14th Aug2020

‘Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Features the voices of: Michael Chiklis, Sasha Alexander, Griffin Puatu, Chris Jai Alex, Faye Mata | Written by J.M. DeMatteis | Directed by Sung Jin Ahn

Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons, from Warner Bros. Blue Ribbon Content shingle (the folks behind other digital DC content, including Constantine, Freedom Fighters: The Ray and Vixen), rather than the usual Warner Bros. Animation department, is a deep dive into the complicated backstory of one of DCā€™s most controversial characters, Deathstroke.

Sometimes villain, sometimes anti-hero, and always deadly, mercenary and master assassin Slade Wilson – aka Deathstroke – leads two lives: one as the relentless killer known as Deathstroke, and the other as a dedicated family man. When these worlds collide, forced together by the vicious terror group known as H.I.V.E., it is the killer in Slade who must fight to save his loved ones, as well as what remains of himself. With his soul torn apart and his young son held captive, Deathstroke will have to atone for the sins of his past to fuel the battles of his future!

Originally debuting as a series of 12 animated shorts on CW’s Seed online service, Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons is a completely expanded, totally R-rated, feature film – packed with enough blood, guts and violence to wipe the old New 52 continuity of the previous DC animated movies and reboot the DC animated universe in a whole new direction… Yes, they may be saying the upcoming Superman: Man of Tomorrow is the start of the new ongoing DCAU but this is a much better jumping on point – offering a fresh look at a character who has been pretty much under-utilised in DC’s animated features of the past but who, like another almost-indestructible mercenary who shall remain nameless, has a huge cult following and has been the centre of a myriad of self-titled comics over the years.

And with good reason, Deathstroke/Slade Wilson is one of DC’s most complicated characters – more of an anti-hero, more of a dichotomy, than Batman and Bruce Wayne, Deathstroke, as seen here, is literally a man of two halves (hence the mask he wears too); and those halves play out fantastically within this movies almost 90-minute running time.

The set-up, with Slade Wilson as family man fighting, literally, to save his family, tells the audience about one half of the character, complete with the struggle to be both father, faux business man and killer at the fore. But when that portion of the story is over and we skip forward in time to find Deathstroke chasing his grown-up son, now under the influence of the H.I.V.E. queen, all bets are, essentially, off – the story dropping by the wayside and the film becoming more of an all-out action-packed bloodbath, really earning the 15 rating (hey, if this was a live-action movie this would have most-definitely been a very hard 18 rating!)

The fact that Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons focuses more on brutality and blood-letting should really tell you all you need to know about where this film stands compared to those animated movies that have come before it. Everything you know about the dark, gritty, downbeat DC animated movies of the past are gone here. Yes, whilst the animation style looks similar, there’s a clear focus on moving away from the sheer darkness of those films – here the darkness is merely engrained in the films plot rather than its visuals!

With a fantastic voice cast, especially Michael Chiklis as the titular character and Sasha Alexander as the voice of Deathstroke’s wife Adeline Wilson; Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons is – dare I say it – more fun than the majority of the DC animated movies of the past, capturing the feel of the character and the spirit of the comic (as far as I’ve read) on which its based. Making this a must-see for Deathstroke fans. And there’s enough new content here to make this worth checking out for even those that actually saw the original animated series on which this is based.

Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons is out now on digital, DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

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