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Animated Movie Review: "Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons" (2020)

Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.

"Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons" official blu-ray cover.

"Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons" official blu-ray cover.

Quick Info

Director: Sung Jin Ahn
Studio: Warner Brothers Animation
Runtime: 87 minutes
Release: August 18, 2020
Availability: On DVD and blu-ray, watch shorter version on CWSeed, watch full movie on HBOMax, rent on digital

This Version of the Character of Deathstroke Is Portrayed How He’s Written in Bad Fan Fiction

The portrayal of Deathstroke is written by J. M. DeMatteis and he does write for DC Comics but has never written a comic with Deathstroke in it, wrote the script for this movie. In this film, this portrayal of Slade is similar to how he is portrayed in fan fiction for the Teen Titans cartoon. This movie doesn’t portray him the way he is in the comics either. While this version of Slade Wilson is manipulative, it also shows him as being repentant at the very end of the film, and repentant this character is not.

The movie is made for people that have a passing knowledge of the character, either from the Teen Titans cartoon Teen Titans: The Judas Contract movie, Titans, Young Justice, Batman: Arkham Origins or Arrow, but those adaptations of the character always make him more sympathetic than he actually is, barring the Teen Titans cartoon.

The writers of many of these adaptations tend to make him more sympathetic than he is and that’s because Slade Wilson has the Rule of Cool going for him as the reason why many casual DC fans like him.

The main reason fans like him is because he’s a villain, not a hero. Many comic writers do write him as an anti-hero, because of the Rule of Cool. I have seen some complaints that he’s being used to bash the military because he used to be an army veteran, but he was created as an evil counterpart to Captain America, not necessarily to bash the military.

This movie toned down any bad things he does by making him kill “bad” people and have the results be “good” things, like killing a dictator or a human trafficker. The only people he kills are “bad” people, and portraying him as a better person because he’s killing bad people isn’t how this character works at all.

Sure he’ll kill bad people, but he’s been known to fight the Justice League and some of the big-name heroes as well. He’ll fight alongside the good guys if you pay him to. The movie just made him more “heroic” than he actually is and it’s a bad portrayal of the character that looks cool.

Deathstroke Knights & Dragons: The Movie | Official Trailer 2020

Deathstroke confronts General Suarez.

Deathstroke confronts General Suarez.

The Animation Like a Cheap Imitation of Anime, Runs on Rule of Cool

The movie was animated by Blue Ribbon Content and it looks okay. It has a nice animation style that is interesting and the fight scenes have cool choreography.

The art style does imitate anime, but it’s just that, an imitation and anime has handled DC Comics characters much better in other adaptations of their properties, such as Batman: Gotham Knight (2008).

The fights are cool but there are issues with the movie that has to do with characterization so these fights are very one-sided in having the protagonist win without much effort for most of the movie, and because the characters are out of character, the fight scenes are affected by the bad writing for this movie.

The Voice Acting Is Decent but It’s Nothing Special

Michael Chiklis voiced Slade Wilson/Deathstroke and he did a good job voicing the character. He has that gruff, low voice that people usually associate with Slade, but the writing diminishes his performance because this character should have better writing, but he did a good job in his voice role.

Sasha Alexander did was okay as Adeline Kane. Most of her performance was her character yelling and complaining but considering what the character has to deal with, her character’s reasons for it make sense. She did a good job in her role and sounded okay.

Chris Jai Alex did an okay job voicing Jackal. He did sound imposing but unfortunately, his character turned out to be a cliché villain with a cliché motivation. He did a decent job with what he was given but the writing for this movie could be so much better than what it was.

Faye Mata did a good job voicing the H.I.V.E. Queen, but I did enjoy her voice work in the Netflix exclusive anime B: The Beginning (2018). She also had one of the few characters with interesting motivation and I liked her voice acting in this animated film.

Griffin Puatu is good as Joseph Wilson/Jericho. He did put a lot of emotion into his character when you hear his thoughts and I liked his performance. He was a good choice for this character, considering this is the first time we’ve heard Jericho’s “voice” in an adaptation.

Overall, this cast is decent with a few performances that stand out more than others. It’s a decent effort but won’t blow you away when it comes to voice acting. I’ve heard better voice casts in other DC Comics’ animated adaptations

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Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons Official Soundtrack | The Shining Knight - Kevin Riepl | WaterTower

The Soundtrack Is Forgettable

Kevin Riepl’s soundtrack is painfully generic and I don’t remember much about it. It just sounds like a generic action movie soundtrack. I’ve heard better soundtracks in other animated movies from DC Comics, and it’s disappointing, like the rest of this film.

The soundtrack is utterly forgettable and adds to the generic action movie that fails as an adaptation of an interesting villain. The music and the entire movie are dull and uninteresting.

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Deathstroke fighting H.I.V.E. agents.

Deathstroke fighting H.I.V.E. agents.

Parental Warning

This movie has stylized blood, gore, and short scenes of sexual content. It also has stronger profanity, warranting the “R” rating but mainly for the violence and adult content.

This Movie Is a Mess of Bad Character Writing, Everyone Is Out of Character

The writing for this movie is so bad, it runs on Rule of Cool and if you don’t know anything about the characters you wouldn’t know that everyone is out of character, except for maybe Adeline, Joseph, and Rose.

Deathstroke is extremely out of character out of this stupid need to make him more “heroic” than he actually is. If anyone decides to pick up a Deathstroke comic after seeing the movie, they will be shocked at how unrepentant the character is. He knows he’s a bad person but he likes going on his “adventures” anyway.

He knows being Deathstroke ruins his family life but he keeps going back to it. That’s just how his character is, and in the movie, he is the complete opposite. This is a great disservice to the character because fans don’t like him because he’s a hero, they like him because he’s an unrepentant villain.

The overreliance on violence to make this a “mature” title is all so cliché. Sure he’s a supervillain and he fights people, but this movie is trying so hard to look “mature” it just looks like it’s trying to be mature when it’s very juvenile, and this film reads like a Teen Titans or Titans fanfic version of Deathstroke.

This movie is what people think Deathstroke is, not what the character truly is, and that makes a very interesting character turn into something that is very boring, and fans of Slade Wilson deserve a better adaption of the character, heck, at least Teen Titans: The Judas Contract (2017) kept him as a villain!

Slade would not change his mind about murdering his target unless he’s paid not to murder them, it’s something that happened in an arc of Nightwing’s comics, Dick Grayson paid him not to murder a target, and he didn’t kill her. The only thing that Slade Wilson cares about is his reputation and his money, and there is none of that in this film.

Fans of the comics will be disappointed by this iteration of Slade Wilson, and I’m very glad I didn’t pay a lot of money to see this movie.

Adeline Kane Is Not Black Widow!

Adeline Kane was an action girl in the comics, but mainly in her backstory, she does work for the government sometimes in the comics, but she’s not a major character with her own series. This movie would make you think she’s Black Widow or something, and she’s not.

She is active in the Deathstroke comics, but mainly behind-the-scenes trying to ruin Slade’s life. In the comics when she did try to save her son, she enlisted Nightwing to do it. She doesn’t like working with Slade and this movie shows her willingly working with him when she never really did after she learned he was “Deathstroke”.

DC trying to turn her into Black Widow’s counterpart is really weird when she doesn’t even have her own comic series and just tries to give her screentime for the sake of giving her screentime.

The other characters are generic and forgettable, which is a shame because their comic book counterparts are very interesting characters to read.

Deathstroke fights Bronze Tiger.

Deathstroke fights Bronze Tiger.

Only Casual Fans Will Enjoy This Movie, Diehard Fans Want the Real Deathstroke

If you vaguely know about the character of Deathstroke, you’ll enjoy Deathstroke: Knights and Dragons (2020). If you know even the basics of the character, you’ll know how out of character he is in this animated movie. This movie makes an interesting character into a boring cliché and it’s very disappointing because Slade is an interesting and complex villain, not some anti-hero that runs solely on Rule of Cool.

The story is cliché and dumbed down for audiences and has no nuance for any of the characters. This is a mediocre movie that’s only entertaining if you want mindless action sequences and disappointing characterization.

Quick Summary

What Works:What Doesn't Work:

The premise of the story is interesting

Feels like a cheap imitation of anime

Nice art style

Characters are extremely out of character compared to their comic book counterparts

Good voice acting

Lackluster soundtrack

Relies on strong language, over-the-top violence, gore and sexual content to get the "R" rating and tries too hard to be "mature"

My Grade: D

Deathstroke: knights and Dragons (2020) is a fanfic that somehow managed to get animated. It’s a cheap imitation of anime, and I’ve seen better anime adaptations of DC Comics’ properties. It’s painfully cliché and doesn’t have anything that makes Deathstroke an interesting character.

The animation style is also polarizing because it’s imitating an animation style that is leagues better than what they’re trying to do. The action sequences look cool but rely on blood and gore to sell this as an “adult” movie, besides the brief sexual content in the movie and strong language to get it an “R” rating.

This movie was trying way too hard to get people to like Slade, but people like him as a character, but not for the reasons this movie portrays.

I’m happy I saved my money and didn’t purchase this movie because I found a GooglePlay movie rental special that let me rent a movie for 99₵ so it cost me very little to see the movie, and since I only wanted to see it once, it was worth that much for me to rent it. The current cost to rent the movie is usually $2.99 and while that’s not bad if you can find a better price to rent it, rent it for less if you can.

It’s only worth your time if you like the character but you might be disappointed by this adaptation of Deathstroke as a character, especially since he doesn’t’ have the Teen Titans to bounce off of, and H.I.V.E. is a very boring and cliché villain group for him to take down.

If you have a subscription to HBOMax and you’re curious about the movie just watch it there, that way you don’t have to waste your money buying or renting the movie when you can stream it there.

My Rating

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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