Black Knight is a South Korean series airing on Netflix which is a live-action adaptation of Lee Yun-kyun’s Webtoon Delivery Knight. The series is directed by Cho Ui-seok who’s best known for his works with Cold Eyes (2013) and Master (2016).
Gasping for Air
Set in a dystopian version of Korea devastated by air pollution, the survival of humanity depends on your not so average delivery men called the Black Knights. This devastation had wiped out the majority of the Korean population, which results in the survivors to wear respirators and rely on the Black Knights to provide them with supplies such as fresh oxygen in order to survive.
Before moving exclusively to WEBTOON, the webseries was initially published under the name Taekbaegisa (Delivery Knight) which started back in 2016 and ended in 2019. I enjoyed my time with the original title, so when I heard that there was a Netflix adaptation, needless to say I was interested.
Despite only having six episodes, Black Knight was able to include in the majority of the Webtoon’s intriguing core elements. However, there were actually many changes made to the overall plot and storyline. The biggest change is Sa-wol, who was originally a regular female office worker in the Webtoon, is now a male military major in the adaptation.
Since I’m usually a stickler for the original source materials when it comes to adaptations, I was looking for flaws. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t stick to the original material, and because of these modifications, even the order of events were altered. Fortunately, these numerous changes that were made had paid off, and I was thoroughly invested in the series.
The series is full of amazing story-building, action, and suspense even without following the original work. Black Knights also tackle some of the many problems that our society is currently dealing with such as Human rights crises, the Society Caste system, pollution, human trafficking and police brutality, just to name a few. It doesn’t feel purely Sci-Fi as the events of the series was able to add hints of realism in its storytelling.
However, it’s not to say that Black Knight is a perfect series as it definitely has its flaws. The pacing of the show felt off with it’s slow start and a hurried conclusion. The final three episodes had the impression of being to rush, which resulted in the actions or decisions made by various characters in the series feel very left field.
A Dystopian Wasteland
Black Knight manages to deliver Hollywood-levels of visuals, where the action depicted on-screen were definitely the series’ strongest point. The FX team Westworld is made up of the same individuals who previously produced some of the major hits like Sweet Home and Squid Game; and their talent is evident through their visualisation of the world’s original design.
In addition to the visual effects, the attention to detail makes it simple for the audience to distinguish between the various locations shown throughout the show.
People in the General District live in homes built in rows and receive oxygen and supplies delivered to them. Meanwhile the Core District is designated to grow plants, and is the only green filled room in this barren world. The Special District is below ground levels away from all the destrcution and is where those select few are housed. Lastly, the poor and urban areas are the Refugee District. We got to see how different the district are from one another because of the various environments associated with the various social classes.
The CGI team did a great job of portraying a post-apocalyptic world with ruins and arid deserts given how beautiful Korean is. Such examples being the N Seoul Tower being cut in half, a deserted Gwanghwamun neighbourhood, and Gangnam road lined with crumbling structures to depict a desolate Seoul.
While the original webtoon was focused more on storytelling rather than world-building, so I was curious to see how the Netflix adaptation would translate the series to live-action, and the different story format. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to fully appreciate the world that the characters of the series lived in. Needless to say, the visuals are the series’ strongest suit.
With its use of orange, brown, and red colour schemes, the series looked fantastic, as it manages to give off that desolate look and feel; which in turn being able to depict the characters’ various emotions against such a bleak world.
There’s an abundant of action scenes throughout the series, and all of them were expertly choreographed, with 5-8 and Sa-wol providing the majority of the highlights. Overall, they did a great job at convincing me that they were skilled fighters.
With its ensemble cast, there are enough characters where everyone could find someone to relate to or to root for.
As the “toughest of the Black Knights who desires societal equality,” Kim Woo-bin as 5-8, is a formidable fighter with a keen sense of justice. Kim Woo-bin demonstrated his ability to steal the show from his portrayal of 5-8. While the Webtoon, 5-8 showed a lot more emotion, but the Netflix adaptation was also excellent. He was incredibly reserved when it came to their emotions, but as we learned in later episodes, that seems to be with reasons.
The character Sa-wol, played by Kang You-Seok, fit in well with the other characters. In order to be able to perform all of the challenging stuns without the use of a stunt double as much as possible, Kang You-Seok actually spent months training his body before and during filming. He was definitely one of the best characters on the show, even to the point of almost outshining 5-8.
Major Seol-ah, played by Esom, is a capable leader and skilled major at the Defense Intelligence Command. She rescues and takes care of Sa-wol, but after being abruptly taken off a kidnapping case investigation in the General District, she launches her own investigation to learn the truth about the Cheonmyeong Group’s activities.
Last but not least, we have Song Seung-heon who portrays the character Ryu Seok, the merciless heir to the Cheonmyeong Group. He is the kind of bad guy who believes that success is built upon sacrifices. And while we may initially despise him, he too has his own unique motivations for what he does.
As the show progresses, each of characters develops, taking what would otherwise be a shallow archetype and turning it into a believable and interesting character. By that point, the deep character development had made the character interactions just as compelling as the plot. The cast was excellent and did a fantastic job of capturing the struggles of their characters, whether through emotional baggage from the past, or just trauma in a dystopian world.
I had a great time watching Black Knight. While not exactly like the original source material, it was overall very impressive and would surely make people take up the Webtoon. It stood out from other shows of the same genre in a refreshing way. The highlights were definitely how beautiful and life-like the dystopian world was presented, along with the strong interactions between the cast.
And hey, if you enjoyed the Netflix adaptation then I would also recommend picking up the Webtoon as well. Both are great pieces of entertainment and can be something different to enjoy.
Black Knight airs on Netflix on 12th May 2023.
Check This Out Next
- Great CGI use for visuals
- Broader interpretation of the Webtoon
- Sold interactions and chemistry between the cast
- Story pacing is a bit rushed towards the end
- Webtoon readers might not like how the series deviate from the source material
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