- Directed by Sun Jin Ahn
- August 4, 2020
- Slade Wilson / Deathstroke-Michael Chiklis
- Adeline “Addie” Kane-Sasha Alexander
- Jackal-Chris Jai Alex
- H.I.V.E. Queen / Rose-Faye Mata
- Joseph Wilson / Jericho-Griffin Puatu
- Young Joseph Wilson-Asher Bishop
- President Nicholas-Imari Williams
- William Wintergreen-Colin Salmon
- Bronze Tiger-Delbert Hunt
- Lady Shiva-Panta Mosleh
- Kapoor-Noshir Dalal
- General Suarez-Castulo Guerra
- Secretary of State-Minae Noji
Slade Wilson is an individual that tried to lead two lives: one as a family man and the other as an assassin. Now the mistakes of his past have come back to haunt him, and he must set things right.
Deathstroke Knights & Dragons: The Movie was an absolutely amazing DC animated movie. It is heavy on the action and great on the characterization and is a real tease for what we could get if there was ever a live action Deathstroke film.
The style of the animation at times alludes to the comic book origin of the character. There are points where you can see dots in the background much like you could in the old-school comics before printing got high-tech. It is an interesting touch.
This is not a simple story of a bad guy forced to do a good thing or a good guy doing the right thing against very dark people. Rather it is about an individual confronting his past and forced to live up to the image he constructed for himself as well as those around him. To his family he was a businessman but in reality he was an assassin with a strong moral code. He is willing to kill people, but he will not let the truly despicable run unchecked.
Slade Wilson has failed his wife and his son and he carries that guilt around though he cannot quite understand why they blame him. He has compartmentalized his life thinking that the portion of his life as an assassin will have no impact on the portion of his life as a family man. He believes that in his core and is forced to deal with the reality that such a thing is impossible. His denial has sent his life on a downward spiral and left his family traumatized.
This story is framed as a fantasy tale which gives it an interesting feel. The story is book ended with bits interspersed during the run of a story Slade liked to read his son Joseph about a valiant knight fighting dragons and saving the land. It is an interesting creative choice that helps to bring it a little further above just being a very violent animated action film.
DC is generally good at making better than average direct to video animated films. This is better than most. They pack plenty of story without over stuffing things. Deathstroke comes off as a dangerous individual to his enemies but as a protector to those whom he cares about. Interestingly this was supposed to be a web series but on CW Seed but near as I can tell only one episode was released with the rest being compiled into this film. That may explain a greater emphasis on characterization than on action.
Deathstroke Knights & Dragons: The Movie does an amazing job of establishing the relationships. We get an especially good understanding for the dynamic between Slade and his ex-wife Adeline “Addie” Kane. They still care for each other, but Slade’s list of transgressions is to many for Addie to forgive. Interestingly in the context of the story Addie makes her own serious mistakes when it comes to their son Joseph. He felt abandoned by his father and she sends him off to an overseas boarding school which is essentially abandoning him as well.
In Slade’s world his former wife is probably the one person who can do anything to him. Prior to his enhancements she was his physical superior and he knows it. And even at this point she is still capable of at least handling herself for a while against him as demonstrated in the park scene.
Slade’s problems revolve around Jackal who serves a terrorist organization called H.I.V.E. who is a group with broad and far-ranging plans. His refusal to work for them TWICE and easily dispatching their operatives is what causes the plot to get going. In off camera moments he has been killing any member of the organization that he came across and single handedly brought H.I.V.E. to its knees. Unfortunately this intersects with an affair he had early in his career.
What is a hero without an Obi-Wan or an Alfred Pennyworth? In this case it is closer to Alfred and that comes from William Wintergreen. In the context of the comics he is a mentor with much more combat experience than Deathstroke but here he comes off more as just the guy that hooks him up with employment as he occasionally reluctantly tags along. There was some potential in the character it was ultimately wasted.
My knowledge of the character of Deathstroke prior to this was extremely limited. I first heard of him around the time the character of The Punisher was everywhere in Marvel Comics and Deathstroke struck me as just a Punisher rip off with cooler stuff. If what they have here is any indication of the depth and complexity of the character, I was seriously misguided. We have a very intriguing and dynamic dark central figure who is more than a killing machine.
DC has an extremely large and varied roster of characters to draw from. It is very easy to do a Batman or Superman movie and a large portion of their direct to video animated catalog focuses on just those two characters with the occasional Justice League film tossed in. Deathstroke is a prime example of why they should rummage further through the roster and produce films with some of their other characters. Truthfully though I do not think we would have gotten this film if it were not for the character being in so many DC television shows or even his appearance in Justice League (pick your version). I hope they take this as a hint and dig further and pull up other ones.
Knights & Dragons goes for a serious R rating but does not display its gore and blood just because it can. I am not against blood and guts or anything else in a film so long as it helps tell the story. Do not be gratuitous or just plain unnecessary. I would like to see more animated features that are action films with violent characters not shy away from blood but only when needed.
Deathstroke Knights & Dragons: The Movie is a fabulous entry into the DC direct to video catalog. It has a great story and superior characterization and just a fantastic animation style. This is definitely a watch it!