Among the many things that fans were excited about regarding Ben Affleck’s Batman movie was the introduction of a new villain not typically associated with the Dark Knight. Villainous mercenary Deathstroke (a.k.a. Slade Wilson) was reportedly going to be Batman’s adversary in the film, whose script had been written by Affleck and acclaimed comic book writer (also DC Entertainment president) Geoff Johns.
But with Affleck bowing out as director of The Batman and Matt Reeves taking over, a new script is being written. That led to fears among fans that Deathstroke was being written out of the movie in favor of whichever Bat-villain Reeves preferred. The actor cast as the enhanced former special forces operative, Joe Manganiello (Magic Mike), kept quiet on any developments, either because he hoped that he still had a part in the next Batman movie or he was privy to plans that couldn’t yet be announced.
Whether Manganiello knew it at the time or not, Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment does indeed have other plans for Deathstroke. As reported by several outlets, including The Wrap, director Gareth Evans (The Raid) is in talks to write and direct a movie focusing on the deadly assassin, which would still star Manganiello in the main role. However, neither the director nor actor has officially signed on for the project yet.
As mentioned, Affleck had previously cast Manganiello as Deathstroke, which was exciting for fans who thought he looked like superhero material in True Blood. Affleck even posted screen test footage of Manganiello suited up as the character in his signature body armor. That led to speculation that Deathstroke might make an appearance in Justice League since Affleck was filming that blockbuster at the time.
— Ben Affleck (@BenAffleck) August 29, 2016
Manganiello is a big dude with a chiseled physique whose physical condition is so envied that he even wrote a fitness book titled Evolution four years ago. Zack Snyder strongly considered him for Superman in Man of Steel, which made sense to anyone familiar with Manganiello because the dude is built like Superman. He could’ve played Superman or Batman, yet seems better suited as a bad guy and looks like he could seriously kick Affleck’s ass.
In other words, Manganiello seemed to be a great choice to play a former special forces operative who gained enhanced strength and speed from experiments by the U.S. military. If Captain America had decided to become a mercenary, he would be Deathstroke.
The character was originally created as an adversary for The New Teen Titans. He factored heavily in arguably the best Titans story arc, 1984’s “The Judas Contract,” in which one of his allies infiltrated the superhero team and took each member down from within.
But over the past 15-20 years, Deathstroke has been a bad guy in the larger DC Comics universe. He was the main villain in Season 2 of The CW’s Arrow (played by Manu Bennett) and an adversary for Batman in the Arkham City Lockdown and Arkham Origins video games. That may have been what inspired Affleck and Johns to use him as the villain in their Batman movie. (He was rumored at one point to make an appearance in Suicide Squad.)
What should be most exciting about this project, however, is Evans being attached as director. After making two of the best action films of the past 10 years (and probably beyond) in The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2, film fans and media have been wondering if and when he might take on a mainstream Hollywood movie. And just imagine if Evans brought his kinetic, tireless style of action film to a superhero movie.
The possibility of getting fight scenes unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a superhero blockbuster (though the action in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was impressive) is a promising one. And with the main character a bad guy in this film, there’s a strong chance some of that action could be more lethal than anything previously seen in a comic book superhero movie. If you have any doubts about that, and aren’t familiar with Evans’ work, the scenes embedded here should give you an idea of what we could see.
These scenes are just the ones that are safest to watch at work. If you want to see some more lethal fight scenes with knives, hammers and baseball bats, search for “The Raid” or “The Raid 2” on YouTube, and there’s a whole lot of gloriously violent, beautifully choreographed action that would set a Gareth Evans Deathstroke film far apart from any other film featuring a DC Comics hero or villain.
Warner Brothers and DC Films have thrown a lot of projects at the wall in recent months (Shazam, Gotham City Sirens, Nightwing, The Joker, among many others) and it seems doubtful that all of them will eventually be made into movies. But if the intention is to create something unlike the typical comic book superhero (or supervillain) film, a Deathstroke movie directed by arguably the best action filmmaker working today could be the right path to follow.