08 December 2008

The Punisher: R.I.P.?

To nobody’s surprise, Punisher: War Zone had a dismal opening, netting only $4 million over the weekend. That makes it the lowest opening ever for a Marval character, lower than even Howard the Duck. (By the way, I think a well thought-out adaptation of Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck would work well in today’s marketplace… except that no one will dare try because of the stigma attached to the name from the notorious first movie flop.) The chance of another Punisher film coming along within the next decade now seem nil. Perhaps that is for the best, since the character—even when adapted faithfully—has so far defied attempts to make a completely satisfactory movie version.

This seems strange initially, since unlike most comic book heroes, the Punisher is realistic: no powers, no explicit costume, no costumed supervillain. He’s essentially like any other gritty action hero. But maybe that’s the problem: there isn’t much to distinguish the Punisher from anything else you might see released in February to grab the male audience desperate for some blood ‘n’ guts. On the comics page, the Punisher leaps out from the crowd, but on the movie screen he’s just the same-old we’ve seen in action films since the mid-‘80s.