Who is Deathstroke? Everything you need to know about Batman’s latest cinematic foe

 

Ben Affleck’s solo Batman movie is still two years away (at least) but plot details are already starting to sneak out of the production, including yesterday’s sizeable revelation that Deathstroke will be the Caped Crusader’s main antagonist.

Initially teased in a cryptic tweet from Affleck on Monday, the news has since been confirmed by The Wrap, sending fanboys into meltdown. Showing the black and orange-armoured antihero striding towards the camera in a very cinematic fashion, he certainly looks like the type of guy you don’t want to mess with.

But just who is Deathstroke? Here’s the lowdown on Batman’s latest foe.

What’s his alter-ego?

Slade Wilson. If that name sounds familiar it’s because Marvel’s cult hero Deadpool – the fourth wall-breaking antihero who took the box office by storm earlier this year – was originally created as a riff on DC’s fan favourite villain, right down to the name Wade Wilson. Could the surprising success of the Merc with a Mouth’s recent cinematic outing be the driving force behind Deathstroke’s selection as Batman’s nemesis? That seems unlikely given Deadpool has since crafted his own very unique identity as a bizarrely meta mercenary. Still, it probably didn’t hurt.

 

Where did he come from?

Created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Deathstroke first appeared in Teen Titans #2 in 1980 as an assassin and a mercenary. Initially introduced as a vietnam vet who goes rogue after being handpicked for a secret experiment to create super soldiers, the character’s origins were later re-worked to make him a member of special-ops force Team 7 who becomes imbued with superhuman strength as the result of emergency surgery after being seriously injured on a secret mission. He leaves the force after defying orders to rescue war-buddy Wintergreen and eventually dons the Deathstroke moniker to begin work as an assassin for hire.

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What’s his tragic backstory?

Essential in creating sympathy for even the most sadistic of individuals, every DC super villain worthy of the title needs a tragic backstory, and Deathstroke is no different. When he first emerged in the 1980s, Slade was tipped over the edge by the murder of his son Joseph during a botched kidnapping designed to bait Deathstroke into revealing the name of his employer. (FYI, that event led his understandably enraged wife Adeline to shoot him through the eye, which explains the lack of eyeholes on the right-side of his mask.) Future reboots see the character loose both his wife and son at the hands of a gang of North Korean soldiers. Most recently, his backstory was reworked yet again to have Slade’s son, now renamed Grant, offed when he tags along on his father’s mission in North Korea. Expect Deathstroke’s origins to be reworked once again for the upcoming movie to place Bruce Wayne at the centre of Slade Wilson’s misery.

Who are his enemies?

Deathstroke is something of a rarity among DC villains in that he is not strongly linked to one particular superhero. Originally seen as an arch-antagonist of the Teen Titans, a series in which he attempts to blow up the team with a Promethium bomb and almost mortally wounds Beast Boy, he has cropped up as an adversary to most DC heroes throughout his run. He’s perhaps best known as the primary villain during Arrow’s second season where Manu Bennett’s interpretation of the character arrives in Star City hell-bent taking down Oliver Queen as revenge for the death of his lover on Lian Yu.

What’s he beef with Batman?

If you think selecting a lesser-known rogue means Batman is going to get an easy ride in two years time, think again. Deathstroke is an incredibly formidable combatant – he once famously battled The Flash, Arrow, Green Lantern and Captain Marvel single-handed. And won! The character has crossed paths with the Caped Crusader on multiple occasions, most memorably in 1991’s City of Assassins arc, where Deathstroke mercilessly beats the Dark Knight to a bloody pulp. What’s more enticing is that the character is often referred to as the anti-Batman due to his reliance on his skill and cunning to overcome opponents and his disturbing world view of “I will do what I want because who will stop me?”, uncomfortable parallels Affleck is sure to draw upon for his solo movie.

Who will play him? 

Considering news of Deathstroke’s appearance has only just been revealed, the identity of the man behind the mask is still anyone’s guess. Rumours have long focused on True Blood’s Joe Manganiello – who’s currently hanging out in London near to where Justice League is being filmed (can anyone else smell a cameo coming?).

One man who is almost certainly out of the running is Manu Bennett. Despite playing the character on the small screen in Arrow, Bennett’s version of Deathstroke has since been scrapped from the series to make way for a new interpretation on the big screen (a fate similarly suffered by Deadshot and Amanda Waller in Suicide Squad). Since his exit Bennet has had many not-so-nice things to say about the series.

Swallows and Amazons – Film Review

Arthur Ransome’s 1930 classic Swallows and Amazons is a wistful tribute to youth’s intrepid spirit. Written before thoughts of a second world war even seemed possible, the novel harks back to those halcyon British summers where children camped under the stars, sailed great lakes and grazed knees weren’t just a Pokémon Go-related injury. But while this second cinematic adaptation – following 1974’s similarly sedate attempt – adds some sleuthing hijinks to the faithfully transcribed charm and endeavour, it struggles to raise the stakes enough to really set pulses racing.

The story chronicles the summer holiday adventures of the Walker children – John, Susan, Tatty and Roger – as they set sail in their dingy named Swallow to make camp on a small island in the middle of the Lake District. When they arrive they find two girls, Nancy and Peggy Blackett, aka the Amazons, have already established a fort and a battle commences to decide who will keep the island. Meanwhile, the Blackett’s reclusive Uncle Jim Turner (Rafe Spall) hides on a houseboat as a pair of dastardly spooks, played by Andrew Scott and Dan Skinner, attempt to steal his secrets.

For a film that sets itself out as a call to return to a time before health and safety went mad – let the children play with knives and matches, for goodness sake! – it’s somewhat ironic that it falters precisely because it plays things too safe. Dropping a basket of sandwiches into the lake is about as close to disaster as the Walker children get in this cosy rather than exciting tale – but don’t worry, they manage to save Mrs Jackson’s fruitcake.

Director Philippa Lowthorpe and screenwriter Abigail Gibb try to inject some much needed peril into proceedings with an espionage-themed subplot – inspired by Ransome’s real-life escapades as an MI6 agent – but even that is handled too tamely to really build any momentum in the story. The mysteries are blown too quickly, the conflicts are resolved too easily, and for all the scrapes the children get themselves into you never doubt that they’ll make it home in time for tea by the end.

Lowthorpe directs with plenty of warmth and wit – the expansive Lake District setting is as breathtaking as you could possibly hope for – and the entire cast put in solid performances, especially the underused pairing of Jessica Hynes and Harry Enfield as a dyed-in-the-wool b’n’b owner and her grumpily mischievous husband. It’s just a shame Lowthorpe doesn’t attempt to challenge the audience with anything more dangerous than soggy sarnies. The result is a quaint, confident, quintessentially British slice of frivolity. Basically, it’s Bake Off: The Movie.

Runtime: 97 mins; Genre: Adventure; Released: 19 August 2016;

Director: Philippa Lowthorpe; Writers: Andrea Gibb, Arthur Ransome;

Cast: Jessica Hynes, Andrew Scott, Harry Enfield, Rafe Spall

The Watchman – TV Review

“I can see everything up here – it’s like I know what’s going to happen next,” is the chilling description Stephen Graham’s put-upon CCTV operator gives his job in The Watchman (Channel 4). It also perfectly sums up how this brilliantly disturbing thriller taps into our fears about today’s surveillance society.

Pitched like a particularly nightmarish episode of Black Mirror inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window, documentarian Dave Nath’s latest modern horror story makes many uncomfortable points about privacy, justice and the marginalisation of certain sections of society. But this is no diatribe on the morality of a Big Brother state. It’s really a crushingly human story about a broken man who just wants to do the right thing for once in his life.

Graham is Carl, who, like a dystopian guardian angel, spends his nights in a bleak, dark office keeping a watchful eye on his small town through a bank of CCTV screens (which somehow feels even seedier than Zeke Hawkins’ set-up in Sliver). If he spots a crime – like a gang of youths dealing drugs – he reports it to the police. But when he gets frustrated by their lack of action he decides to take the law into his own hands, setting off a chain of events which put the lives of his loved ones, as well as his own, in danger.

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At barely 50 minutes, the drama unfolds at a break-neck pace, the camera locked onto Graham’s every expression as impulsive excitement turns to sheer panic when Carl’s situation becomes more and more hopeless. Sharing the ‘no frills, maximum thrills’ approach of Nath’s previous drama The People Next Door – minimal incidental music, claustrophobic setting – for most of its runtime The Watchman is dizzyingly tense.

Graham is spectacular as the flawed Carl, by the way, giving a powerful performance in what is basically a one-man show. Standing (well, mostly sitting) alone at the heart of the action, Graham is thoroughly engaging throughout, even as Carl transitions from empathetic everyman who loves his family to impulsive wannabe hero who tries to make a difference but ends up crossing a line that brings dire consequences.

There are flaws of course – some of the plot developments feel convoluted, supporting characters are appallingly clichéd – but as a high-octane thriller, this inventively dark tale will have you glued to the screen just as much as The Watchman can’t look away from his.

One of Us – TV Review

It’s the happiest day of Adam and Grace’s young lives. The childhood sweethearts, who have survived everything from the boredom of growing up in the Scottish Highlands to the terrors of freshers week, are finally tying the knot. Even better, Grace is expecting their first child. Everything, it seems, is lovely.

But then the camera pulls back. We’re in the newlyweds’ gloomy Edinburgh flat watching footage of the nuptials on their TV. The happy couple, meanwhile, are collapsed on the floor covered in blood. Their killer looms in the shadows still the clutching the murder weapon.

As openings go, the first moments of One of Us (BBC1) are unexpectedly stark and horrifying to watch. Until you remember this relentlessly dark and foreboding thriller is written by Harry and Jack Williams, the geniuses behind 2014 drama The Missing, which, you will no doubt recall, began with the sickening moment a boy was snatched from his family at a French holiday resort.

As with that acclaimed drama, the brutal murder here is only the start of the misery for the couple’s bereaved families. There’s a storm brewing – both physically and figuratively – in the seemingly idyllic village of Breaston that only intensifies when Adam and Grace’s killer turns up at the family farm suffering life threatening injuries.

It’s a brilliantly inventive conceit – like a grim mash-up of an Agatha Christie novel and a Tarantino flick – with the shock arrival causing a watershed moment for both families as all the secrets, lies and deceits they have carefully hidden over the years suddenly come flooding to the surface.

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At times it’s unbearably tense and incredibly challenging to watch. The killer’s presence in the household raises uncomfortable questions about morality, murder and revenge. And the Williams brothers are not afraid to put you in the shoes of every character – including Owen Whitelaw’s drug-addicted murderer – and force you to consider what you would do if the man who destroyed your family landed in your hands. You might not like the answers.

The brothers also have a remarkable pulling power when it comes to assembling a heavy hitting cast. David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes will star in The Missing’s second series and One of Us boasts a similarly star-studded line-up, including John Lynch, Julie Graham, and Chris from Skins (real name Joe Dempsie). Owen Whitelaw particularly impresses as the intensely fragile killer.

But the biggest character by far, in episode one at least, is the storm-battered highland setting. The lashings of rain only add to the suffocating sense of isolation the harsh landscapes provide, the bleak surroundings perfectly matching the heightened tension and inescapable numbness of grief that sets the characters – not to mention the viewer – on edge throughout.

Whether it will all end in a Tarantino-inspired splurge of bloody violence remains to be seen. But judging by this dark, absorbing and terrifying opening episode, you will certainly be sticking around to find out.

Click here to watch episode 1 of One of Us on BBC iPlayer

David Brent: Life on the Road – Film Review

Reviving classic comedies on the big screen is a treacherous business. The desire to live up to cherished memories whilst also creating fresh ones is often an impossible challenge – just ask the makers behind Dad’s Army. That’s why Ricky Gervais’ move to bring back his most iconic creation nearly 13 years after he first bowed out in a pair of peerless festive specials is as ballsy as it is unexpected.

Sadly, it’s a risk that doesn’t come close to paying off. Life on the Road is a patchy comic reunion that’s more offensive and depressing than it is cringingly funny, and it robs its shabby antihero of his perfect ending.

Things kick-off promising enough with David Brent (Gervais) making a welcome return to the mockumentary spotlight as he prepares to head out on tour with hired band Forgone Conclusion for a final shot at stardom. Before he hops on the tour bus (actually a Vauxhall Insignia), though, we’re given a run-through of his post-Wernham Hogg life as a sales rep for a toiletry supply company.

Brent is in his element when lingering around the drab familiarity of Lavichem’s head office, trading awkward banter with his gurning sidekick (Tom Bennett) and generally annoying his co-workers with his desperate bids for attention. It’s almost comforting to know he’s still an overgrown class clown who just wants to be liked.

But as soon as he’s out on the road and the focus is solely on him, Brent’s mean-spirited nature becomes uncomfortably obvious. Without a clutch of zany, sympathetic underlings to off-set him, Brent is just a racist, homophobic misogynist who only cares about his own selfish needs.

There’s no attempt at irony or subtlety in many of his off-colour remarks – most of the gags boil down to laughing at the fat chick or ethnic minority Brent has just offended.

That doesn’t have to be a bad thing – after all, Alan Partridge is hardly likeable – but it becomes a problem when we’re asked to feel sorry for Brent.

During a string of typically candid interviews, Brent gradually reveals he suffered a mental breakdown after being made redundant and is now battling to overcome depression. At one point he even admits to knowing no-one really likes him. But knowing you’re unlikeable doesn’t make you suddenly likeable.

That’s why Gervais’ overzealous attempt to build sympathy for Brent in the final act feels unearned. He has no arc and shows no sign of change or growth. And yet, he’s given a shot at redemption when all the co-workers and band members he has mistreated and offended suddenly rally to award him a triumphant send-off he doesn’t deserve.

Life on the Road has its moments – the songs are surprisingly catchy and feature plenty of lyrical genius (“Then to Gloucester, I get a Costa/ Hard shoulder? Coffee holder.”) – but its not enough to sweeten the bitter taste left by the film’s nasty sense of humour.

In the closing moments Brent talks about saving up to reunite the band for yet another tour – let’s hope someone persuades him to take a pause for the cause. Permanently this time.

Runtime: 96 mins; Genre: Comedy; Released: 19 August 2016;

Director: Ricky Gervais; Writer: Ricky Gervais;

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Jo Hartley, Doc Brown, Mandeep Dhillon

This review was first featured on flickfeast.co.uk

Spider-Man: Homecoming reportedly casts Zendaya as Mary Jane

Spider-Man: Homecoming will focus on Tom Holland’s Peter Parker tackling the perils of high school. It now appears that won’t just involve cramming for exams and hiding his lunch money from bullies, but also dealing with young love as Zendaya has reportedly been cast as Mary Jane.

Since her casting back in March as ‘key role’ Michelle in the high-profile reboot, fans have speculated whether the Disney star – who shot to fame after appearing in Shale It Up – will play a romantic lead alongside Holland’s young Spidey.

Those rumours appear to be true as two insiders have confirmed her casting as Peter Parker’s long-time love interest, according to The Wrap.

It wouldn’t be the first time creative pseudonyms have been used to conceal a key role in a superhero movie, with Marion Cotillard masquerading as wealthy businesswoman Miranda Tate in The Dark Knight Rises only to be revealed as Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter and heir Talia.

The cast also includes Michael Keaton as arch-villain Vulture, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei and some up-and-coming actor called Robert Downy Jr. We’ll probably never hear his name again.

Spider-Man: Homecoming will be released on 7 July next year.

New images from Black Mirror S3 offer terrifying glimpse into future

A fresh batch of Black Mirror episodes are not to far away and to make sure we’re all hungry for more of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian nightmares, a new set of images have been unveiled.

The new stills are taken from the opening two episodes but sadly don’t come with any new plot details.

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San Junipero, directed by Owen Harris (Kill Your Darlings), seems to be going for an 80s/Blade Runner vibe judging by the period garb sported by stars Mackenzie Davis (The Martian) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle).

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The images from Nosedive, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement) and written Michael Schurr and Roshida Jones, feel like vintage Black Mirror with a group of stopped in their tracks, starring into their respective phones.

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Even Jurassic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard can’t resist sneaking a peak at her smartphone (our guess is she’s trying to catch a Dragonair on Pokemon Go).

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All six episodes of Black Mirror’s third season will land on Netflix on 21 October this year.