This whole dilemma is putting me in quite the fanboy pretzel.
Making standalone movies about comic book villains is a trend that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. I don’t know if it was the surprise success of Suicide Squad that did it (scratch that, it was DEFINITELY the surprise success of Suicide Squad that did it), but more and more supervillain standalones are in development than ever before. Sony seems to be betting the whole damn house on that Venom movie right now and, at this point, it seems every other movie in development at Warner Bros is a supervillain standalone of some nature. Between Suicide Squad 2, TWO Joker centric movies, a potential Gotham City Sirens, and Black Adam, it’s kind of ridiculous how the universe of DC superheroes is being more and more monopolized by the antagonists.
And, today, yet another supervillain standalone movie has entered the fray. And, usually, that would be something that would cause little more than an eyeroll from me, especially when it comes to the villain in question, cool mercenary assassin (but a totally unique one!) Deathstroke. But you know what’s a surefire way to get my interest in a project, no matter how little I care about it conceptually? Tease the involvement of the man who directed the two best action movies in modern cinema.
Which is exactly what Warner Bros. is doing with this Deathstroke movie, as The Wrap reports that Gareth Evans, the director who brought the world a hell of a one-two action movie punch with The Raid and The Raid 2, is in early talks to throw his hat into the DC director crowd. If he joins the line-up (which is getting progressively more promising with the likes of Joss Whedon, Matt Reeves, etc.), Evans would serve as both a writer AND a director on this, marking his first foray into the world of Hollywood filmmaking (his first post Raid project, cult thriller Apostle, is a Netflix exclusive, so doesn’t quite count). And though the entirety of action movie fans are waiting with baited breath for The Raid 3 (WHERE IS IT, EVANS?!), this Deathstroke movie concept seems like it will take priority. A concept which, once again, is the least exciting part of this entire news story.
It’s not like I have a problem with Deathstroke or anything: he’s a cool and intimidating villain when utilized well, and as a big fan of the original Teen Titans animated series, I certainly have an affinity for the character. But I just can’t see how a cool character now equals a cool protagonist, and how a character like Deathstroke could possibly helm his own feature. What’s the plot? What’s the drive? Whose the conflict with? These are all problems that Suicide Squad had big issues nailing down and, so far, no comic book adaptation that centered on the bad guy has been able to address the issue without resorting to “oh, they are good now, just for this one time.”
And I know what you are thinking: Deathstroke probably has a cool comic book where he’s the lead and it’s super awesome and a lot of fun–and that’s fair. As someone with only the very basic of comic book knowledge, I can’t speak to the qualities of his standalone adventures. But that still ignores the fact that, even in comic book form, the character has gone from villain to anti-hero…just because he’s really popular. And I doubt this movie concept will do anything wildly different in that department (just look at “Deadshot has a kid, so he ain’t so bad!” for the potential template here.)
Granted, it also might help if this was more of a spin-off than a standalone, with Deathstroke being introduced as a complicated villain who finds some sort of redemption in the path to his own adventure. But, at this point, we have no idea if that will happen. Joe Manganiello was originally attached to play the character as the main villain of The Batman but, with Reeves starting over from scratch, it’s unclear if the character will still be utilized in the same way. Manganiello is reportedly still attached to play the character in this new movie so, hey, at least he gets some job security.
And, man, I can’t ignore the Gareth Evans aspect of this whole thing. He is an incredible talent, and apparently it was his pitch that convinced Warner Bros to pursue this idea in the first place. So maybe Evans has a unique idea on what to do with the character, a story that DEMANDS Deathstroke as a lead rather than sees the dollar signs and works backwards from there. I can’t help but be jaded about the whole idea of this movie but, like Phil Lord and Chris Miller attaching themselves to Solo: A Star Wars Story, my enthusiasm for the creators is enough to leverage most of my doubts.
Let’s just hope things end up better with Evans trip to the uninspired spin-off well, though.
Also published on Medium.