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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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)?
Confident female action movie directors with veddy dirty mouths rock. Lexi Alexander (above), the candid director behind Punisher: War Zone, has posted an update for the semi-quiet Marvel reboot on her tidy official site. She informs that the film was screened for studio brass this month, that it went reasonably well, and she seems cool with the flick now moving from its original September 12th release to December 5th.
Ms. Alexander on the “studio experience”…
“Well, thank God [the screening] went well and, although I’ll probably have to compromise on a few minor notes, it’s not nearly as bad as some of my filmmaker friends predicted it would be. I guess I got away with an actual okay studio experience (knocking on wood since it’s not quite over yet).”
And her NSFW thoughts on Frank Castle (played by Rome‘s Ray Stevenson, above right with his stunt double) now raining/reigning blood during the jolly holidays; she includes a nice shout to the comic book/action fans rah-rahing for a hard R-rating (the kids are getting restless)…
“[The studio] also moved our release date to December 5th, which is, according to my reps, a much, much better date. I myself would have thought that people will think twice about going to see an extremely violent movie the closer it gets to Jesus’ B-day, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or whatever other holy holiday you’re celebrating. Well, the box office records prove different and instead, all you sick fucks get more blood thirsty that time of year. (And I say that with lovingly affection, cause I’m relying on all the sick fucks to show up).”
We haven’t seen much at all from the latest Punisher, but I really like Alexander’s attitude thus far. She just kinda gives ‘r and if I had to choose, after being strapped to a lawn chair, between watching Punisher: War Zone or the similar Max Payne (which is rumored to be going PG-13: Rockstar Games, wassup with that?) 100 times in a row, I’d choose the former off loony intuition. Crush much?
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?
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.