The saga of the Punisher: War Zone movie production has got to be one of the most soap-opera-ish things I've seen in the time I've been covering movie news here on Screen Rant. Rarely have I seen such angst and pain among not only fans of the comic book character that is being brought to the big screen, but movie fans in general.
Of course the roots run deep... all the way back to 1989 when New World Pictures brought us the first Punisher movie, starring of all people Swedish-born Dolph Lundgren playing the title character that was supposed to be a hard-boiled New York City cop. At the time he was considered "hot," having come off of a couple of Rocky movies, and some genius thought it would be a great idea to cast him in the role.
Actually, if you want a good laugh, I'd recommend you try to find that version of the film for a rental.
Dolph Lundgren as The Punisher (1989)
Fifteen years later in 2004 came another version, this time starring Thomas Jane. This was essentially a "reboot," long before the word became common in the movie biz as a term for re-starting a franchise. This film was FAR better than the one that came before, but was still lacking. Again seemingly odd decisions were made, such as casting John Travolta as the bad guy and setting the film in sunny Florida of all places. I wrote a Punisher review that in hindsight was perhaps a bit harsher than it should have been.
Thomas Jane as The Punisher (2004)
Then early in 2007 came word that there would be a sequel, hopefully better than the one made three year earlier - but word was that the script was pretty terrible. So terrible in fact that Thomas Jane, who starred in the previous one, dropped out of the project rather than be part of something that he didn't believe in. Then director John Dahl decided not to do the film due to budget concerns and the fact that he didn't like the script either.
Kurt Sutter, who wrote the original draft (it's not clear to me whether it was HIS script that Jane and Dahl thought was awful) had his name removed from the credits earlier this year because he said that there wasn't much left of his story in the film, apart from the how the main bad guy becomes the villain "Jigsaw." The primary story came from Nick Santora, who has written TV episodes of gritty shows including Prison Break and Law and Order, and much of the script was written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (both of whom have a writing credit on one of this year's biggest hits: Iron Man).
Ray Stevenson as The Punisher (2008)
Eventually (actually, pretty quickly) the film turned from a sequel into a reboot, with director Lexi Alexander coming on board and Ray Stevenson taking over the title role. From that came concerns of whether a woman could direct a kick-ass, dark vigilante film (for the record, we never asked that here at Screen Rant). As production moved forward, she went out of her way to assure fans that yes, it would be hard core and brutal and would match the spirit of the comic book.
People still weren't convinced, and then a series of news items floated that added fuel to the fire:
- The release date was pushed back from September to December of this year.
- A rumor that Lexi Alexander had been kicked off the movie right before Comic-Con
- Then comes word that yes, she is still involved with the film after all
- And for a cherry on top a couple days ago Latino Review reported that it was looking like Punisher: War Zone might be getting edited down to a PG-13 rating instead of an R by Lionsgate.
Honestly, having seen the trailers and based on what's come out regarding this film I had a very hard time believing that any studio would be dumb enough to try to trim this down to a PG-13.
So today from loyal Screen Rant reader "Nomad" comes a link from The Raw Board forum where the cinematographer for the film, Steve Gainer, emphatically denied a lot of what has been said about the film. He stated the following:
- Lexi is not off the film.
- Lexi is still involved in the edit process.
- The film is not (nor could it ever be) PG-13.
- He saw a cut that ran 91 minutes.
- Lexi did in fact get married (referencing the "she's on her honeymoon" reason given by the studio for her non-appearance at the Con).
- Lexi is an incredibly talented director, and this film kicks major ass, as will be proven when it is released in theaters December 5th.
- The film is most certainly not all exploding heads, but will reveal a great deal of Frank's persona and pain.
So there you have it, from someone involved in the production of the movie.
Now does this mean the movie will actually be great? Of course not... I'm sure that most people who work on even movies that turn out terrible think that the movie is awesome while they're working on it (this is, by the way, a major mystery to me - you'd think it would be obvious).
I don't know if Punisher: War Zone will be good or not at this point, but I'd put my money on an R-rating for the film.
All will be revealed on December 5th when the movie opens.