In the lead-up to next weekend's San Diego Comic Con - where the news will most likely be made official - it has been reported that Rome star Ray Stevenson is set to fill the title role of Frank Castle in the sequel to 2004's The Punisher. Stevenson, who played a lead role of Titus Pullo in the HBO series, follows in the footsteps of Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane as the Marvel vigilante who has so far failed to catch on with cinema audiences.
The news comes just months after Thomas Jane announced he would not be returning to the franchise, having lost faith in the production despite years of personal preparation.
In a letter posted on AICN back in May, Jane stated:
"Punisher fans are already fighting an uphill battle as it is. And I’ve always felt a responsibility to fight that fight for them and with them so that Frank Castle gets the treatment he deserves.... What I won't do is spend months of my life sweating over a movie that I just don't believe in. I’ve always loved the Marvel guys, and wish them well."
So will The Punisher 2 fail once again in the eyes of fans or will it be third time the charm? Only time will tell, of course, but - as a new fan of Rome - I can definitely vouch for the fact Stevenson knows how to switch from a sympathetic and wounded man to an aggressive killer. However, therein lies the catch. Could this typecasting simply be a sign that the studio is playing it safe to avoid any further disaster?
While I quite enjoyed the previous film, it certainly lacked the edge required by its subject matter and the continued development problems do little to offer much hope for a genuine continuation of the series. Perhaps - like next year's The Incredible Hulk - the film would do better to distance itself from the 2004 film altogether and start afresh. Again.