Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix, Ubisoft’s new (very) adult animated series for Netflix, may not be what you’re expecting. That is, unless you know creator and executive producer Adi Shankar’s work, which takes beloved, carefully protected pop culture characters and reinterprets them in subversive, often graphically violent ways.
Most importantly: Despite its title, don’t expect this to be a Far Cry animated series. Outside of an appearance from Far Cry 4 bad guy Pagan Min, Captain Laserhawk has little in the way of that game series’ DNA.
Instead, for Captain Laserhawk Shankar has plucked a handful of Ubisoft characters from across the game maker’s catalog and thrust them into a dystopian technocratic sci-fi future. Beloved mascot platformer Rayman appears as a TV host and propagandist, who is at various points shown snorting something illicit and hosting an execution on live television. The Assassin’s Creed franchise is represented in the show not by Ezio or Basim, but by a badass anthropomorphic frog assassin. Rabbids are interdimensional interlopers who make an all-too-brief appearance.
Virtually all modern Ubisoft franchises, from Watch Dogs and Beyond Good & Evil to various Tom Clancy games, are thrown into Shankar’s new animated concoction and boiled into something shockingly potent.
But Captain Laserhawk isn’t as tonally dissonant as it sounds. It feels believable that all these characters, headlined by a cyborg super-soldier named Dolph Laserhawk, could exist in the same bizarre world, that their relationships could be so intertwined. The show’s breakneck pace and colorful side characters sell the premise of a futuristic world gone mad.
Shankar’s disjointed references also help: Captain Laserhawk is part send-up of another video game-inspired superteam show, Captain N: The Game Master, mixed with The Dirty Dozen and The Suicide Squad. The titular cyborg captain is the victim of a double-cross in the show’s first episode and finds himself forced to team up with a group of convicted enemies of the state. That includes Beyond Good & Evil’s Jade and Pey’j, Bullfrog the assassin, and professional wrestler Cody Rhodes, who makes a very brief cameo before his head explodes. Don’t worry, spoiler-phobes; that’s inconsequential in the grand scheme of Captain Laserhawk’s numerous deaths, blown-up heads, full-frontal nudity, and wrestling guest characters. It’s just to illustrate that the show’s Warden — its Amanda Waller — is a stone-cold killer.
This is a satirical Saturday morning cartoon that proves Ubisoft has some pretty laissez-faire brand rules, thankfully. But the series is also clearly influenced by Shankar’s previous work on Dredd with Laserhawk’s post-apocalyptic megacities, and Power/Rangers with its rainbow-colored team of mech-piloting ninjas, the Niji 6. Paired with eccentric animation studio Bobbypills, which combines traditional cel animation with pixelated and 3D game graphics and even a spot of live action, Shankar’s new show lives up to its “Remix” title promise, throwing a ton of childhood geek influences at the wall and somehow sticking the landing.
Beyond the novelty of Shankar’s many mashups, the show’s creators excel at keeping viewers guessing, and not just for its narrative twists and turns. Captain Laserhawk’s early episodes are full of heist plots and police chases, but later episodes pivot the series pace with flashbacks and quiet conversations in prison cells. It’s a mashup of visual styles, genre, and influences, with a reverence for the cartoons designed to sell toys and games, Captain N included, something that Laserhawk isn’t really going for.
In one of my favorite late-series moments, a familiar character is reintroduced in a way that feels ripped straight out of G.I. Joe or SilverHawks — “Get the new [REDACTED] action figure, now with new flying wheelchair assault vehicle!”
It’s kind of remarkable that Shankar has pulled this whole thing off, riffing off a weird piece of video game DLC to bring a disjointed universe together for a darkly comedic sci-fi series (that really deserves a second season). But the show’s best trick is making me feel invested and interested in a bunch of Ubisoft characters I previously did not vibe with at all. I’d be way more inclined to play the next Assassin’s Creed if Bullfrog was the star.
Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix is now streaming on Netflix.