Deathstroke, much like his comic book counterpart, has expanded from beyond the Teen Titans to appear in numerous media. He’s not only appeared in the Titans’ various animated and live-action adaptations but also had a lasting role in the Arrowverse. One of his more minute roles in live-action media, however, has sadly been the DCEU.
Once planned to have a major recurring role in DC movies, Deathstroke the Terminator has unfortunately been a literal one-hit-wonder. Here’s a look at the masked villain’s one-time appearance in the DCEU so far, his planned future roles and how it all seemingly fell apart.
Deathstroke first appeared in the DCEU during an after-credits scene in 2017’s Justice League. There, he is shown breaking Lex Luthor out of prison. The scene ends with Luthor suggesting that villains such as themselves should form their own team, planting the narrative seed that Deathstroke would be part of the franchise’s Legion of Doom. Perhaps to mitigate many of the mistakes made leading up to the abrupt Justice League film, Deathstroke was meant to have multiple appearances that would flesh him out before the team-up movie’s potential sequel.
The first of these reappearances would have been The Batman. This film, initially meant to star, as well as be co-written and directed by Ben Affleck, was going to take place after the events of Batman v Superman and Justice League. Though the exact plot was never relayed to the public, Joe Manganiello’s Deathstroke was confirmed to be at least one of the film’s villains. Along with this movie set in the present, there was also another film with Deathstroke planned, one which would’ve given audiences a look at his earlier years. Gareth Evans, the director of the intense action-filled The Raid, was announced as being the film’s writer and director. The movie was going to be an origin story, like adapting Slade Wilson’s classic origin from the Marv Wolfman/George Perez run on The New Teen Titans. Evans has stated that it would’ve told its story in a tight, compact way that quickly got to the heart of the character, but unfortunately for fans, neither this nor Deathstroke facing Batman has come to pass.
In the case of The Batman, the film’s tumultuous production history has likely excised the planned character entirely. Ben Affleck, who was once gung-ho about directing the film, stepped down from the role. He initially planned to stay on board as the star, as Chris Terrio reworked Affleck and Johns’ script. Matt Reeves would eventually take over the role of director, as well as rewrite the script. The new angle of the film will involve Batman during his younger days, with Robert Pattinson playing the Caped Crusader. The announced villains so far are Catwoman and The Penguin, and with a bigger emphasis on detective noir than pure action, it’s likely that Deathstroke will no longer be involved.
As for the Deathstroke solo film, that film achieved even less progress before plans seemed to change. According to Evans, his role directing and writing the film was only in the talking stages, with none of the production set in stone yet. This was as far back as 2018, so the lack of word about the film since then likely means that it is one of several DCEU films that are now dead in the water. This reflects the rapid change of direction for the shared universe, after the outright failure of Batman v Superman and especially Justice League forced Warner Bros. to course correct.
The films now seem headed in a more standalone direction, with the pre-existing continuity for the Batman characters in particular rarely if ever addressed. This is exacerbated by the fact that Justice League, Deathstroke’s sole appearance in the DCEU so far, was a notorious box office flop. It doesn’t help that Deathstroke could return in future seasons of Titans, as DC and Warner Bros. seem ambivalent to have the character in two live-action franchises at the same time. Though Deathstroke may be a world-class mercenary, it appears that a starring role on the big screen was one contract too big for even him.
Once planned to have a major recurring role in DC movies, Deathstroke the Terminator has unfortunately been a literal one-hit-wonder.