Posted on Monday, June 16th, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
When I posted the teaser trailer for Punisher: War Zone last Thursday, the 70+ comments from you guys were impressively heated and divisive. Until then, the R-rated Lionsgate/Marvel actioner from director Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans, karate) had flown under the radar, with many pegging the movie as a star-less runt in Marvel’s newly consolidated, unpredecented game plan. And many fans still do, even after the teaser, but Alexander appreciates the early attention and welcomes the hate. She was surprised, albeit pleasantly, by the teaser’s release, and once again, she’s emphasizing her flick’s generous helpings of violence and mayhem. Not to be sexist, but it’s pretty strange and cool to hear the rare female director who’s more excited about a comic book film filled with carnage than most geeks. From her blog…
“I’m not sure what kind of impression I would get from this trailer if I didn’t actually know the film. I am utterly impressed, though, they managed to find that much PG rated action footage at all. It had to be a challenge to cut a trailer from our action stuff without showing any gore and blood.
I’ve been told that you can’t even show heads blowing up in red-band trailers. I hope that’s not true because that would suck. It’s weird to see Castle shoot all those bullets and not see the thugs who are catching them. That’s the best fucking part about it!!!”
Of course, many fanboys would respond, “Big whup. AVP: Requiem had a lot of gore, an R-rating, a lot of hype and it still sucked ass. Takes more than that to make a good genre movie.” Thankfully, Alexander has clarified a few of the questions/criticisms brought up in our comments section. Many fans have taken issue with the film’s heavily stylized scorched neon color palette, comparing it to Joel Schumacher’s Batman Nipples and Robin Nipples. Personally, I dig the retro ’80s look so far. It looks like the poster for Cobra meets laser tag. And yes, that is cool. But Alexander is all, “Wait a second, I’m lifting the look directly from the comics. You guys read Punisher comics, right?” She includes various stills from Punisher: MAX (part of Marvel’s adult imprint) like the one seen here for reference.
“I’m very happy that the hardcore Punisher fans recognized the lines taken directly from the comic books (all credit goes to Ray Stevenson for that), and that MAX fans appreciated the color theme that was also directly copied from the books.”
Another gripe, which probably started with outspoken screenwriter, Kurt Sutter, is that the criminal element in Punisher: War Zone is not stapled to reality a la Scorsese’s Goodfellas or Taxi Driver or David Chase’s The Sopranos.
“Every director has to make a call on the vision and style of a film and putting The Punisher in a realistic and gritty setting would be like having Det. Vic Mackey of THE SHIELD run around with a big ass skull on his chest, or Ray Liotta’s character in NARC suddenly go: “Hey, I think I just saw a guy whose face looks like a Jigsaw puzzle.” Ha, ha.”
What surprised me most about the reaction to the teaser was the number of readers that expressed fond memories for 2004’s The Punisher with Tom Jane (who fit the part, yes) and John Travolta (I’m still not sure what the hell was up with that). The movie plays on insomniac cable quite a bit, and maybe when bunched in with guilty pleasures like Executive Decision and other Die Hard knockoffs, it grows on some. I dunno. Alexander says she doesn’t aspire to “become a member of the Dolph Lundgren or Thomas Jane fan club. This film is about the mythology of FRANK CASTLE, it is ultra violent…”
She compares her movie’s trajectory to The Incredible Hulk, which she thought rocked. But unlike that late-blooming film, her’s has months ahead of it (opens in December), and I’m already optimistic (though I don’t think Peter is).
Discuss: What do you make of Lexi Alexander’s comments? Will she walk the talk? Do you think she’d talk up her Punisher with this amount of enthusiasm if it was a cheesefest? Does she seem like that type of director? Does the R-rating actually turn off, not just a lot of parents and politicians, but genre fans, have we reached that point?
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