Is PUNISHER: WAR ZONE Developing A Cult Following?

Is PUNISHER: WAR ZONE Developing A Cult Following?

In a recent interview director Lexi Alexander addresses the developing cult status of Punisher: War Zone. She also discusses the struggles she endured while making the movie. Check it out!

There is no denying that Punisher: War Zone was a critical and box-office failure when it debuted in 2008. Film critics only gave it a 26% approval rating, with an average rating of 4.3 out of 10. It only opened with a measly $4 million, finishing in eight place. The film grossed $8 million domestically and another $2 million internationally. On the bright side, DVD and Blu-ray sales have been much better, adding another $10 million (as of 2010) to it's total. Nevertheless the film, based on the latest figures, hasn't recovered it's budget of $35 million.

With all that negativity out of the way lets focus on the fact that a strong and loyal following has started to develop. Which may have something to do with comedian/actor Patton Oswalt being one of the film's more vocal supporters. Just last year Oswalt screened the film to a packed theater full of fans that were genuinely excited to see the film again on the big screen. In a recent interview Lexi Alexander discusses the developing cult status of the film.
Cult status is bittersweet and I assume every filmmaker feels the same way about that. On the hand you’re glad for the confirmation that your film isn’t this massive, universal failure; on the other hand you’re frustrated that the studio’s marketing department was unable to reach the film’s intended audience. After Patton Oswalt hosted a PWZ screening for his Deeper into the Darkness film festival, a writer who was in the audience posted an article about the film being a perfect example of a studio failing to understand how to reach niche audiences. He mentioned that, based on the line around the block for tickets and the audience’s enthusiastic reaction during Patton’s PWZ screening, it was clear that had the right opinion makers pre-screened the movie and spread the word, this could have been a phenomenal success. You read stuff like that and you can’t help feeling disappointed.

Since Punisher: War Zone Lexi has really done much of anything. And one might assume that she isn't getting many offers based on PWZ bombing at the box-office, that just isn't the case. According to Lexi she has had many offers, but she is trying to be more careful with her next choice, looking to avoid past mistakes. She no longer wants to make movies that use violence as a gimmick.
Well, the fact that there’s only one credit after PWZ is mostly my own fault. I made a conscious decision to never again work on a movie I’m not really passionate about. People forget that directors don’t just show up for a few weeks of shooting like actors do. We have to eat, breath and live this movie for at least a year. You spend most of that time fighting for the film, protecting it, campaigning for it. This is extremely hard when it’s a project you never wanted to make in the first place. PWZ actually had a lot of industry fans and after it came out on DVD I received dozens of scripts in which 30 people were killed by machetes in the first 5 pages, I simply wasn’t up for that kind of stuff anymore. Of course the obstacle I face in Hollywood is that the type of movie I want to make, ( a young adult, adventure type story) is not something I have a track record in. Therefore it is a very challenging goal to achieve, but frankly, that’s what life is all about. I know a lot of filmmakers who are stuck in a genre, they make a lot of money, they direct movies back-to-back, but they’re far from happy. All the “hacks” know people call them that, they never get considered for anything outside their genre and even if they’d make a little indie movie on their own, chances are critical acclaim will still elude them just based on their previous work. The bottom line is, before you establish yourself in one movie genre you better make sure you have great passion for it. Eli Roth for example is great at what he does and clearly loves it. It would be sad for him though if he’d secretly long to direct The King’s Speech kind of films, right?

I think one of the best portions of the interview is when Lexi is asked about how much freedom she had with the script. She gives a no holds barred response that gives you a new perspective into the turmoil that she faced while making the film.
I’m not sure I had that much freedom. Not only because it was a studio film, but because we wanted to stay as true to the source material as possible. The whole writing process is not something I like to remember. It was a horrible experience and frankly, I believe everybody got screwed. Kurt Sutter wrote a draft I never even got until I was long hired and in the middle of development (the Executive blamed my agents, the agents blamed the Executive…who knows, somebody clearly didn’t want me to have the latest draft). I had worked with Nick Santora’s script which I liked. By the time I’ve read Kurt’s, it was way too far fetched from the vision in my head. I do believe that a lot of people out there would have liked his version. It was a much straighter, serious version. Obviously I wanted to do something surreal and fun. At the same time I got hired the studio brought on Marcum/Holloway for a rewrite. These guys were great, I loved working with them. They wrote a draft the Executive didn’t like so he was about to hire another writer. At that point I’ve had enough. I offered to give it a try for free (meaning my director’s draft would save him the fee he’d spent on another writer). I didn’t improve the draft Marcum/Holloway delivered. I merely addressed the notes the Exec had so that he’d be happy and greenlight the production. So much politics, so little judgement on craft. This whole idea of studios bringing in a dozen writers on a script is so counter-productive in my opinion, whoever started that trend is a fool.

Punisher: War Zone - An R-rated film directed by Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans) and produced by Lionsgate. It starred: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchison, and Wayne Knight. The script was written by Nick Santora, Matt Holloway, and Arthur Marcum. The film was originally released December 5, 2008.

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Filed Under "Punisher" 9/25/2012 Source: paracinema
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TayDee - 9/25/2012, 10:51 PM
Well I've never seen it
Luminus - 9/25/2012, 10:55 PM
The movie was horrible. She wanted to do something surreal and fun? Well, the Punisher is dark and violent. How is the movie's failure a surprise?
Luigi - 9/25/2012, 10:55 PM
Can't wait to see what Marvel does with Punisher
DoomXfactor - 9/25/2012, 10:58 PM
Cult Following??? This movie was terrible. I'd rather watch Thomas Jane's #DIRTYLAUNDRY
Guerillas - 9/25/2012, 10:59 PM
She seems smart, true about the last thing with studios hiring tons of writers for one script, look at green lantern! Then look at avengers, one writer.
CharlesLord - 9/25/2012, 10:59 PM
i thought PWZ was alirght. Definitely nothing memorable about it that puts it in cult following status
RamonSuarez - 9/25/2012, 11:02 PM
I agree with ToDandy.

Lionsgate and Gale Ann Turd [frick]ed Lexi over but looking at the final product its hard for me say that Alexander did a decent job. Her direction was pure cheese on top of a corny script.

I was unaware Kurt Sutter actually (re)wrote this film. I am big fan of his work on Sons of Anarchy and can't believe he'd produce such utter shit.
scmittydude - 9/25/2012, 11:04 PM
I loved this movie. Not the other "i'm not going to actually punish you i'm just going to rub a popsicle on your back" movie that came before it.
RamonSuarez - 9/25/2012, 11:07 PM

Actually, Avengers had two writers - Zak Penn and then Whedon who rewrote most of the original screenplay.

A lot of successful CBMs have multiple writers. Batman Begins had Goyer and J. Nolan work on it. Iron Man Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway all credited as screenwriters on top of the scenes Downey and Favreau improvised.

But its imperative you have smart people supervising the rewrite process and bringing the right writers to collaborate on the new drafts. Alexander and Hurd were hacks.
Mego - 9/25/2012, 11:14 PM
For her to say it has a Cult Following is to claim its a success after it was a total failure. The only good thing about the film was Stevenson.
I wouldve loved to see Stevenson in a great Death Wish Remake, which is what Punisher was based on. And of the 2 Punisher Films (Not counting the 80's Punisher as an actual film)they really didnt go for the feel of a vigilante crime victim looking for revenge or driven over the edge.
A Punisher film that sticks to its roots and follows Death Wish would be greater than Castle vs. The Mob crap.
They aim too high and try to be too grand when a smaller, simpler story would have more impact.
Marxman12 - 9/25/2012, 11:15 PM
I agree with @scmittydude. War Zone was a far better, far more faithful adaptation than Thomas Jane's Punisher. Even the short 'Dirty Laundry' was a weak attempt to make up for the fact that his Punisher was not a bad ass. Ray Stevenson did a much better job. He was not just a pretty face, he looked grizzled and intimidating. War Zone was the dark, gritty, campy blood-soaked movie Punisher fans had been waiting for. The dinner scene alone in the beginning of War Zone was better than thall of 2005'sPunisher.
DaneE5R - 9/25/2012, 11:15 PM

calciferboheme - 9/25/2012, 11:17 PM
The cult following isn't a delusion. It may not be a huge following, but if it's selling out theatres it obviously exists.

I still don't get the hate for this movie. What do people expect from a Punisher film? It's obviously not going to be the best movie ever, but it was a very good action movie.
RamonSuarez - 9/25/2012, 11:17 PM
The worst thing about Warzone was how it bastardized the greatest run on a Marvel title in the past two decades. They took a lot of what Garth Ennis did for the character and totally perverted it by taking away the in depth characterization and multiple storylines. What was left was this ridiculous gratuitousness that made Ennis' dark humor seem cheesy.
RamonSuarez - 9/25/2012, 11:25 PM
Punisher is my favorite Marvel character. The character actually exists within a real world where professional criminals exist and do horrible things to people and uses very feasible skills to fight them. There is a certain believability to the idea of an ex soldier waging an endless war against organized crime in revenge for what happened to his family.

There was soooooo little in Warzone that was even remotely feasible or realistic from the point of view of the characters, storyline, or action. That's what bothers me so much about this film and the people who defend it - they don't seem to recognize what the character is about and just focus on the superficially gratuitous aspect of his no-hold's barred vigilantism.

This was why Garth Ennis was such a brilliant writers and why his run on Punisher's Max imprint was so revolutionary. He realized the Punisher isn't much of a superhero either in the sense of powers or in the sense of a heroic figure. Like Moore with Rorshach, he understood that Punisher's black and white/absolute mentality to the world created a whole host of dangerous, difficult, and even darkly funny moments that forced the character to confront a violent and brutal world he did not want to leave behind.
DoomXfactor - 9/25/2012, 11:27 PM
@DaneE5R- LOL
@RamonSuarez- agreed
SwordExplosion - 9/25/2012, 11:32 PM
You can listen to Patton and Lexi make fun of the movie for a full hour on episode 20 of the podcast "How Did This Get Made." The podcast has done episodes on Superman III and Halle Berry's Catwoman Movie as well.
SwordExplosion - 9/25/2012, 11:37 PM
They also did Green Lantern. Funny show.
Fornication - 9/25/2012, 11:40 PM
Nice interview.
DoomXfactor - 9/25/2012, 11:41 PM
Ray Stevenson was forgettable. The whole movie had the quality of a straight to dvd movie. Shitty acting and shitty story. They need to get Garth Ennis involved in the next movie.
FightAs0ne - 9/25/2012, 11:42 PM
@DaneE5R Lol that's how its done.

Thomas Jane's Punisher has still been one of my favorite movies and still is. If you doubt that, then go watch Dirty Laundry and try again.
lokibane2012 - 9/25/2012, 11:44 PM
Use Punisher as a supporting character. He can't carry his own film. Neither can Ghost Rider, or Daredevil.
lokibane2012 - 9/25/2012, 11:44 PM
Thomas Jane's Punisher was gay as [frick]. and Ray Stevenson's lacked a real personality. You need someone better who can balance the humanity and the badassery of the character.
ManOfKrypton - 9/25/2012, 11:47 PM
Cult following? She must be deluded lol.
BlueDemon - 9/25/2012, 11:50 PM

BlueDemon - 9/25/2012, 11:51 PM
Thomas Jane>>>>>>>>Ray Stevenson
95 - 9/25/2012, 11:51 PM
She directed that movie? The Punisher needs some balls behind the camera. Literally. Frank Castle needs a director and writer (male or female) who can deliver hilariously brutal material. With the film rights with Disney (?) I'm thinking maybe Drew Goddard. I know he likes Daredevil, but Goddard's and Whedon's work with The Cabin In The Woods has been highlight of all the movies I've seen this year.

Honestly, I didn't bother reading the entire interview. Maybe later. I wasn't aware of a cult following. I've yet to see the film myself, and probably won't be going out of my way to see it.
SwordExplosion - 9/25/2012, 11:53 PM
Patton Oswalt has a huge cult following. This movie's following is a splinter cell of that.
DoodPool - 9/25/2012, 11:54 PM
punisher fans will never be happy, when they see him on screen he's either too silly or too serious. i liked this movie a lot and i liked thomas jane as well. I think this film is underrated.
IIIAdamantiumIII - 9/26/2012, 12:08 AM
the over the top gore and action scenes were the only good parts everything else was just terrible
StSharp - 9/26/2012, 12:12 AM
I personally loved this movie, and Jane's version two! I own both! But I think its fair to say they each had an element that the other was missing. If only they could combine all this things into one then we would have the best Punisher movie hands down!
jondoe297 - 9/26/2012, 12:14 AM
@ DaneE5R that was good and you show the 04 version did stay.true to the comic just because they didn't have random acts of violence doesn't mean it don't stay true that movie wad.more from the Welcome Back Frank series
ridah - 9/26/2012, 12:20 AM
Totally underrated film, I agree, it has a cult following. I know many people who liked it but it didn't get it's just due at the box office because of the 1st one which was one of the WORST comic book movies EVER made! Ray Stevenson was so much better and more in line with the comic version of the character. It wasn't the best movie, the production values were questionable, but it absolutely was a more comic book aligned version of the Punisher than the one before it. It was a solid action flick.
RamonSuarez - 9/26/2012, 12:21 AM
I really feel that if any Marvel character would benefit from a TV show adaptation its not Hulk, Jessica Jones, SHIELD, or Cloak and Dagger but The Punisher. Imagine Garth Ennis co-producing/writing a miniseries on a major cable network like HBO, Showtime or STARZ.

You could fully explore the character in an in-depth R-rated fashion. You could introduce heinous ass people like Nicky Cavella, Ma Gnucci, Jigsaw, Barracuda, The Russian, Bushwacker, and de Sade.
13echo - 9/26/2012, 1:08 AM
Pay attention boys and girls films like this will be half of the reason that CBM's will die out!
Jollem - 9/26/2012, 1:51 AM
loved war zone when i saw it in the theater. great movie to come out around the holidays. war zone definitely has a cult following with me. saw the commentary and behind the scenes with lexi and she really seemed to love the character of frank

ennis' run on punisher under the marvel knights title was great. the 2004 punisher bastardized the story of Welcome Back, Frank. coulda done without florida, the wild turkey, and other things

war zone had a bunch of references to ennis' run on the punisher under the max title, and it's so damn badass. the war zone punisher made the 2004 punisher seem like "the slap on the wrist-er"

i liked all 3 punisher films but war zone is a damn good time

1RoninAmongBitches - 9/26/2012, 2:19 AM
The only good thing about this film was Stevensons presence and that was even given wrong direction by this director. Where is the director that gets this simple [frick]ing concept. This type of film is not hard its been down numerous times successfully......
Nubase - 9/26/2012, 2:24 AM
War Zone was an ok movie, the violence was spot on but the thing is we will never get a true punisher movie cos some of the things if not all in the punisher comics are so extreme and violent theres no way it will be put on screen.

Also Punisher has a vast array of villians, really interesting villians like what Batman has and to me Punisher is Marvels Batman, both guys chose to become a symbol of justice folowing the murder of thier loved ones with Punisher going the the extreme.

Even if Marvel do get the rights they will not deliver a violent punisher we all want, l think this is one character that may never get the movie it deserves.
mattattack - 9/26/2012, 2:24 AM
Are you guys high as shit? Warzone [frick]ing SUCKED. The 2004 version with Jane was INFINITELY better on all levels. It had heart and a solid story that included more than gun shoot outs and had a REAL villain. Travolta is a lot more menacing than a dude with really bad prosthetic make up to make himself look like a comic book character.

Tom Jane all the way. Whoever prefers WZ over the 2004 model is kidding themselves and want camp instead of solid acting/story.
siggisuperman - 9/26/2012, 2:44 AM
Just re-watched Thomas Janes punisher and it was fine... I don't understand what problem people have with it. I felt the death of his family was portrayed a little weirdly but other than that it was very good.
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