Posted on Friday, February 15th, 2008 by Hunter Stephenson
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.