as he only kills people who use their power for corruption and destruction is kind of interesting. It certainly makes him a much more viable protagonist and allows for a more unique emotional connection with the character.
Addie’s involvement throughout the film also adds to his two worlds crashing together as she creates this sense of tension and acts as a strong conscious for Deathstroke. She’s not afraid to tell him when he’s wrong or of him in general, so she’s one of the only people who can get through to Slade to see the errors in his actions and holds him accountable for them. It’s a very interesting relationship and I love that she’s just as strong a fighter as Deathstroke. Add in some solid plot twists connected to the new Queen of H.I.V.E. (voiced by Faye Mata) and how Deathstroke’s enhanced genetics has affected Jason and there’s a very interesting tale here that shows Deathstroke in an interesting, anti-hero role.
However, a lot of the strengths are unfortunately weighed down by the incredibly bland dialogue this film has to offer. A lot of times, it’s like the film has to overexplain things through long-winded conversations just to get to the last line of dialogue that could’ve perfectly explained things on its own. The dialogue also constantly feels the need to point things out, like the names of characters we’ve already met, repeatedly and it totally take you out of the moment. Even some of the narration over flashbacks seems unnecessary since it’s just explaining stuff that we can see clearly with our eyes. Also, there’s a completely pointless twist thrown in at the end to give Jackal’s motivations against Deathstroke more weight, but it kind of just takes away the simplicity of Jackal and overcomplicates things for no reason.
While it’s bland dialogue may weigh down some of it’s storytelling strengths, Knights and Dragons contains the perfect kind of blood-soaked action that’ll please any fan of Deathstroke and a strong enough story that paints the iconic DC character a compassionate anti-hero. It’s incredibly fun to watch and no doubt sets up the possibly for some more Deathstroke animated outings that could be great to see.