Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Ubisoft Film & Television
Developer: Bobbypills
Release Date: Oct. 19, 2023


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TV Series Review - 'Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix'

by Adam Pavlacka on Oct. 19, 2023 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix is a Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon-inspired animated series where, branded an enemy of the state, a cyborg supersoldier struggles to find a cause worth fighting for in a dystopian society where nothing is what it seems.

After finishing all six episodes of "Captain Laserhawk," my first reaction was, "Wow, I can't believe Ubisoft let Adi Shankar pull this off." My second thought was, "This is not what anyone is expecting."

With "Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix," Shankar and his team have created a story that is simultaneously nihilistic and hopeful, combining classic video game tropes with absurdity and social commentary. It's an eclectic mix that doesn't sound like it should work, but it does.

The story at the core of "Captain Laserhawk" is initially presented as a classic good-versus-evil tale, but it quickly expands beyond the initial premise. Clearly inspired by both Japanese anime and Western adult animation like "Aeon Flux," this is not a show for kids. Shankar is not afraid to be bloody or violent when needed, and that includes killing off characters (good and bad) if the situation calls for it.

Without getting into spoiler territory, "Captain Laserhawk" is at its strongest when it dives into the motivations of its characters. Interesting situations arise from analyzing what drives them to take the actions they do and how those actions compare to their stated goals. At times, "Captain Laserhawk" is a study in ethics on a personal level and on a macro level. Fictional versions of real-life issues, such as immigrant labor abuse and the working class versus state actors, are also woven into the story when there is something to be said.

There are many memorable characters to cross the screen in "Captain Laserhawk," but the one that stands out the most is Bullfrog, the frog assassin. Living by the assassin's code, Bullfrog is incredibly consistent in his decisions and his care for his fellow teammates. He can be incredibly efficient at fighting (and killing), but those actions don't define him, even if it comes at a great personal cost.

"Wait, did he just say frog assassin?" Yes, I did. This is where the Remix part of the title comes in.

"Captain Laserhawk" includes references to (and characters from) dozens of Ubisoft games, but none of these are the characters you know. They are all alternate versions of fan favorites, tweaked to fit the concept of the story. In the first two episodes alone, you'll encounter references to Rayman, Pey'j and Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, Marcus and DedSec from the Watch Dogs games, Rainbow Six, Ghosts, Rabbids (as kaiju), Assassin's Creed, Just Dance, and the Far Cry games. It's likely that I missed a few references, since that was a recollection off the top of my head.

Seeing how these franchises are remixed and reinvented is part of the fun. The essence of what comprises familiar characters is usually still present in the show, but that doesn't mean you know what choices they are going to make as the story plays out.

Along with the remixed characters, "Captain Laserhawk" does the same with the visuals. How action is portrayed shifts through a number of different lenses, including styles that mimic classic video games. A character selection screen can represent our characters changing outfits, while an overhead view of boxes and simple sprites is used for sneaking onto a base. There's even a hacking screen that looks like it was inspired by Tempest.

Where "Captain Laserhawk" can stumble a bit is in how it presents backstory. Major beats are covered in detail, and key information is always shown, but it can sometimes be brief and easy to miss. Yes, things have to get trimmed for time when you're in the editing booth, but at the same time, there are points where Shankar may have trimmed the fat a bit too close to the bone, and I found myself wanting more. Perhaps we'll see some of those shallower areas filled in if a second season is greenlit.

"Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix" plays with conventions and subverts expectations from the very first episode, and it doesn't stop until the final credits roll. Not every moment hits with perfection, but the missteps are easy enough to overlook. This is the kind of sheer, unbridled creativity that we love to see. Shankar isn't afraid to take risks, and it pays off with "Captain Laserhawk." Now, when do we get a stand-alone Assassin's Creed: Bullfrog game? I'm not even joking here.

Score: 8.0/10

Editor's Note: "Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix" is a six-episode series on Netflix. It is rated TV-MA for language, nudity, smoking, and violence.

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