The Punisher has entertained fans for decades in comics and movies. This week BD takes a closer look at the movie franchise, starting with the first Punisher movie from 1989, and works his way up to modern day offerings.
What’s up everyone, welcome back to the Devils in the details. I’m BD, and thank God it’s Friday.
On today’s show, I want to focus on 3 comic book films. More specifically, the Punisher flicks.
Comic book films have not always been the great success that they have been of late, in fact quite a few of them did not do well at all at the box office.
The first Punisher film to be released was in 1991. Not it’s original release date, but I’ll get back to that in a second.
This one in particular cost $9 million to make, and barely made back 500,000.
It took a long time for Hollywood to start producing movies based on comic book characters, and although there are many reasons for this, one of them is simply because, they couldn’t do them justice in the past.
Superheroes almost always come with super powers, which means, to be able to make your hero seem believable, you have to be able to incorporate whatever superpowers he or she might have, in a realistic way, and special-effects we’re not always where they are today.
It wasn’t until 1978, when Warner Brothers released, Superman, the movie, Directed by Richard Donner and starring Christopher reeve, that comic book heroes became a possibility of bankability.
With a budget of $55 million, the movie ended up grossing over $300 million worldwide, as well as creating a four film franchise.
Fast forward 11 years, and special-effects have gotten a lot more developed, filmmakers are getting more and more creative with both special, and practical effects.
But even in 1989, they’re were still limitations to what movie studios could produce. Making a believable Spiderman movie for instance, still wasn’t in the cards…quite yet.
But making a movie about a superhero with no superpowers, well now that’s a whole other thing.
And so in 1989, we got, the Batman movie, starring Michael Keaton, and directed by Tim Burton.
That film had an even smaller budget than the Superman movie, the studio made Batman for $35 million. And that movie grossed over $400 million worldwide.
The Punisher movie was originally slated for theatrical release across The United States in 1989.
Although theatrical trailers were created for its promotion, the film ended up going straight to VHS and laser disk in 1991 because of financial trouble with New World’s studio.
I knew that the film was supposed to be released, I had seen the trailer for it.
And I remember being very disappointed that it had’nt been. I was a very big comic book fan at the time and still am today.
But it did leave me wondering where it had disappeared to. Where’d it go? What happened to it?
Nonetheless, it eventually did make its way to the video store shelves, and I picked it up as a rental, went home with some friends to watch it, And I do remember being so stoked!
The punisher was, and still is one of my favourite comic book characters.
And, the punisher doesn’t have any superpowers, other than the uncanny ability of killing tons of people and never being critically wounded.
So as long as you stick to the source material, at the very least, you should be able to please the Fanbase.
But when a studio takes the reins, they can sometimes nail something to perfection, or go completely off track, and boy did they veer off course with this one.
For me as a fan, The greatest insult was the complete omission of the skull on his chest.
The most identifying thing that the punisher has is the skull. It drives fear into his victims, and also gives them something to shoot at.
Thank god for that Kevlar!
O.k, Spidey’s got webs, Batman’s got the, No not that, the other thing, Yes. Superman has the “S”.
And the punisher has the skull!
The closest thing we get to the skull being represented in the film is an itty bitty dagger with a teeny-weeny little skull head at the end of it.
Dolph Lundgren, still riding on his success in rocky 4 A few years earlier, was cast as Frank castle, the punisher.
I’ll give him this, he did look the part. And although the acting could’ve been better, he really wasn’t given much to play with at all.
It was just a terrible script. And to say that his character was greatly under developed, would be a farce.
His origin story is told in a 10 second clip, and again, it’s not taken from the source material, it’s re-written by the studio.
When I decided that I was going to do an episode including the 1989 punisher film, I obviously had to go back to it and rewatch it with somewhat of a critical eye.
OK I’ll be honest, I couldn’t watch it with a critical eye, because within 15 minutes, it was getting a little too painful.
So I changed my mindset, and started the movie over.
something happened once I changed the way that I was viewing it. I started to enjoy it, in that guilty pleasure kind of way.
Ok, it started to make me laugh…a lot.
CUT TO: Drax laughing.
There’s quite a few little bits that I thought were pretty funny, and or ridiculous.
In this version, The punisher lives in the sewers, and apparently likes to meditate naked.
Also, his 5 o’clock shadow isn’t even real stubble, it’s painted on theatrical make up.
This film is full of hilariocity moments as fellow youtuber Chris Stuckmann might say. A cross between hilarious and atrocity.
I had another good laugh at the Yakuza scuba ninjas.
Or the mobster who gets crucified by a pair of earrings.
And I know that this scene reminded me of something, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
I did feel bad for Mr. Lundgren Who had to wear leather pants for the entire film, getting in and out of those must’ve been hell.
So after sitting through it the other day, I wasn’t as disappointed as I had been when I originally watched it in ’91, in fact I quite enjoyed it this time around, just probably not the way the filmmakers intended me to, but at least I had a few good laughs.
And then came the 2004 reboot. This time directed by Jonathan Hensleigh and starring Thomas Jane as our main protagonist. The budget for this one was $34 million but only managed to grosse a little over $54million.
However this one did manage to stay much closer to the original material, but just like the 1989 film, when it came to the depiction of what really happened to Frank’s family and how it happened, the filmmakers once again used creative license.
One thing I did like seeing in this film was the Use of characters sourced directly from the comic book, like Bumpo, Dave, and Joan, the waitress from the diner.
They also managed to incorporate some of the villains from the comic book franchises, such as the Russian hitman, or Harry heck the assassin.
It goes without saying that I enjoyed this reboot a lot more than the previous outing.
And on a sidenote I’d also like to mention that in 2012, Thomas Jane headed a Punisher short film, called dirty laundry, where he reprised his role as the punisher. He called it a love letter to Frank castle and his fans.
The short was also the first medium to reveal a new Punisher logo designed by artist and illustrator Tim Bradstreet
which, incidentally was responsible for quite a few Punisher comic book covers, as well as providing the artwork for both movie posters, the 2004 Punisher and the 2008 Punisher war zone films.
Which brings me to the last reboot, punisher: war zone.
This particular reboot had a budget of $35 million and had a very dismal take at the box office, only getting back $10 million on it’s initial investment.
It was directed by Lexi Alexander and stars Ray Stevenson as our titular character.
In this iteration, the depiction of the demise of Frank Castle’s family in Central Park remains faithful as it was written in the books, in an, albeit, very short flashback scene.
Just like its predecessor, this film sticks very closely to the actual punisher lore. Incorporating characters, once again, directly from the comic book, such as soap, Microchip
And Including The villain this time, Jigsaw, played by Dominic West.
The director pulls no punches here.
I have to say, this iteration is, by far, the most violent one, it doesn’t hold back on any of the blood and gore, which is to me, the most realistic depiction of the punisher.
The issue that I have with all three of these films, is the incredible lack of characterization for our main character.
He is never fleshed out completely, hardly any of his past is ever exposed.
We never really get to see the man he was before he became the punisher. What made him the man he is today.
Punisher co-creator Gerry Conway stated that “He’s a great Rorschach test.
The Punisher is a thin character on his own merits, but that allows for a lot of interpretations and different angles of approach.”
I just wished that the filmmakers had delved deeper into the character of Frank Castle instead of emphasizing so much of their focus on The Punisher himself.
Perhaps the upcoming Netflix Punisher series will address these issues. We’ll have to see.
And so this is where I’m going to wrap it up for this week, keep in mind that this was more of a glossary, over all three films, and not an in-depth analysis of each one.
Whether or not you are a fan of the punisher, you do have an opinion, so please feel free to share it in the comments down below.
And before I sign off this week, I’d just like to take a moment to thank everyone who tuned in, subscribed, liked and shared, or have been with us since the very beginning. the entire team here is very grateful for all of your support.
on a personal note, I want to thank Dan our producer, The man behind the camera who manages to take all of our ramblings and put them together into nice cohesive pieces. He has anchored this channel, and continuously inspires me to dig deeper and try harder. Thanks buddy.
I’ll see you guys, next Friday.