Black Knight tries hard to be a Korean Mad Max. In fact, that’s what the webtoon/manhwa this live-action Netflix series is based on basically did, and did it well on top of that. Alas, it seems like the director/writer had an attack of hubris and assumed that he could do better than the creator of that webtoon. Not only did he make substantial and often nonsensical changes to the story, but said changes come off as misogynistic and turns great characters into bland, unlikable stereotypes to boot. All in all, it feels like he took an interesting concept, and basically crashed it hard. As hard as the main character Sa-wol crashes into…just about everything, really.
Black Knight: Details
Black Knight is a South Korean science fiction post-apocalyptic dystopian action drama live-action series. It’s not an original work, by the way. It’s the live-action adaptation of the webtoon Delivery Knight by Lee Yoon-gyun. Project 318 is the production company behind this live-action series.
Cho Ui-seok (Master, Cold Eyes, The World of Silence) directed Black Knight, and is also the writer responsible for adapting it from the webtoon. Primary (AKA: Choi Dong-hoon) composed the music for this live-action series.
Black Knight features Kim Woo-bin as 5-8, Kang Yoo-seok as this series’ version of Sa-wol, Esom as Seol-ah, and Song Seung-heon as Ryu Seok. Other notable cast includes Lee Joo-seung, Jung Eun-seong, and Lee Sang-jin as Sa-wol’s trio of unnamed refugee friends (you can tell just how important they are); Kim Eui-sung as the unnamed old mechanic who’s the closest thing Sa-wol has to a grandpa (and still has no name), Jin Kyung as the unnamed president, Nam Kyung-eup as Chairman Ryu, and Roh Yoon-seo as Sa-wol’s little sister Seul-ah. Don’t worry. Seul-ah isn’t important to the story either despite having a name.
Where to Watch
Black Knight will make its grand debut on May 12, 2023. You can watch it only on Netflix. If you want to read the webtoon this live-action series is based on though, then you can do so for free on Webtoons. Personally, I would recommend the webtoon over the live-action series. You’ll see in a bit.
Black Knight: Synopsis
In a dystopian future devastated by air pollution, the survival of humanity depends on the Black Knights – and they’re far from your average deliverymen.
Black Knight: The Good
Black Knight does have some good points. The set pieces do look nice and atmospheric. VFX Studio Westworld (who is Korea’s top visual effects team) did a wonderful job with the post-apocalyptic set pieces and desert environments. You feel as though you’re in a desert world after the end when you watch this show.
Some of the action scenes in Black Knight even manage to be entertaining. Those few action scenes just manage to keep you from being bored. I do have to give some kudos for the car chase scene. The vehicular combat choreography wasn’t too bad, and even manages to get your heart pumping for a bit. Now if only the rest of the action scenes are that good.
Black Knight: The Bad
Alas, there are so many things wrong with Black Knight.
To start with: Cho Ui-seok made the decision to gender-bend Sa-wol. In the original webtoon, Sa-wol is female. In this live-action adaptation though, Sa-wol is male. Why? I have no idea other than assuming that Cho Ui-seok decided that girls can’t be good action heroes. It’s not just the gender change though. The live-action adapation’s Sa-wol is practically a completely different character who just happens to share the same name as the webtoon’s main character. He doesn’t have her heterochromia, he has completely different motivations for wanting to be a Knight than the webtoon’s Sa-wol, and he even has a radically different personality than his female incarnation. I don’t understand why Cho Ui-seok felt the need to replace Sa-wol with his own OC, but it’s a very bad-looking change here no matter what his reason is.
On top of that, the male Sa-wol in Black Knight isn’t even a particularly likable character on his own merits. He’s trying too hard to be stupid. He comes off as acting like he’s stupid for the sake of the story instead of having his stupidity be part of his character in appropriate situations. Even worse, his 3 friends seem to exist only to make him look intelligent. They don’t have names, and they purposefully act like complete gibbering morons around Sa-wol just so Sa-wol looks decently intelligent compared to them. It’s like Sa-wol’s friends are satellite characters that exist only to characterize him. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I wish to never see it again. And that’s not even going into a character being fridged to develop Sa-wol’s character. No spoilers, but it comes off as very bad writing there.
The mentor character, 5-8, is just as bad. Cho Ui-seok tries to make 5-8 come off as suave and cool. He just comes off as a boring jerk to me. 5-8 feels both bland and unlikable to me due to how hyper-serious he is, and his actions throughout the series, especially towards Sa-wol. He’s a terrible mentor figure to him, and he doesn’t really change.
The action scenes in Black Knight also feel…bland and boring for the most part. They don’t feel entertaining for the most part outside of a few rare moments, and it weirdly enough varies from scene to scene. Sometimes the fight scenes are too short or lack flair. Other times, the fight scenes are too over-the-top and feel too stereotypically “action movie” to make sense for the scene. It feels like the fight sequences don’t mesh with the story all that well.
In short: just read the webtoon. You’ll find it a much better story than this hack of an adaptation.
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