Recently, there has been a growing desire from fans on social media for more Deathstroke in the DCEU, and while it’s not a DCEU film, Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons may fill that void of wanting more of DC’s mercenary. Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons (The Movie), which is based on the CW Seed animated series of the same name, explores Slade Wilson, aka. Deathstroke’s battle against the terrorist-like organisation H.I.V.E. In addition to this, Wilson has to battle his past and watch his personal and professional lives crossover, while finding a way to save lives, including his families.
The film’s opening is like a bullet flying out of a gun at hyper speed. It’s a fantastic thrill ride full of blood, emotion, and in and around the action, it effectively supplies the audience with a lot of important information. It provides the backstory (mostly inspired by DC’s New Earth) of how Wilson became Deathstroke in a medical experiment that heightened his strength, agility, and durability. Plus, very early on, the film takes an interesting twist that changes what initially felt like a much more basic and straightforward narrative.
Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons’ strongest element is undoubtedly in its presentation of the title character. Michael Chiklis does an excellent job delivering the dialogue, beautifully balancing Deathstroke’s ruthlessness and Slade Wilson’s fatherly instincts. Also, the character is appropriately flawed, as he is often a villain in the DC universe. Even when he believes he’s doing the right thing by honouring his mercenary code of killing the “bad guys,” he’s still knowingly and unknowingly hurting his wife and child. He captivates you in every scene, as he’s always battling these different parts of his life, and it’s beautifully highlighted in the opening, where one moment, Wilson reads The Knights and Dragons book to his son, and the next moment he’s cutting people’s limbs off.
Considering Deathstroke is the most enjoyable part of this film, that’s part of the reason why the middle of this story falls apart. When it feels like we’re on the verge of seeing Wilson’s character do what he does best and go on a killing spree, action that would have been justified by the storyline, Wilson almost takes a backseat as the narrative continues to unfold. Instead of witnessing action fans expect and want from Deathstroke, we get far too many plot twists and an overabundance of information that feels like it should be spread over two or three films. It derails the momentum created by the opening twenty minutes and makes the film rely on dialogue instead of action.
Knights & Dragons’ climax is certainly a lot more entertaining, and while it’s not as strong as the opening of the film, it does rectify some of the errors the film makes in its second act. There is a fun fight scene, topped off by a nice symbolic retelling of The Knights and Dragons book that Wilson read to his son Joseph at the beginning of the story.
Overall, despite a clustered and rather dull middle portion, a well written and engaging Deathstroke character mixed in with some entertaining and sometimes gruesome action scenes ensures there is enough to keep fans entertained. However, there is a feeling of disappointment as initially, you feel you’re about to get a John Wick Esq. story full of action. But instead of a smooth and thrilling ride, Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons is a film that eventually runs out of steam, and thankfully manages to restore some of its early quality to its final thirty minutes.
Dir: Sung Jin Ahn
Scr: J. M. DeMatteis
Cast: Michael Chiklis, Sasha Alexander, Chris Jai Alex, Faye Mata, Griffin Puatu
Prd: Sam Register, Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter
Runtime: 87 Minutes
Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie will be available in Blu-ray on August 17.