Three more actors have joined Andrew Stanton‘s big screen adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs‘ John Carter of Mars: Samantha Morton (In America, Control), Dominic West (300, Chicago) and Polly Walker (Patriot Games).
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Opening with a scene/yelp recalling The Bride’s headshot in Kill Bill, the teaser trailer for director Lexi Alexander‘s Punisher: War Zone plays it hard and fast underneath cyber-noirish lighting (Swordfish, much?) that is sure to turn some people off. However, besides an emasculated bit of firearm ballet atop a chandelier (re: marketing dept., ditch it!), there are hints that War Zone could be a solid R-rated action entry free of the sarcasm seen in Crank and Shoot ‘Em Up and much rougher than the barcoded dork-out that was Hitman. One film that seems to have inspired the editing here, per Frank Castle’s light flickering intro, is The Crow…if set inside a laser tag arena.
Actor Tom Jane was a dead-on looker for Castle in the absolutely dreadful, Florida-set 2004 Punisher, but Ray Stevenson (Rome) has a grittier, crazed appearance that nicely compliments the vigilante’s signature, mob-ridden cityscape. Earlier in the year, some readers were fond of saying that Stevenson looked too much like Steven Seagal, but I don’t think the snark/comparisons hold up after this. What about you?
The teaser barely shows us Dominic West (The Wire) playing Jigsaw (a split second outside a hotel) or much of the graphic violence that Alexander has boasted about on her blog (a red band trailer surely awaits), but War Zone definitely looks like an improvement. Bonus points for not having an aloof John Travolta with a villainous hair-don’t. As an early supporter, I’ve found it surprising how many people have dismissed this flick and Alexander (Green Street Hooligans) from day one, and I think the trailer will put some on pause until the next one.
After Iron Man, isn’t it odd/cool to see the Marvel logo on a trailer for an R-rated flick? If this flops it’s probably the last time to boot. Good thing or no?
Punisher: War Zone opens on December 5th.
Discuss: Thoughts on the first teaser trailer? How does this compare to when you saw the trailer for 2004′s The Punisher (if you can remember that, ha)? Do any of you guys/gals like the chandelier scene (I mean, really)?
Screenwriter Kurt Sutter has removed his screenwriting credit from Marvel and Lionsgate’s superhero reboot, Punisher: War Zone, due in September, and he’s explained his decision quite frankly on his personal blog, while alluding to dissonance with the flick’s creative direction as well. He says that he didn’t “deserve” credit for the screenplay, as little of his script remains, and he follows that by saying he doesn’t “want” credit because his vision for Frank Castle/The Punisher will not appear on screen.
“My pitch, my vision, for the Punisher franchise was something much different. I tried to rip Frank Castle from the comic book world and place him in the real streets of NYC. Castle is the only superhero without powers. He’s a tortured, highly skilled soldier with a really bad anger problem. I always felt we should see Frank in some place uber-real and gritty. I threw away the first draft written by Nick Santora and did a page one rewrite. I changed the locations, the characters, the story. I dropped Frank in a real New York City with real villians, real cops, real relationships. To me, the Punisher deserved more than the usual comic book redress. It shouldn’t just follow the feature superhero formula. Apparently, I was the only one who shared that vision.”
What’s odd is that Sutter’s vision here shares the same grittier, darker tone that director Lexi Alexander has mentioned and played up in interviews for the film, so what might the final product be like…
“The final script, rewritten almost completely by Holloway and Marcum was the perfect comic book formula — simple story, very obvious dialog and the inclusion of as many characters from the anthology that a movie will allow (this is not a spoiler, all the characters were announced when they began shooting). I’m sure true fans of the Punisher comic books will enjoy this movie. It will do exactly what a comic book movie should do — fill seats, set up a sequel. …I wish Marvel and the producers all the success. If I had to make a wager, I say it will open huge. Be ready for Punisher 3.”
He goes on to say his comments aren’t “sour grapes,” but what I find bothersome is that Punisher: War Zone‘s R-rating and the character’s lack of superpowers frees this project up to break the very mold Sutter finds utterly predictable. I mean “simple story, very obvious dialogue” has a little bite in it, no? I always pictured The Punisher’s ideal cinematic world as being similar to the underworld in The Crow, and while many fanboys are shouting “direct to DVD” on this, casting Dominic West (The Wire) as Jigsaw was inspired and a great way to distance the flick from the terribly mismanaged 2004 version. And Sutter’s work on The Shield would lend itself to a fresh direction as well. I’m not sure whether we should read between the lines here, but it’s interesting to get this info straight from the screenwriter, one who’s becoming known for not holding back.
Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City), 300 loosely depicts the Battle of Thermopylae where Leonidas I (Gerard Butler) and three hundred Spartans took on Persian King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive army of one million soldiers. Zack Snyder, the director of the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, creates visually orgasmic landscapes out of Frank Miller’s two page spreads. Every shot is not only perfectly framed, but the definition of cinematic elegance.
However, the lifeless dialogue and two dimensional characters borders on the edge of boring and annoying. It takes about 45 minutes before the first epic battle sequence breaks out, and the build to this sequence is exhausting.
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Director: Zack Snyder
Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan, Michael Fassbender, Tom Wisdom, and Andrew Pleavin
Running Time: 116 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for graphic battle sequences throughout, some sexuality and nudity
5 out of 10
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Last week we reported that 300 had a perfect 100% fresh rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, a website that tracks critical reaction. Amore critic reviews start to roll in, the film’s rating has fallen hard. At the time of this report, 300 is now deemed Rotten at 59% with 17 reviews. As Friday nears, it will be interesting to see if the film will gain or lose critical respect.
The film is currently tracking “huge”, and is on it’s way to an estimated $40 million opening weekend. Not too shabby for a $60 million green screen film. Sadly the film won’t come close to breaking any records, including the R-Rated opening weekend currently held by The Matrix Reloaded with $91.7 million. The movie will instead place around #10, beating such films as Air Force One, Red Dragon and Freddy vs. Jason.
Meanwhile, Dr. Hamed Vahdati Nasab has started a petition aliming the film is not historically correct, and it portrays the Persian Empire in a very poor light.
Zack Snyder’s 300 starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, Michael Fassbender, Vincent Regan and Dominic West hits theaters on March 9th 2007.
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