So in a monumental announcement, it is looking like Deathstroke will indeed be the primary villain in Ben Affleck's The Batman film. Affleck posted a cryptic video of Deathstroke, exciting comic book fans around the world, causing us to speculate as to what this meant. The Wrap would later confirm that Deathstroke would appear in Affleck's Batman film.
This news may mean that Batman will face a worthy adversary, but it also means so much more. It means that Deathstroke has now joined the DCEU and someone will be responsible for bringing him to life. However, this is not the first time we will see the character in live action. Manu Bennett portrayed the character on the CW TV series Arrow and, quite frankly, did a phenomenal job. The character has stopped appearing on the show and according to showrunner Marc Guggenheim, it was because he was tied up with a DC project. Well, now we know what the project is.
However, Bennett did such a stellar job as the character, it's going to be one tall task for any Hollywood actor — no matter how big — to come close to Bennett's performance. Let's take a look at some of the best aspects of Arrow's Slade Wilson and speculate how the DCEU could respond to combat comparisons.
Arrow is notorious for rewriting comic book lore. While some of its more recent decisions haven't been well-received, Slade Wilson's new origin story was. In the series, Slade is a former agent, stranded on the island of Lian Yu alongside Oliver Queen. He trains Queen and ends up helping him become the fighter we all know him has. We learn early on in the show that Slade is presumed dead, and we later learn that it was Oliver who killed him, plunging an Arrow into his eye — that is until he resurfaces as Deathstroke, looking for revenge.
Much like Ra's Al Guhl trained Bruce in Batman Begins, only to end up becoming an enemy of Batman, Slade Wilson befriends and trains Oliver, only to later battle with the Arrow with the fate of Starling City on the line.
This new origin story was a bold move for the CW's hit series, especially as it was so early into its run. However, it was very well received by fans and critics, who ended up falling in love with Slade and applauding Arrow's ability to modernize a comic book origin story in such a well-crafted manner. The fans still want him to make a return to the show. Maybe one day!
As Arrow was successful at rewriting Slade's history, the DCEU now has a choice: Either change it again or stick to the original comic book origin. In the comics, Slade enlists for the U.S. Army, rises through the ranks and eventually ends up getting imbued with enhanced abilities, becoming a super soldier. He was hired as an assassin, however his son would be kidnapped and caught in the crossfire, rendering him mute. As a result, his wife tried to kill him but ended up shooting him in the eye. And that was the moment that Deathstroke was born.
The comic book origin is certainly as compelling as the Arrow version, and thus would make a great live-action origin story for the character.
The Enhanced Abilities
In the comics, Deathstroke may gain his enhanced abilities from testing by the government but in Arrow, he gained them from a formula used to develop super soldiers called "Mirakuru." The drug was used on Slade to save his life and it ended up doing so, giving him enhanced abilities, super strength and making him an even more efficient assassin. But it also drove him insane, as he attempted to amass his own army of Mirakuru soldiers. The arc was perhaps the most compelling story the show has done to date and it was arguably the first glimpse at what was to come with metahumans and speedsters following afterwards.
In contrast, it's unlikely that anybody in the DCEU is going to be shocked by the existence of super soldiers, having already seen Kryptonian beasts and men of steel. Thus, it will make a nice change to see a world where Slade's superpowers aren't shocking like in Arrow, but one where they will be equally as effective.
However, on another note, not everybody loved the Mirakuru-driven Deathstroke, citing that he is an incredibly effective assassin and doesn't need enhanced abilities. So if the DCEU was really looking to separate themselves from Arrow they could always make Slade a human assassin without abilities. He was created as the villain answer to Batman and could very easily go toe to toe with the Dark Knight, without his abilities.
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This one may not be as significant as they already have switched things up a bit, but it's definitely worth pointing to. Manu Bennett's Deathstroke outfit was a little bulkier than some of his comic book and animated iterations. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Remember that scene where he stood in front of the bus almost motionless like a deadly badass? Now if you saw that on the road, I think it's safe to say that you would be intimidated. As well as the bulky armor, he basically had an arsenal attached to him, with pistols as well a samurai sword on his back, much like his comic book counterpart.
The outfit we see in the test footage is already noticeably different from Bennett's. It's much more sleeker, shinier and the mask is quite reminiscent of the character's look in the Arkham video games. And while Arrow's version stores the ammo across his chest, this iteration seems to store it around his shoulder pads. Both outfits also seem to have plenty of straps as well.
Of course, this may not even be the final version of the outfit and it could very well be likely to change. But either way, it's a good move to start off by making the outfit noticeably different from the beloved TV version.
In the comics, Deathstroke is a mercenary and an assassin, who will stop at nothing to take out his targets. However, he becomes an enemy of the Teen Titans and Batman who he constantly battles with as they try to stop him, and he also has a deep rooted grudge against the Green Arrow. While Slade was all of that in Arrow, the story focused more on his personal vendetta against the Arrow — which produced some incredible TV moments and allowed Manu Bennett to steal the show with some powerhouse acting.
However, in order for the DCEU to truly set their Deathstroke apart from Arrow's, the best thing to do would be to focus more on the assassin aspect of the character. Perhaps Deathstroke is hired to take out a powerful Gotham City official and Batman must stop him. Once Batman gets in his way, then it could possibly become personal. But to make this Deathstroke different from Manu Bennett's amazing turn as the character, it would perhaps be best to steer clear from the personal vendettas against the hero.
Without a doubt, the news of Deathstroke's arrival in the DCEU is news to be celebrated. He is not only one of the greatest villains of all time, but one of the most underrated. And it is truly great to see the Deathstroke renaissance take place through his appearances in Arrow, Batman: Arkham Origins, Injustice and now the DCEU. Of all of them, Manu Bennett's multi-layered performance on Arrow was arguably the most beloved. So it's highly likely that comparisons will be drawn.
The character's portrayal on Arrow pleased most, but like everything he had his critics. So those eyes will undoubtedly be watching to see how the next live-action portrayal will compare to it. It would definitely be a good move to make this new Deathstroke significantly different from the Arrow interpretation yet just as faithful to the comics. No matter who portrays him, there is one thing we can count on: He's going to have some very large shoes to fill.
I can't wait to see the new Deathstroke. How do you think he will compare to Manu Bennett's portrayal iteration? Let me know in the comments!