EDITORIAL: A look back at The Punisher films, and the factors they all missed.

EDITORIAL: A look back at <i>The Punisher</i> films, and the factors they all missed.

I may not list every problem that it misses, but I will write the ones that I think were important to the success of the films.

The Punisher(1989)
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Louis Gossett Jr.

While I always took a realistic approach to this one when watching it, I couldn't help but feel disappointment every time I would notice that his symbol wasn't there, that he wasn't even ex-military, and just like the 2004 version, his family didn't match. He was just a cop with the same name. It had a very dark and gritty tone, but I just never knew why they would leave the skull out. As for Dolph's portrayal of The Punisher, I think he pretty much nailed it. When the film started you could tell he was a man who was dead inside, and he had lost everything. With an engaging story, a decent villain, and tons of gunplay, all this film needed was to stay a little more faithful in terms of the symbol and backstory, and this truly would have been The Punisher. This film is my favorite out of all of them, accept the extended cut of the 2004 version is probably tied with it.

The Punisher(2004)
Starring: Thomas Jane, John Travolta

This one missed one great detail from the comic books...action. At times it did have some interesting gunfights, it just did not have enough. The Punisher took a very emotional path about things, and it did take away from any potential action that could have been there. As for The Punisher and his emotions in the film, I never complained because I don't know how I'd feel if I just suddenly lost entire generations of my family, so I understood. Tom Jane's portrayal of Frank was good, but not great, because I feel that it lacked ruthlessness. You could tell that Frank was still there, holding on. John Travolta and his part could have been further explored if not edited completely and just re-done, and The Russian should have spoke, because he wouldn't shut up in the comics. With Kevin Nash portraying the goliath, I feel he could have voiced him as well. The thing is, is that if this cut hadn't been so rushed and edited, It would have been a great CBM.
EXTENDED CUT: Now to move on to what the 2004 edition should have been. This version went into greater detail of How Frank succumbed to his darker side. This version portrays him as the more ruthless, and unforgiving vigilante that he his, it connects the puzzles of the original, and it deeply delves into a darker and deeper story. However, even though this is considered a masterpiece compared to its original, it still lacked action, it lacked the very thing that The Punisher does best. Without that, the essence of The Punisher is not there, and it is hard to take in. I do recommend this version, as well as the 1989 version, because even though they both have missed important things, they still balanced out what elements they had very well.

Punisher: War Zone
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West

This one really needed more work. This film was over almost just as soon as it had started, with over-the-top gore, and some times of needless action that were not important the story in any way, considering that this film had any story direction to begin with, in which it hardly did. I was impressed by Ray Stevenson's portrayal of The Punisher, the symbol was there, and I felt he did great. On the other hand though, this film lacked the one thing the the others had...a good story. This film was so intent on accomplishing the action factor, that it had almost completely missed the things that make a good plot. It's a shame that an extended cut to this wasn't released to really patch up the things that went wrong, such as the mentioned undeveloped story, the weak villain, the comical feel, and its lack of seriousness. Even though we had a good Punisher, the film did not carry itself too well at all.

The truth is, is that these movies all missed something vital. These movies are good to watch in their own way, and even though the actors themselves may have captured some essence of the The Punisher, the filmmakers did not. There was always something that each missed, but yet, if you were to combine the good qualities of these films, I think we would have a truly great and faithful adaptation of my favorite comic book character. Now with news of a T.V. show in the works, lets hope they can get it right.
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Filed Under "Punisher" 11/13/2011
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marvel72 - 11/13/2011, 2:58 PM
i liked punisher warzone the most,granted not the best film in the world but i think stevenson,the guns & gore make this the best punisher movie yet.
PaulRom - 11/13/2011, 4:36 PM
Havent seen the 89 film, but I prefer WarZone over the Jane film. It may have lacked a lot of story/development, but showed a side of Castle not shown in the 2004 flick.
Good writeup as usual Gibs.
CaptainDC - 11/13/2011, 4:47 PM
It's funny because we always want realistic and darker movies, and surprisingly these movies, in my opinion, were to dark. It lacked that superhero feel, this made this these potential franchises each go down the drain. In a future reboot, give us a dark Punisher, only give us back that superhero feel that we all come to love
superbatspiderman - 11/13/2011, 5:13 PM
Jane's film is one of my favrite vengeance films. Ever since I saw the extended cut I can't watch the original anymore. It adds so much more emotion.
marvel72 - 11/13/2011, 5:37 PM
the punisher doesn't cry that's all jane did in his movie,the punisher is cold as ice hard as nails.
MercMatt - 11/13/2011, 6:07 PM
Warzone was my favorite of the three, but I like all of them.
shadow314 - 11/13/2011, 7:12 PM
war zone was easily the best of the three just because Castle was played perfectly.

Punisher punishes and that is what the third one accomplished.
TheQuestion - 11/13/2011, 8:59 PM
'Punisher: War Zone' is one of those rare films that is so terrible it becomes terrific. I saw it in theaters and it was easily the best time I've had watching a movie. Nobody took it seriously and just wanted to see the insane "Grindhouse" violence. When you view it from that B-Movie perspective, it's one of the most enjoyable CBMs of all time.
ThaMessenger07 - 11/14/2011, 12:54 PM
War Zone was the best IMO. It was exactly what the comics are. You can add all the substance you want but the source material was never more then what War Zone brought to the table. He's a War Vet, so he's messed up. Special Forces he's seen the worst of it all. Then his family is brutally Murdered. He is almost killed. Wakes up, looses it. He may have had a motive but it gets lost, much like Batman. He is so destroyed by it that he just looses his sense of Humanity. Stevenson and War Zone showed this.

Note I like the first 2, growing up I was a DL fan and am currently a TJ fan...
superbatspiderman - 11/15/2011, 1:57 PM
Warzone is trash. It might be closer to the source material but the acting (other than Stevenson) and dialoge was absolutely terrible.

@marvel72 - Ray Stevenson's Punisher cried at the scene where he visits his families grave site. I thought that was the best scene in the movie it was very touching to. You try losing your entire family and not cry.
Ghostt - 11/15/2011, 10:42 PM
very nice article. It breaks my heart because there are other good revenge movies out there that should have been Punisher like 'A Man Apart' (with VIn Diesel) and 'Death Sentence' (with Kevin Bacon). If you want to watch a Punisher movie, rent those two.
headlopper - 11/16/2011, 2:37 PM
Jane's 'Punshisher' for me.
It had heart.
comicman34 - 11/28/2011, 6:18 PM
thomas janes take on the punisher was epic
DarthAbraxas - 1/2/2012, 7:06 AM
i thought stevensons portrayal was best i liked the film but as a huge fan of the punisher max comic wich it was based on i feel like they took the first few story arcs from the comics and pissed on them. good movie but if you had stuck to the original storylines it would have been a great movie.
TheBatman938865 - 1/11/2012, 4:46 AM
dude you can't make up your mind...first you don't like Punisher 04 because it needed a little more action but then you don't like Warzone because it had to much mindless action. in my opinion the 04 one was better for many reasons. the director didn't make him just kill them all because really it didn't make sense...he's called the Punisher not the executioner so in that sense he should really make his targets suffer..and thats even better then just shooting the assholes. and if people say this Punisher cried..well no shit..he lost his whole family! and most important of all..Thomas freaking Jane...this dude was born to play the Punisher he had that dark look and that voice (best video game voice too) he was a buff dude. and the speech that got me chills was this "Those who do evil to others - the killers, the rapists, psychos, sadists - will come to know me well. Frank Castle is dead. Call me... The Punisher."
LoudNoises - 1/15/2012, 9:12 PM
I think your criticism of these films is right on. If I had to choose one as my favorite tho it would probably be Thomas Jane's Punisher. Hated Travolta in this movie tho.

One of the coolest parts in the whole movie for me was when Harry Heck walked in the dinner and played that little song to Frank Castle. I thought he was such a great character, like a Johnny Cash asassin. I was horrified when he was killed off a few minutes later with a lame ass shooting knife. I'm not very familiar with The Punisher comics, but whether or not Harry Heck's character actually was this short lived, I am still disapointed that the director missed this opportunity at further developing an amazing character, and giving him some proper action scenes. Imagine El Mariachi from any of the Robert Rodriquez films, only as a villian... nuff said.
EdgyOutsider - 1/28/2012, 2:27 AM
The '89 Punisher film was.. alright. I didn't care much for it cuz I felt the story wasn't strong enough, Dolph Lundgren isn't a strong enough actor for a lead role and that the film missed certain aspects, with an ok script on top of that. The '04 Punisher with Thomas Jane is my favorite, a strong script with a strong leading man and hit aspects needed for an origin movie. That being said War Zone is the remake that should've been a sequel. Ray Stevenson isn't a strong enough actor for a lead role, the problem with Dominic West as Jigsaw wasn't the actor but the underdevelopt villain. The story wasn't much if it was even there, it was mindless action but was pretty close to the comics, too close actually. That is my main problem with Punisher: War Zone is that it wasn't that it was too faithful, but too much like it down from the actions, to the words, to the color palettes. It doesn't work for me. If I had to give each film a rating out of 10 it'd be '89: 6/10, '04: 9/10, '08: 3/10
costa - 2/19/2012, 6:45 PM
All they need to do is go deep into his history instead of making up terrible stories and not looking in his history, bad acting on top of that ( Punisher 89), making a mellow drama, too much comic relief and not much action and yes its from the Welcome Back,Frank story, but why pic that story to start off his history ( Punisher04. Jane did a good job being Frank, its just what surrounds him that turns me off). War Zone was the best Punisher movie in my opinion, but its not all that great either. They got Frank and the violence right, but the story is so thin and just like the rest of the Punisher movies, they're not going deep into his history, like why he joined the marines instead of being a priest and seeing him in action in war(Born), how he met Maria,show the Costa Family and why did Forrest Hunt got executed, and show how his family get killed, and why he turned into The Punisher? I like to see all this stuff, what he's really about so audiences can get to know the character. Have a strong story and strong violence.
Garange - 4/2/2012, 6:51 AM
War Zone was the best for me. Even over the extended cut of Thomas Jane's "Diet Punisher". Stevenson's Punisher was ruthless and calculated, West was delightfully driven mad from his deformity, and his brother was already cracked. I could have done without "Newman" as Micro, but then again I've never been a Wayne Knight fan. The end battle with the mix of mob and street gangs was amazing, and watching Stevenson do the training on the special features gets me pumped.
I saw Lundgren's Punisher back in the day, because I had read about it in a comic mag before it came out. Was very disappointed that the skull was missing, but overall a great effort. I could have done without the nude meditation scenes, especially since you can totally see his sack hanging, but it's all good. Adds to the realism I guess.
Now on to the Thomas Jane crap-fest. Should have been called "The Punisher Takes a Vacation". Tampa Bay? WTF?! Punisher has and always will be from NY. Florida mob? HA! Maybe he can punish George Zimmerman...
Frankly86 - 5/26/2012, 9:18 PM
I personally felt the 2004 adaptation was best- go back and watch it- It is done frame-for-frame exactly like a comic book- As far as Movies go, i agree with everything above-but it was done to mimic an actual comic book- something that most others,if not all others lack.
Also, cant beat the Italian opera playing in the background during the fight with the russian- its called "rigoletto" by Verdi- read what the story in rigoletto is about- really cool.

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