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Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie (2020)
VOD Reviews

Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie (2020)

A lackluster DC animated effort that looks and feels every bit as episodic as it was intended.

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Many years ago, soldier Slade Wilson (Michael Chiklis) became a guinea pig for the government’s super soldier program. They thought they failed and the project was terminated, but it actually granted Slade super powers: heightened speed, reflex, strength, reaction time, agility, and healing factor. During those old days, Slade cheated on his girlfriend Adeline (Sasha Alexander), a fact that Adeline never forgot and still holds against Slade even now, when they have a young son. Slade goes on “business trips” where he’s actually a mercenary called Deathstroke.

On one such trip, another mercenary called The Jackal (Chris Jai Alex) breaks into Slade’s home, beats up Adeline, and kidnaps their son Joseph (Asher Bishop) – all in an attempt to convince Slade to join a terrorist group called H.I.V.E.

10 years later… Slade is still active as Deathstroke but no longer has any contact with Adeline or a now-teenaged Joseph (Griffin Puatu). That is, until he gets word that H.I.V.E. is back and have kidnapped the mute teen who turns out to now be a metahuman with incredible psychic powers! Slade will have to go up against his past enemies and some new ones – like Lady Shiva (Panta Mosleh) in an attempt to rescue his son and take down H.I.V.E. Queen (Faye Mata). But he’ll be up against innumerable odds and not everything is as it seems.

Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie… isn’t actually a movie! It may be marketed as a feature film, but that isn’t the case. It was originally a short-form TV series that aired on CW Seed earlier this year, much like Freedom Fighters: The Ray and Constantine: City of Demons – the latter of which also got distributed as a feature, despite its episodic origins.

The series, I mean “movie”, was written by J.M. DeMatteis (Superman: Red Son, Justice League Dark, Constantine: City of Demons) and directed by Sung Jin Ahn, a storyboard artist who’s also directed a couple episodes of animated children’s shows.

This “movie” feels exactly like the series it was meant to be as there’s plenty packed into its deceptively brief 87-minute runtime. Chiefly, there’s the Deathstroke origin story, a [spoiler alert] Rose Wilson origin story, a [spoiler alert] Jericho origin story, government assassination, terrorism, familial drama galore, and a ton of really cool and bloody fight sequences. Somehow, despite all this stuff going on… I honestly found myself bored! It felt like I was trying to binge-watch a full series even though it was less than 90 minutes.

And I felt every one of those 87 minutes, constantly hitting pause to see how much left I’d have to endure. Despite all the familial drama, it all fell flat. I felt like I was supposed to care about all the complicated connections, but I just couldn’t.

The animation style felt a little too childish, despite the R-rated content. Overly stylized, it looks more like the cheesy new TMNT animation rather than the clean, hard strokes and lines we’ve become accustomed to in the better DC Animated Universe features. The fight scenes were cool, but the rest of the flick lacked the same realism, a definite step down from what we’ve become used to. At least the voice talent was on point all around, but even these performances weren’t enough to save this.

It’s hard to recommend spending your hard-earned money on Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie. It’s feels every bit as episodic as intended, and if you’re truly curious the first ½ is available on the free CW Seed app, and maybe Warner Bros. will release the second half eventually. Or maybe not. If you really need to know what happens afterward (which you might, as it ends on a literal cliffhanger – like on the actual edge of a cliff!) then you could just rent this to see it through. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

About the Author: Travis Seppala