Comic Book Heroes, Then & Now: The Punisher.
Click here to read my second issue of 'Comic-Book Heroes, Then & Now' where I check out Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher, as well as Thomas Jane in the role...
Well here it is, my second issue of 'Comic-Book Heroes, Then & Now', and this time I'll be looking at Dolph Lundgren in 1989's 'The Punisher', as well as Thomas Jane in the role in 2004's 'The Punisher'.
For those of you who missed my first issue where I looked at 'Batman', check it out HERE
The Punisher (1989)
Directed by Mark Goldblatt
Dolph Lundgren - Frank Castle/The Punisher
Louis Gossett Jr. - Jake Berkowitz
Jeroen Krabbe - Gianni Franco
Kim Miyori - Lady Tanaka
Budget - $9-11 million
Gross Revenue - N/A
Now it's been quite a long time since I've seen this movie so I'll have to rely mostly on memory and the internet to help me write this. Not many people have seen this version of The Punisher due to it not having a theatrical release in the US because of extreme financial difficulties at the time, the movie was however given a theatrical release everywhere else and released on VHS in the states in '91.
Despite it's reputation for being a terrible comic-book movie, some critics and magazines actually gave it fairly decent reviews, praising Dolph Lundgren's ability to act through a sub-par plot and script. I think it goes without question that Dolph Lundgren was a good fit for Frank Castle, maybe not by todays standards but at the time, he was one of the top action heroes who could really pull off the tough and rugged character. Take note, I think he's a good fit as far as the action parts go, he's an action star plain and simple, he's not an actor, I think we can all agree that his acting is, well its just awful.
The action in the movie is great, again for it's time it's great, by todays standards it would look silly and campy. The majority of the fight scenes were all improvised by the actors so it could bring some more realism to the scenes as opposed to a completely planned out fight scene, and it works, it works great. There's no shortage of blood-shed, I think there's something like close to 100 kills in the movie, not including the explosions and what not.
Some people would argue that the movie focused too much on violence and not enough on plot and story, and what's the problem with that? That's who The Punisher is, he's not going to spend 30 minutes monologuing about how he's going to kill you, he's going to walk up to you while you're crying your eyes out, and he's going to stab you in the forehead.
Now that's not saying there aren't some major issues with this movie, most notably would be the plot involving Frank helping the man who murdered his family. I'll admit, that was a little bit, off, ok not off, competely messed up. That basically takes everything The Punisher stands for and throws it out the window. Yes he spends the whole movie doing what he does best, murdering, but he's still helping the man who killed his family for crying out loud.
It's hard for me to give my final opinion on this movie seeing as how I haven't seen it for quite some time but I can say this, it was alright, it doesn't live up to the standards of other comic-book movies, but it was good. This movie did what the 80's did best, action movies, if you take out the characters names, you have the standard 80's style popcorn action flick. The good news for most comic-book fans who hate this movie is that it was almost completely over-shadowed by Tim Burton's 'Batman' released the same year.
The Punisher (2004)
Directed by Johnathan Hensleigh
Thomas Jane - Frank Castle/The Punisher
Ben Foster - Spacker Dave
Kevin Nash - The Russian
Will Patton - Quentin Glass
Rebecca Romijn - Joan
John Travolta - Howard Saint
Budget - $15 million
Gross Revenue - $55 million
Now the main reason I chose to use this Punisher film as opposed to 'War Zone' is because I didn't like 'War Zone', hated it in fact, but I love this movie, Thomas Jane was an absolutely amazing casting choice for Frank Castle. Honestly, before this movie, I never in a million years would have thought of Thomas for this movie, when I heard he was cast for this role I literally laughed, I couldn't believe they were doing it, but how wrong I was.
Avi Arad himself said that Thomas Jane was the first and only actor considered for Frank Castle, and after turning down the role twice, Jane accepted and immediately began reading as many issues of The Punisher comic book he could get his hands on, he gained 25 pounds of muscle, and trained for 7 months with the Navy Seals for prepare for the role.
While I'm on the topic of casting, that brings me to John Travolta. I have nothing against Travolta, and hell I even thought he was good in this movie, but I just think that someone else could have done a way better job. I think he's a great actor and is great in almost everything I've seen him in, but he just seemed out of place throughout the film and that was a bit of a distraction for me, I just couldn't see him being in a world like that.
Yea there are a few issues with this Punisher film also, but the same can be said about any comic-book movie out there. For starters, director Johnathan Hensleigh was only given a budget of $15 million for the movie, when the going-rate for most action movies is upwards of $60 million, and only 50 days to shoot the movie, which again is about half the time most action movies have to shoot. Due to the budget cuts, there had to be a lot of re-writes with the script, in the dvd commentary, it's mentioned that the original opening scene was suppose to be a big action scene set in Kuwait during the Gulf War.
When 'The Punisher' was released, it was given overall negative reviews. The critics hated it, and Roger Ebert said " The Punisher is so grim and cheerless, you wonder if even its hero gets any satisfaction from his accomplishments.", and in his attempt to bash the film, he basically described who Frank Castle is, here's the thing, this movie wasn't made for the critics, it wasn't made to win an oscar or getting standing ovations. That being said, the reaction from the fanboys wasn't exactly postive either.
I don't enjoy this movie for the plot, or the story, I'm in it for the action, that's not to say I don't think the movie has a decent plot because in my opinion it does, but I think the action far out-weighs it. From Frank's assortment to amazing weapons, that beautiful GTO, and of course, the fight scene with The Russian which I think is one of my favorite movie fight scenes ever. It really shows that just because he's the hero of the story, doesn't mean he's going to just kill everybody without a problem, he genuinely gets the crap kicked out of him and basically the only reason he's left standing at the end of the fight is just by luck and determination.
Overall, I can safely say that I love this movie, it will always be one of my favorite comic-book movies and to any of you who haven't seen it in a long time, I definitely recommend going back and revisiting it, and to all you haters out there, do the same thing, give it a second chance. Not to mention the video game that came out with the movie which was at the time one of the best video games I'd ever played. Unfortunately, I think in another 10 or 15 years this movie will fade into the dark and be forgotten by the general audience who haven't already forgotten about it.
Well there you have it folks, my second issue of 'Comic-Book Heroes, Then & Now', be sure to check back next week when I'll compare the two very different adaptions of The Hulk.
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