In the nearly 40 years of his existence, The Punisher has been many things: villain, hero, homicidal maniac and even avenging angel – but the one thing the beloved character has never been is successful in the world of film. So, naturally, Marvel has decided to eschew another film appearance (for the time being) in favor of a television series on FOX.
FOX recently picked up The Punisher with a pilot commitment from former Criminal Minds showrunner Ed Bernero. The series is seen as an hour-long procedural with – wait for it…a new take on the character! That’s right, arguably the most cut-and-dry character in Marvel’s pantheon of heroes is yet again the recipient of what could be a make over that misses the mark.
This time around, as opposed to being a decorated Vietnam veteran with a serious mad-on for criminal types, The Punisher sees Frank Castle as a detective with the New York City Police Department who takes to the streets in his off time, in search of justice as the vigilante known as The Punisher.
While many comic fans expect some tweaking of a character when the jump is made to film or television – is this the version of the Punisher fans have been anxiously awaiting? Though the finer details of the show are not yet known, the concept smacks of Showtime’s Dexter, and to a lesser extent, CBS’ new vigilante drama Person of Interest.
Obviously, unless the show’s producers were convinced an elderly Vietnam vet could realistically embark on the kind vengeance-fueled rampages enacted by the character over the years, The Punisher would be in the market for some modernization. And although the idea of a Punisher series reminiscent of Harry Brown would be intriguing, a simple update, similar to the one seen in Iron Man, would've likely done the trick.
It is too early to pass judgment, but after the disappointment of Dolph Lundgren’s 1989 film, Thomas Jane’s equally unsatisfactory 2004 effort and the fairly dismal Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson, the first move after the character’s rights reverted back to Marvel should elicit fanfare, while it seems this news may instead induce a heavy dose of skepticism.
Most surprising, however, is the fact that the series has landed at FOX, rather than ABC – which not only shares Disney as a parent company with the comics publisher, but also has two Marvel productions in the works with the Guillermo del Toro produced Incredible Hulk television series and AKA Jessica Jones. The sale to FOX suggests that, tonally speaking, The Punisher may be more in line with programs currently airing on that network than the ones on ABC.
Whether or not that is a bright spot for the proposed series remains to be seen.
However it turns out, the road to series is a long one for The Punisher, but expect it to be paved with the opinions of some very dedicated comics fans. Hopefully it won't be the same kind of failure that the now-canceled Wonder Woman TV show was.
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