Why Can’t Hollywood Understand Frank Castle?

Why Can’t Hollywood Understand Frank Castle?

After three failed attempts to bring The Punisher to the silver screen, one wonders will we ever see a proper tale about Frank Castle?

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By NERO - 6/27/2010
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Frank is still waiting.

I recently completed my first full FanFic here at CBM, or anywhere for that matter. PUNISHER MAX: IN THE DARK WOODS was my take on Marvel’s antihero supreme and was a hell of a good time for me putting it together. It is the Punisher I would like to see on screen. Over the course of compiling the story I found myself revisiting Frank Castle in all his incarnations over the years throughout comicdom and other media and I came to one conclusion: outside the world of comics there is little to no room to expand enough on Frank. The films thus far have really just ranged from the 80’s B budget actioner, to the contrived Tampa based western wannabe of 2003, to the final Schumacherian influenced failure of the more recent War Zone. So what went so terribly wrong? Why can’t Hollywood seem to grasp who and what Frank Castle is? At a glance he doesn’t seem like a hard character to fathom, but I think that is the root of all the missteps taken with the character. He is simply seen as a vengeful man gone wrong, a tragic case of pissing in the wrong man’s corn flakes. I think this over simplification of the character is the main problem.
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Over the years the Punisher has ridden the wave of political correctness and had his share of awful story arcs in the comics, he was relegated to C lister hell in the early eighties, turn briefly into an African American ala “Soul Man” (check that shitty movie out and you’ll see what I mean) and then killed and returned as a supernatural based hero after his nineties heyday, and then finally brought back as a nearly comedic violent hero of Marvel Knights in the new century, before finally having the reigns cut by the Marvel MAX line and allowed to truly shine under the story telling of Garth Ennis. Lately Marvel has again forgotten the early basis of the character and we have “Frankencastle” on our hands.
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Seriously guys, “Frankencastle?”


PhotobucketIt seems like after War Zone and Ennis’ departure from MAX Marvel just lost all notions of what to do with our friendly neighborhood sociopath. I think that is one of the main problems in making a good Punisher tale, no one wants to address the fact that a normal functional human being would go on a thirty year rampage of bloody murder carnage and dismemberment. Marvel seems afraid at current to simply call Punisher what he is, a serial killer. I know a lot of the purest are going to dislike that, but let’s look at it this way; Frank has long since gotten vengeance for the death of his family in spades. What keeps him going; Batman is openly written as an obsessive character to the point of neuroses why then is Marvel so frightened of embracing the fact that there is something seriously mentally wrong with Frank Castle.


Is it because they feel it will make him too unsympathetic? Surely they have seen the success of films and television shows like the Hannibal Lecter series of films and Dexter and realized the American public have a real love for characters that are damaged goods and violent beyond any semblance of reason. Why then, I ask, can’t they agree that Punisher if played as devoid of emotion and human empathy as he is; is a man walking just on the other side of Crazy Street, in the lovely suburb of Ted Bundyville? Have we not shown that if made relateable enough in their motivations we will embrace a fundamentally “evil” character? Sometime it is fun to root for the bad guy. Many would not call Frank a “bad guy,” but this is how he is perceived by the other more morally responsible heroes of the Marvel Universe so why not give in to the dark side.Photobucket
So long as he has a code, which Castle does have. No innocents, no children, no cops by direct action, or dogs, puppies, kitties, duckies, or other assorted forest creatures smaller than a Rottweiler need fear the wrath of the Punisher. I kid, but the point remains he has set limits for his actions which he adheres to. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t thought about unleashing a level of hell on earth hitherto unseen since the hoards of Genghis Kahn, in fact in the story “Up is Down, Black is White” Ennis himself showed a dream which Frank described as recurrent in which after killing the scum he then turns he gun in the innocent who have gathered to watch the beast as he puts it. It was a damn fine but of storytelling and one I emulated in my FanFic

Were Hollywood unafraid to embrace these aspects of The Punisher, I feel confident we could finally have a proper Punisher film. Frank doesn’t need a damsel to rescue, he doesn’t need a super villain, he doesn’t need powers; he just needs a target. He is a man at war with himself, with the world, with the inequities of a system he sees as too lenient, and a society too forgiving in its judgment of those who have committed acts of evil, and too afraid to see the pain of the victims least they see themselves as vulnerable to the horrors themselves. I think in many ways modern Hollywood is too PC to look on society with such a mirror darkly. They see a comic hero and think that it must be softened for mass appeal and marketing for the kiddies. Punisher needs to be looked at as a film in the vein of “Death Wish” turning a laser eye to our society and shaming some of its high-mindedness and morality and address the savage nature of man. That blood lust any parent feels when they see a child rapist paraded before the cameras and for just a split second you wish the most horrid offenses of the Spanish Inquisition could be unleashed from the bowels of antiquity, before catching yourself and thinking that we live in a more civilized time.


I know, a lot of you are saying, it’s just a guy shooting people. It is. But it could be more given the proper tone and subtlety of message. Why should we be afraid to think a little watching an action movie? Subliminally the point is made anyway. We trod off to see the fictional and sensationalized carnage at the theater everyday just as willingly as the Romans made a day of it to see the real thing at the Flavian Amphitheatre in the first century. Give us a good script and a good psychologically interesting protagonist and I predict the studios will get their money’s worth in box office and the true fans of the Punisher will get “their Frank Castle” on screen for the first time. It only takes a little creativity, societal scrutiny, and blood to make an action movie great. I think after all this time Frank has earned his day. I say we give him the ammunition to come at us with both barrels
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Denn1s - 6/27/2010, 3:43 AM
well, except for the stupid colors that popped up from nowhere like batman and robin, i loved war zone.it was pretty faithful and violent. what else do we want?
LEEE777 - 6/27/2010, 5:16 AM
It ain't just FRANK CASTLE....

HOLLYWOOD can't understand any comic book property, with an exception of a rare few, i.e. WATCHMEN and a few others!

; P
LEEE777 - 6/27/2010, 5:23 AM
Denn1s @ Howz about we didn't want MICROCHIP killed on his first big screen outing straight away or PUNISHER being such a waste of space being caught by that sad 'one and half' joke Punisher Task Force!

Plus a billions things more wrong with WARZONE! : P
NERO - 6/27/2010, 10:34 AM
I wanted to like War Zone, but there was too much gone wrong to forgive. The waste of Micro, the horrid depiction of Jigsaw, the out of place set dressing, and a hollow fluff filled script. Not to mention wasting the characters of Ink and Pittsy and basically turning Nicky Cavella into an undercover FBI agent... There was just so much potential wasted. I left the film feeling not just deflated but nearly depressed.

It was as if they took all the best characters from the Max run dumped them together and then killed them all in the most idiotic ways possible (ie Cristu and McGuinty), thus making the chance of seeing story lines like "Slavers" and "Kitchen Irish" unlikely to ever be brought to the screen. That just made me angry.
LEEE777 - 6/27/2010, 10:54 AM
Exactly @ NERO, exactly!
AverageCitizen99 - 6/27/2010, 12:03 PM
@NERO
Astounding article! :D
I was thinking of making a similar article to yours. You got to what I was going to talk about; from the tone comparison to 'Death Wish' to characters like Dexter. MARVEL needs, if they don't, to understand that the Punisher and his antisocial character traits are what make him so unique from their other characters.

A Punisher film will take years to make after 'War Zone.' That and Lionsgate still own the rights. If MARVEL ever did get the rights to the character they should try to incorporate him another character's films. The only characters I can see Frank being around due to his connections with them from the comics are Daredevil or Spider-Man, and they're owned by different studios.

I always saw an actual Punisher film as being like 'Death Wish' meets 'the Dark Knight;' both set in a realistic and gritty environment. If MARVEL did get the character back, my opinion is to make him a part of the MARVEL universe the same way as Captain America was integral to their WWII. During his first years, a solo film could take place in the New York of the 70's. It might still have rude people roaming the streets today but compared to back then it was Hell on earth. The police came up with a method to counter crime back then which proved successful in lowering the crime to today's standards in the state. MARVEL could make Frank as also having been responsible for the diminishing number of serious crimes due to his swift brutality. And if they ever decided to bring him to the present time, make him look like the aged Castle we all know from Garth's interpretations.

Great stuff!

superbatspiderman - 6/27/2010, 12:31 PM
I thought that Thomas Jane's Punisher was great it is one of my favorite movies it had action, violence, a simpathetic character. Warzone was just sort of dumb and pointless.
MovieTheaterLad - 6/27/2010, 1:06 PM
If we could have a movie with Thomas Jane's characterization and Ray Stevenson's badassery, we'd be in business.

Oh yeah, and Frankencastle was freakin' awesome! Anyone who hasn't read it seriously needs to check it out!
RorMachine - 6/27/2010, 1:14 PM
Great article. I was never a big Punisher fan but i did enjoy Ennis' run. The movies all sucked though no doubt, the best of em was actually the Tom Jane movie imo. It did maybe tone down his violent side a bit, but at least we had something approaching a proper plot and decent performances. Warzone was a joke. Exploding heads isn't a good movie, its exploding heads. The dude playing Frank(can't think of his name) was ok, but he had nothing to work with. Every other actor in the movie either flat out sucked or went so over the top as to be a parody. I was going to make it my next revisit but I didn't want to sit through it again. One star.
Timerider84 - 6/27/2010, 1:23 PM
You HAVE to make it marketable, if someone wants to take their own money and produce your own movie, that's fine. However, the studios can't take a chance with their own money and make something that fan boys will drool over and hope for a profit.
vxMaverickxv - 6/27/2010, 1:24 PM
seriously...Warzone was pretty much spot on Punisher. I think they should stick with what was awesome and keep working with the people who made warzone.
HULK2099 - 6/27/2010, 1:37 PM
Martin Scorsese to do a Punisher movie! look at all his work with MOBS. Picture Good Fellas but with The Punisher killing pecci n Deniro n Lioda!!!
P862010 - 6/27/2010, 1:39 PM
punisher does'nt lend itself to a good storyline other than revenge
scurvydog - 6/27/2010, 1:46 PM
The problem is MARVEL doesn't know how to handle the Punisher.If they had made the "Circle Of Blood" storyline into a film....
scurvydog - 6/27/2010, 1:48 PM
The problem is MARVEL doesn't know how to handle the Punisher.If they had made the "Circle Of Blood" storyline into a film....
SHHH - 6/27/2010, 1:51 PM
Matthew Vaughn or Snyder would nail Castle.... When It come's to certain thing's hollywood are pussies...
hulksgirl87 - 6/27/2010, 1:57 PM
I'm sorry but I disagree that there's been three failed attempts I loved the Thomas Jane Punisher....
SHAZAM171 - 6/27/2010, 2:00 PM
I think Hollywood mistakes The Punisher a s just another obsolete dumb action hero. We see him with a lot of passion for his craft. He is Rambo x's 50, Picasso with a gun, Michael Jordan with a grenade. Frank Castle has an inner struggle, even more so than Batman. I think The Punisher should be a lot like Riddick mixed with the Predator, hunting Mobsters and criminals. In my humble opinion.
supermarioworldE - 6/27/2010, 2:21 PM
Great article.

With these movies doing so poorly at the box office, it's unlikely that we'll see another Punisher film for a while. Marvel and the studios refuse to provide a proper budget and decent director for a film based on this character. They know that a "Hard R" superhero movie won't be as profitable or as marketable as a "Safe" PG-13 movie that could bring in a larger audience.

Can the Punisher be given a proper adaptation? Yes.

Will Marvel attempt to bring this character to the big screen yet again? Possibly.

Have the Punisher films been very profitable in the past. No.

We can only hope for the best
jondoe297 - 6/27/2010, 2:23 PM
to me there was only one good Punisher movie out there and that was the 2004 one with Thomas Jane he did a great jod he looked and sounded how the punisher should and I hear talk of realistic that movie was based mostly on the Welcome Back Frank searies and thats why why Thomas Jane didn't come back for War Zone he thought they were get a from what made the 04 one so much better
canadianturd - 6/27/2010, 2:27 PM
Great article!

I liked the War Zone movie, but I was never big on Punisher growing up. Recently, I bought and read Punisher War Journal, Civil War (v. 1) and Punisher War Journal, Secret Invasion (v. 5) and I liked them.

What other Punisher comics do you guys suggest I get?
GUNSMITH - 6/27/2010, 2:31 PM

TRUE QUESTION WAS WHAT REALLY WAS IT THAT DIDN'T WORK?

LUDGREN PUNISHER....

-THIS IS THE VERITABLE PIMP SLAP IN THE COMIC LOVERS FACE. WITH THE PAINTED ON FIVE O-CLOCK SHADOW AND THE ELVIS LOOK WITH NO SKULL(SAVE FOR THE ITTY BITTY ONE ON HIS KNIFE) THIS WAS THE OMG WHY COMIC MOVIE...

THOMAS JANE PUNISHER...


TO ME THIS WAS COOL, THEY WENT FOR MENTAL GAMES AND EXTREMES, IT WAS GOOD, BUT WHAT WAS IT MISSING? IT HAD THE BEGINNINGS TO SOMETHING GOOD, MAYBE PEOPLE WERE LOOKING FOR COMIC BOOK "FLASHY-NESS" RATHER REALISM..

WAR ZONE...

OK, THIS IS COMIC BOOK, IT LOOKS LIKE IT JUMPED OUT OF A BRAD STREET COMIC PAGE, IT'S GOT THE COMIC BOOK ALL OVER IT, WHY IT DIDN'Y GET FULL MAINSTREAM APPEAL I DUNNO..WHAT IS IT THAT THE AUDIENCE WANTS?

YOU KNOW IM THINKING WE WANT SOME RAMBO HUGE LOOKING GUY WITH ISSUES..YOU GIVE PEOPLE THAT AND EVERYONE WILL BUY INTO IT..PEOPLE ARE LOOKING FOR AN ACTION STAR..THAT'S WHAT SELLS, JUST LIKE IN THE DAYS OF STALLONE, SWARTZENNAGER, YOU GIVE PEOPLE THAT, THEY'LL BITE..

FIND THE SECRET TO WHY THE OLDSCHOOL ACTION MOVIES WERE SO HUGE AND YOU FIND THE THING THAT WILL MAKE THE PUNISHER A HUGE THING IN HOLLYWOOD..
SHO1138 - 6/27/2010, 2:41 PM
Wasn't there something about the studio making major cuts on Warzone?
maki - 6/27/2010, 2:46 PM
If your going to bash somthing get your facts straight punisher was black for a few issues in the early 90s after jigsaw cut him up and he was trying to lay low, marvel killed him in a bad ass way marvel over the edge ran through all of the violent marvel heroes at that time culminating in the punishers fake death wich did not work after a few issues he was canceled and revamped for marvel knights as a demon hunting whatever that sucked and was canceled after the first mini series then they tried again in marvel knights with garth ennis this 12 issue maxi was so succesfull that it got an ongoing series this went on for awhile then when marvel did max it was transfered to that line ill agree that ennis was the soul of the punisher and frank died with ennis leaving but you have to take the good with the bad the thomas jane punisher was not that bad the villians sucked, the origen change from nam to the florida sucked but they tried to follow ennis's story a little the 8 min that was cut and put on the director cut dve was cool and made the movie a bit better it was a good effort, the war zone movie sucked all the way through except for the guy that played him whatever his name was looked just like the marvel covers from knights and max but your right the reason hollywood keeps making bad punisher movies is there taking a concept that is simple and making a simple movie the punisher isnt just making killing everybody the sole purpose and thats not the punisher he has a mission a pupose and some really cool rogues from the 90' through the ennis years this last movie was an insult jigsaw is a bad ass and i doudt he was a retarded italian reject from the godfather movies heres to hoping they get it right someday.
canadianturd - 6/27/2010, 2:58 PM
Anyone? Just a few suggestions for sweet Punisher trades?
CorndogBurglar - 6/27/2010, 2:59 PM
Death Sentence with Kevin Bacon was more of a Punisher film than any of the actual Punisher movies.

And Warzone could have been cool if it took itself a little more seriously. yeah it was gory, but it was exagerated and hokey gore. the whole movie was hokey, including Jigsaw.

The Punisher should be the easiest character to adapt into a film, but we keep getting shit movies. it doesn't make any sense.

@ CandianTurd

Start with the Punisher MAX series, volume 1 by Garth Ennis, and go from there. Ennis' run on Punisher is the quintessential Punisher series. It doesn't get any better than those.
canadianturd - 6/27/2010, 3:01 PM
Anyone? Just a few suggestions for sweet Punisher trades?
CorndogBurglar - 6/27/2010, 3:05 PM
@ canadiaturd

i just answered you
Niem8211 - 6/27/2010, 3:23 PM
Next time they should try to not let a girl that has no idea about any Punisher comicbooks direct the film////
WakeUp - 6/27/2010, 4:06 PM
I never really "Got" the Punisher until the civil war story line where he pulls Spider-man out of the sewers and mows down the bad guys trying to join cap....then it sorta gave me an idea of how he is suppose to be...The biggest flaw of the punisher is that he never has had a main villain, if they could work in Taskmaster or The Hood then I'd pay to see that movie....shooting up mobsters is played out enough and doesn't give me the sympathy needed to cheer for him, give me a villain that he can't just take down in one shot....Deadpool would work for me too but that's just a wet dream on film
AngelAragiel - 6/27/2010, 4:11 PM
I like WarZone too :D
EditNinja - 6/27/2010, 4:12 PM
None of the Punisher movies hit it outta the park, but Hollywood has picked the eyes out of Punisher mythology to the point that it will be a long time before we'd get another movie that won't get an instant negative reaction from movie-goers.
I like all of those movies for different reasons, but for most non-fans he's just 'the guy with the skull on his chest that goes around shooting everybody'. Nevermind. At least they've tried. They can't ALL be Dark Knights.
Apoc4all - 6/27/2010, 4:16 PM
I liked warzone.
flames809 - 6/27/2010, 4:35 PM
wakeup- i agree

don't know that much about punisher. but they just have to make him it realism cuz that comic-book shit wont work for him look at punisher: war zone for example. they should make him realism and make true to the comic-book or have some comic book elements that made the fans like the punisher beside the killing. like make him show emotions. like something that Nolan did with batman something like that. and show him form the beginning again.
Woodinator - 6/27/2010, 4:35 PM
The Thomas Jane movie had problems... and things I liked
Problem- Crappy villain and Frank in Tampa
Liked- An actual storyline and characterization

And Warzone had problems... and things I liked
Problem- No story and no characterization
Liked- Good Villain and semi true to the MAX series

I'm convinced the only way we will get a great Punisher film will be if it's animated and made by someone phenomenally insane.
Vital - 6/27/2010, 4:57 PM
Why is the Thomas Jane one bad again? Can somebody enlighten me? It was the best so far.
JoshCharmley - 6/27/2010, 5:04 PM
I thought the Worst Punisher Movie out of the 3 was war Zone. It was more like a Dark Comedy. I took my girlfriend to see it, and she laughed all through it. (So did about half the theatre) I liked the Thomas Jane Punisher. I mean the villain was pretty weak, but it had a great story. Sure he could have been more badda$s, but all in all I think it was the best of the 3. But that’s just MO.
Cumulactus - 6/27/2010, 5:16 PM
Because Punisher isn't formulaic enough.

Hollywood's desperate addiction to what is erroneously believed to be needed to tell a good story makes it impossible to make a good Punisher movie.
Blackreverend - 6/27/2010, 5:21 PM
Yeah Thomas Jane was my fav as well and to be honest John Travolta's character is what killed the movie. He was too poorly written. We needed a villain worth fighting. Someone with more brains... Travolta's character was humiliated not defeated.
JHowlett - 6/27/2010, 5:45 PM
I dont' care what anybody says I liked Punisher Warzone I thought it was a pretty faithful depiction. They didn't skip on the gore. Yeah parts of the movie were very campy but still I liked that they didn't try to soften up anything. Maybe the next try will go better but I hope they take that approach with the next movie.
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