DC supervillain Deathstroke gets a bloody, but melodramatic makeover from Warner Bros. Animation. Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie was originally conceived as an animated series for the CW Seed digital network. One episode was released before the shorts were edited into a feature film. Superb action scenes and a fairly compelling storyline are muddled by terrible dialogue. The narrative feels like a soap opera for long stretches. A stratospheric climax adds a shot of adrenaline to end on a high note.
Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie begins with a coup on the island of San Miguel. The feared mercenary cuts through swaths of soldiers to reach his target. His eventual goal is the first of several surprises. Deathstroke pulls lead slugs from his bullet-ridden body. The wounds rapidly heal. He calls his wife, Addie (Sasha Alexander), to read a bedtime story to his son. Joseph (Griffin Puatu) is enamored by stories of knights and dragons. Addie was his former commander in the special forces. She has no idea that her husband, Slade Wilson, is the fabled one-eyed killer. She doesn't know his Army medical experiments worked. That night, Addie and Joseph are visited by the Jackal (Chris Jai Alex).
Slade Wilson returns home to find his wife beaten and their son kidnapped. The Jackal wants Deathstroke to work for the terrorist organization H.I.V.E. Joseph is their leverage. Deathstroke's rescue attempt has catastrophic results. Years later, Joseph is targeted again by H.I.V.E. but with a different purpose. A new leader, the H.I.V.E. Queen (Faye Mata), has made an intriguing discovery about Joseph's abilities. Deathstroke must again fight to save his son. The mission to destroy H.I.V.E. leads to a shocking revelation. A secret from Slade Wilson's past has come back to haunt him.
Deathstroke plays the hero game by his own rules. He saves trafficked girls, but will indiscriminately shred anyone who gets in his way. Slade Wilson is not the comic villain or baddie from CW's Arrowverse and Teen Titans. He's a mercenary with a sliver of heart in this incarnation. Thankfully he's just as lethal. Director Sung Jin Ahn (Niko and the Sword of Light) crafts ass-kicking fight scenes. Deathstroke's initial showdown with the Jackal and Bronze Tiger (Delbert Hunt) is an early treat. The high-flying finale is brilliantly animated with vertigo inducing dogfights. Action junkies are certainly getting a fix here.
This latest DC Comics animated movie kneecaps the thrilling action with cringeworthy dialogue. Slade Wilson deals with multiple family problems. They are the underlying themes of the plot. Let's just say he's not winning father of the year. The interactions between Deathstroke, his offspring, and Addie are poorly written. The film becomes a sappy superhero soap opera. There's also an issue with characters constantly explaining themselves. Every battle begins with a long-winded monologue. Screenwriter J. M. DeMatteis (Constantine: City of Demons, Justice League Dark) is normally a sure bet. His previous DC films, usually directed by Jay Oliva, were much crisper. His first collaboration with director Sung Jin Ahn isn't as successful. There may be a disparity between what was written and eventually ended up on screen.
Deathstroke gets a mixed response as a protagonist. But the action scenes alone warrant a recommendation. Deathstroke: Knights & Dragons: The Movie is a production of Warner Bros. Animation, DC Entertainment, and Berlanti Productions. It is available now for digital download with a DVD/Blu-ray release from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on August 18th.