Do you sometimes wish that Marvel had made different choices with some of its characters…especially in the department of movie adaptations? For example, the Punisher has had multiple opportunities to wow crowds and woo fans but always ends up with mixed reviews. Are you telling me that we can make Black Widow and Hawkeye relevant without superpowers, but you keep flubbing it on the Punisher? Don’t fans of the Punisher deserve better? I believe we all do.
The Punisher started out as a cult hero but has found popularity and success among many fans and collectors. The character made his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129, in 1974, which is a good year for character first appearances. Starting out as a foe to Spider-Man, Frank Castle is a former Marine turned vigilante who targets the city’s crime to restore order. His tragic backstory soon reveals the horrific murder of his family, who were slain by the mob. He set his sights on Spider-Man who was accused of murdering Norman Osborn, but soon uses his skills, and mastery of weapons, to partner with many heroes in the Marvel Universe.
Marvel tried to capitalize on the popularity of the Punisher early. There was the 1989 reckless dud of a movie starring Dolph Lundgren, the more acceptable 2004 version starring Thomas Jane, and finally, another one starring Ray Stevenson (which I am sure I have seen but was so forgettable I cannot even pull it to memory). All three movies seem to miss the mark with mainstream fans which means a miss with commercial success. For a character that Marvel has had enough faith to develop a movie around, they sure do seem willing to remake a bad movie over and over again.
The Netflix Punisher series was gritty and entertaining, but I wonder if Marvel would rethink their use of the Punisher differently in hindsight. With the announcement of Disney+ and the migration of everything Marvel over to that platform, it seems like there is a new perception of the superhero genre, and how the general consumer will intake the product. Perhaps the Netflix gambit was due to the fact that there had been a lackluster success for the character on the big screen and Marvel knew well enough to avoid another bomb.
So is the problem with the Punisher…the superpowers, or lack thereof? You can only gun down, or knife, someone so many times before it becomes overkill. Web-slinging is more impressive on film than driving around in a van. If up against a major villain like Thanos, The Punisher would take one punch, so he is not very “super” in that sense either. When it comes to the superhero genre, in cinema, the more powerful the hero the better the movie it will likely be. Is there a place for the Punisher to shine in today’s MCU? In the long haul, it does not look like the possibility is going to be revisited. However, never say never when it comes to Marvel. Perhaps they will find a way to reincorporate Frank Castle into the fold. There is always the prospect of a Cosmic Ghost Rider hanging out there for fans.
Which is your favorite Punisher Movie failure? Is there another character you would rather see than the Punisher again. Drop your comments and join the speculation!
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