Thursday, February 16, 2012

PC POST #16: "Pro's, Con's and the History of the Punisher in film"

By @Castlectc

Aren't movies grand? I mean, who doesn't enjoy a good film now and then? The cinematic silver screen affords us a gateway to escaping from our own realities where we can become immersed in an entertaining story. Some are better than others, and some are just down right laughably bad. Lately, there's been a surge in Hollywood for more and more movies based on comic books, and they're becoming increasingly successful and popular. It's almost getting to where the average Joe will think themselves an expert on Iron Man, just because they've seen the few films with Robert Downey Jr. Personally, I've never seen a Harry Potter film, but I wouldn't exactly consider myself knowledgeable in that realm if I was to see a few of them.

  Skip ahead to the Punisher universe where to date there's been three motion pictures released about him. Such an entertaining entity with endless ways of telling his stories. What follows is just an overview of the good, the bad, and the ugly of Mr. Francis Castiglione, Frank Castle, in film.

  Starting off what seems like centuries ago, in 1989 Artisan Entertainment released the first Punisher movie starring Dolph Lundgren. I've actually read on websites, and seen comments scattered about, claiming this was the best Punisher film, and that Dolph Lundgren was the best to portray the Punisher. It's statements like these that have me shaking my head.


 Actually, I'd consider the opposite true. This is in my humble opinion, the worst of the series. The acting was real bad, like, terrible soap opera bad. The script wasn't really impressive by any standards, and the whole film lacked excitement. Also, all the guns fired had that 80's cap gun pop, and there were so many elements and important traits from the comic that they forgot, or just left out. He never even sports the classic white skull on his chest, how do you not do that? That's like Batman movie without him ever wearing his costume! I could go on and on about things I disliked about this film, and there's a reason why I watched this very little. Maybe I should focus on some of the good factors going for this one. There were some good scenes, and Dolph does have a fighting background and is big enough to pull off a muscular-like Punisher. One of the best scenes in the movie, I don't remember if it was deleted or not, showcases Punisher's knife which has the famous skull on it. Here's a quick clip of one of the better scenes, in an otherwise kind of boring portrayal:

  It's worth owning, and I think the main thing is that people forget how the movie actually was, and remember it to be more impressive than it was. At least they made this film, because it laid the groundwork for the next ones. Having said that, let's move on to the next one in succession, which happens to be my favorite of the series.

 The Punisher starring Thomas Jane was released in 2004, with intermediate success. This one is far and away my personal favorite because it's the only one to have scenes in the movie directly taken from a particular comic. Plus, there's so many impressive scenes. Whether it's the dramatic and captivating scene where his ENTIRE FAMILY is killed on the pier, or him fighting the Russian or battling a foe, there was too much I enjoyed here. Yeah, I know there were some glaring errors. I really wish they wouldn't have included John Travolta, as he was given too much screen time and emphasis, and I don't like how Punisher just finds the skull shirt in the water, but most of what else I could disapprove of is nitpicking. Thomas Jane is the best actor of all three to play the Punisher, and that's not really that arguable when you look at all his acclaim from his award nominations and the diversity of his roles. I don't, however, think he was the best Punisher, just the best Frank Castle, if that makes sense. My favorite scene in this movie is where he's on the ground about to be shot, and he fires the knife mechanism, stabbing his would-be assassin, Harry Heck, which is scene for scene from the Garth Ennis comic.

  This was the short version, the longer one with the quick car chase wouldn't upload for some reason. Anyways, great film, and very little I didn't like. Even though I could of done without Rebecca Romijn's version of the character she played from the comic, and the final scene with a skull formed from cars on fire was a bit over the top, they were small stumbles in an enjoyable film.

  Lastly, there was Punisher: War Zone, with Ray Stevenson in 2008. There was a lot of good, and some bad with this take, I felt. I'd like to give credit to the fact that they included Jigsaw, one of Punisher's antagonists, and the amount of actual bloodshed depicted in this film. Although the actor that played Jigsaw, Dominic West, was atrocious and I disliked him, it was still cool that his character was involved. While none of the three films have been gory enough for my expectations, this one was probably the bloodiest, which is a huge plus. I felt that Ray Stevenson had the most believable portrayal of the actual Punisher, but wasn't a good Frank Castle. My biggest gripe would also be that a majority of the film was just too cheesy. However, I loved that this was the first one to include one of Punisher's only friends, Micro. I feel maybe my expectations were just too high for so long hearing about this flick forthcoming, so I was a bit let down. Still, it's a great imagining, and has some very good redeeming qualities.  

   Looks like that about sums it up, I guess. Damn, now I want to watch them all back to back, realizing I've never done that. Epic fail for a huge Punisher fan. I mean, my rap moniker is CAStLE for crying out loud. Whoops! I thank you for reading this garble, as I love and immensely enjoy writing and putting it all together. Let me know of any disagreements you have, or errors I might have made. Until next time, peoples!



  1. The only Punisher movies I've seen are the Tom Jane one and War Zone. I fell asleep watching War Zone so I can't really comment on it, but the Tom Jane one is split right down the middle for me.

    On one hand, its a well made movie. It has a good story, good acting and it looks good. On the other hand, its not the Punisher. What makes the Punisher the Punisher is that hes about more than immediate revenge but his entire goal within the movie is exactly that. Its only at the very end that he declares himself to be the Punisher. This is the same as if Batman Begins was all about Bruce working up the nerve to kill Joe Chill and ended with him refusing and instead swearing to become a vigilante. So while the 2004 movie has a good story in its own right its not actually The Punisher.

    Another problem I have is the lack of character development regarding Frank's character. There is some, but only in little nuggets sprinkled throughout the movie. In the time between the killing of his family and his final assault on Saint hes mostly stuck in typical stoic Punisher mode. What makes this work in the comics is we get Frank's internal monologue so that even though hes not saying much we're still privy to his thoughts. The movie doesn't have internal monologue, save for a few bits near the end. What this means is the contrast between Happy Dad and Vengeful Asskicker is really jarring. Hes Happy Dad in one scene, and then hes Vengeful Asskicker in the next. Without the internal monologue to keep us invested in his mission the character just becomes boring. We don't get insight into his preparations (including where he got all of his weapons, which ties into the horrible underdevelopment of his military background), we don't get an insight into his emotions or thought processes, we don't really know what hes feeling. Instead he is just silent rage.

    And the inclusion of the Russian was really, really out of place and tacky.

    But there was good stuff. Tom Jane was just awesome, the score was really great (I didn't even think of what the music would be like until I started the music and it was just perfect), the action is pretty damn good and Frank is portrayed mostly as a very tactical and ruthless killer. I just wish the movie had started a few years down the line, with bits of the origin dropped in for context.

  2. Really good article here partner! Thanks so much for the contribution!

  3. For me the best movie was The Punisher from Tom Jane, definetely was the best story based on "Welcome back, Frank" by Garth Ennis. The acting was good, but as a character i liked more of Stevenson for me was the perfect portrait of Frank.
    The Punisher - War-Zone was based more on Max but for me was an ok movie.

    The Punisher from Dolph well it was fun for me, but nothing more that is not Frank Castle or the Punisher movie. Just some movie from the late 80's beggining of 90's.

  4. The 1989, 2004 and War Zone were all awful films.

    WZ was trying to be more like the Max Punisher, but when Garth Ennis wrote the Punisher under the MAX line, the story and plot actually had intelligence to it. It didn't have mindless unrealistic over the top action (like hanging upside down and his shooting his weapons), the characters were interesting, the villains were realistic, the lines and dialog were actually good. But WZ had none of that, it puts no effort into anything or making the viewer care about Frank or anyone.

    His white skull symbol was so faded that you couldn't even see it, but the thing is, the bad guys are suppose to see it, it's the first thing they aim for, it puts the fear of the Punisher in them. Director Lexi Alexander actually wanted to get rid of it, but what they did instead was have it where it's a worn skull image. But the skull was so faded and barely visible that it went almost entirely unnoticed by some who saw the movie.

    Stevenson did not perfect the portrait of Frank at all... Ray simple couldn’t act. He’s atrocious as the lead, Alexander barely gives him any lines, but he flubs every single one of them.

    Only Dirty Laundry has been the only good Punisher film.