The official website for this September’s Punisher re-do Punisher: War Zone is now online. The site is pretty bare right now, offering a mere two stills from the film, but the presentation is heavy on tone, with hushed police sirens, faint voices and a buzzing drone of dread all present as gunshots pierce glass and guns smoke on the image above. Actor Ray Stevenson (Rome) definitely has the character’s stare of forthcoming death down. Check it out, and there’s an option to register for updates as well.
Buzz on the Lionsgate/Marvel film is not the greatest, a lot of that due to the last craptastic Punisher with Tom Jane, but hearing that War Zone uses all of the fuel in its R-rated tank, is set in a gritty metropolis and not Floriduh, and then peeping the site makes me hopeful. And the fact that the director, Lexi Alexander (Hooligans) is a cool gal and a bad ass in her own right (re: karate champion)…I dunno, it seems to be clicking to me.
Discuss: When you think about Punisher: War Zone, what crosses your mind? What’s the gnarliest R-rated comic book movie? The Crow? Sin City? Dolph’s naked-meditating-in-sewer Punisher?
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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.
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The photo above is our first look at Ray Stevenson (Rome) as Frank Castle aka The Punisher in Lionsgate’s The Punisher: War Zone. Click on the photo to enlarge.
I’ve always thought that The Punisher would be one of the best comic book to film adaptations, however I wasn’t a fan of the previous Thomas Jane film. I’m not entirely impressed by the photo above, and I’m not entirely convinced of Ray Stevenson as The Punisher (to be fair, I never watched Rome), but I do have faith in director Lexi Alexander (Green Street Hooligans).
Cinematical has an interview with Lexi regarding the film, here are some highlights:
“The one thing I concentrated on was to really really make it as close to the MAX series as possible. I think we really achieved it as far as the look, as well as the tone. When I look at the dailies that I’m getting, I seriously feel like I’m looking at a MAX comic book right in front of me.”
“It’s definitely going to be a Hard R. “
“I would say it’s about 70% gunplay, and 30% hand-to-hand combat.”
“I would say it’s a complete different re-boot, just because neither one of the previous [films] were relevant. And with Castle, it’s one story — the mythology stays the same — and I think I just have a very very different take on it. I was lucky to put it in the right environment, which was dark and cold.”
Continuing his crusade to punish violent criminals in America, former FBI agent Frank Castle arrives in New York to take on a underworld boss who plots to take control of the underworld. The Marvel comic book adaptation co-stars Dominic West, Doug Hutchinson, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok and Julie Benz.
The Punisher: War Zone hits theaters on September 12th 2008.