It is certainly an exciting time to be a comic book fan. Even someone like me with limited knowledge of the back catalogues of Marvel and DC can get caught up in the hoopla as more and more comic book properties get announced. Like every genre comic book films can be both good and bad, with an Elektra balancing out every Spider-Man 2. The wealth of comic book films these last few years has however made this ratio exceptionally noticeable. Even worse for the lesser comic book films is the level of craft and imagination in the good comic book films. With directors with the pedigree of Sam Raimi, Christopher Nolan, Ang Lee and Bryan Singer helming comic book films it casts an even harsher light on the lesser entries.
When stacked up against the likes of Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2 and 300 the Punisher never really stood a chance. Aside from a few notable scenes and a spirited turn from Thomas Jane as the titular anti-hero the film just paled in comparison to its stable mates. The poor critical and commercial showing of the Punisher made many assume that the property, at least in cinematic terms, was dead. So when a teaser trailer for a new Punisher film premiered a little while after the release of Iron Man I was surprised and morbidly curious about the reasons for resurrecting a character that had already had two chances at the big screen.
My interest was piqued when I discovered that Lexi Alexander was directing Punisher: War Zone. Alexander’s previous work on the Green Street Hooligans was a visceral and energetic take on the culture of football hooliganism in the United Kingdom. Whilst the US centric nature of the material, the film centred on an American student staying in Britain and getting caught up in the violence, was an irritation the movie itself was an impressive display of Alexander’s talent as a filmmaker. Whilst it’s glorification of hooliganism was hard to accept, the films energy and visual panache were evident and it made me want to see what Alexander could achieve with different material.
Given the style on show in Green Street Hooligans it seems obvious that Alexander would gravitate towards comic book films. The problem is that I honestly don’t know if anyone could make a satisfying film out of the Punisher. Everything that the character is has now been covered in other films. Even with superhero theatrics the story of a man at war with criminals after the death of his family is extremely thin. With Rome’s Ray Stevenson and The Wire’s Dominic West taking on the roles of the Punisher and his nemesis Jigsaw respectively the failure of Punisher: War Zone could seriously jeopardise the careers of two up and coming actors as well as Alexander’s own directing career.
With a cheap looking teaser trailer (see above) and reports of Alexander being locked out of post production Punisher: War Zone is looking to be yet another black mark against the character. Even more worrying was a collection of footage which premiered earlier today at Comic Con. The trailer just reeks of desperation, a cavalcade of gorey money shots scored to generic heavy metal. Whilst there’s lots of blunt force trauma to the head in the trailer, it also shows a film that looks incredibly cheap and also kind of unpleasant. Maybe it’s the colour scheme or the sheer gusto of the violence but it actually made me, someone who loves the films of Takashi Miike and Paul Verhoeven, slightly queasy. Judge for yourself by watching the new trailer either at IGN or embedded below.