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How Marvel Can Fix the Punisher on the Big Screen

The news that Marvel Studios has reclaimed the big-screen rights to the Punisher is the best thing that has happened to the character since the invention of the portable rocket launcher. Hollywood has tried — and failed — on three occasions to build a successful franchise around Frank Castle’s one-man war on crime. (How do you mess up such a simple premise three times?) If any character in moviedom needs a hard-and-fast reboot, it’s Marvel’s grim vigilante.

Now that Marvel is in control, the Punisher could finally get the same attention the comic-book giant has given to Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. While we won’t be seeing Frank join the Avengers anytime soon, there is plenty that Marvel can do to make up for past cinematic missteps. So how do you solve a problem like the Punisher? Here’s how.

punisherjane-125.jpgCall the new movie Frank Castle.
Punisher: War Zone attempted to humanize Frank by pairing him with
a little girl, a move that was more laughable than moving. It’s time for a Punisher movie that humanizes Frank without going sappy. So why not take a cue from Sly Stallone’s Rocky Balboa reboot and name the movie after Punisher’s alter ego? The title would signify that the film is going to be more character driven, and the story could delve into Frank’s early years and set up the idyllic family life that was taken away from him by criminals.

Iron-Man-Nick-Fury-125.jpgIncorporate the Punisher into the Marvel-movie continuity.
This one seems like a no-brainer. Hollywood has given us three Punisher movies that were basically Death Wish retreads. It’s time to try something new. Perhaps Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) decides that the Punisher is a threat to national security and launches an all-out manhunt. It’s The Bourne Supremacy meets First Blood, as S.H.I.E.L.D. chases Frank through the streets of New York City. That has to be better than Frank facing off against the mob for the fourth time.

hitman-125.jpgCast an actor with more than one facial expression.
No offense to Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson, but their blank expressions didn’t do the character any favors. Yes, he’s a grim killing machine, but he also occasionally cracks a joke. We need an actor who will give us a tough guy with personality. Gerard Butler in 300 mode could work, as could Timothy Olyphant from Hitman. Or how about bringing back Tom Jane from the 2004 Punisher pic? The actor could do wonders with a stronger script. Plus it would make up for the poor guy losing a Jonah Hex role to Josh Brolin.

robertrodriguez.jpgHire a writer (and director) with a sense of humor.
There’s a reason why Garth Ennis’s “Punisher” comics are considered the best of all time: they’re brutally violent and darkly funny. Ennis realized that Frank Castle is essentially a one-note killing machine and surrounded him with over-the-top Russian assassins and murderous Mafia grandmas. The film needs a team that will do more than send the Punisher into a warehouse with guns blazing. Now that the Green Lantern trilogy has put Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool on hold, perhaps director Robert Rodriguez could lend a hand.

micro-125.jpgBring back Wayne Knight as Micro.
The casting of Seinfeld‘s Newman as the Punisher’s weapons supplier and erstwhile sidekick was easily the most inspired part of Punisher: War Zone. Bring back Micro and allow him to have more of a role in the film this time out. Part of the appeal of the Punisher lies in watching him plant traps for the bad guys, and Micro plays an important role in that. Dash Mihok, who played the bumbling detective Martin Soap, also deserves a second shot. The more interesting supporting cast members, the better.

GhostRider-125.jpgTeam him up with Daredevil and Ghost Rider.
If all else fails, Marvel could team up their urban avengers for a gritty Marvel Knights movie. Yes, Daredevil and Ghost Rider are still languishing in development at other studios, but it’s only a matter of time before Marvel nabs the rights back. In the comics, Punisher has teamed with Daredevil and Ghost Rider on numerous occasions, and their different approaches to crime fighting make for interesting stories. Like the Punisher, Daredevil and Ghost Rider failed on the solo-movie front. How about a group effort?

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