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Ouch! PUNISHER: WAR ZONE broke a longish string of comic book movies that did well at the box office with a “dismal” performance this weekend. Even though it was the sole wide opening this weekend, it came in #8 and grossed a mere $4 mil in 2,508 theaters, far less than the $13.8 mil 2004 PUNISHER took in.

Potential lessons to be learned from this:

* After two (Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson) total crap movies and one (Thomas Jane) barely tolerable movie, maybe it is just time to retire the Punisher from the movies.

* With grim news everywhere, audiences prefer lighthearted fare and not kidney-ripping.

* Somewhere, Thomas Jane is smiling.

* A business note: This was a Lionsgate Film and not a Marvel Studios production, so it shouldn’t damage Marvel’s bottom line too much.


  1. Seems to me that I saw the trailer/spoiler for this one recently. There was lots of shooting and teeth gritting. Can’t seem to recall anything else about it. Maybe others recalled it in the same way. That might have contributed to the low attendance numbers, dunno.

  2. “After two (Dolph Lundgren and Ray Stevenson) total crap movies and one (Thomas Jane) barely tolerable movie”

    This film seems to have got better word of mouth from fans and worse word of mouth from critics.

    I think the character is just too niche and limited for a successful film franchise, unless you are going to radically alter the character – what’s the character arc for people to become involved in? Frank learns that that the US Navy MK3 Combat Knife is better for gutting man than a pencil?

  3. It seems to me that the Punisher was interesting when he came along in comics because the whole thing was so “out there”… the novelty of which ran pretty thin pretty quick. That anyone would believe that this is a character or a premise that could carry a movie franchise is fairly amazing. Personally, I find the popularity of the new Batman motion picture franchise amazing, in that it is so dark. Add that much violence to that much darkness and really,…how many people are going to be interested?
    However, as a rental, later on down the road, I can see it having some popularity and perhaps that is the point, after all.

  4. “With grim news everywhere, audiences prefer light-hearted fare and not kidney-ripping.”

    In my personal experience, this attitude is increasingly shared not only by audiences who pay for movies in the theaters, but also by the people who actually get movies made.

    I will make a leap and suggest it will also reflect the comics zeitgeist for sometime.

    Pencils aren’t for gutting people!

  5. Two people from work saw it Friday afternoon. They raved it about it. The way they described the gore and black comedy, it sounded to me exactly like a Garth Ennis comic. It could very well be faithful tonally to the MAX version of the character and the mainstream just isn’t interested.

    @ Paul – The only problem with the idea that “Pencils aren’t for gutting people!” is that comic book movie coming out on DVD tomorrow showed everyone just how to use a pencil in a violent way.

  6. The Thomas Jane “Punisher” could have been a good film if it could have decided between being a serious origin story or a Garth Ennis-inspired black comedy. It lurched back and forth between the two.

    Judging by the ads, this new one could only have been a good movie if it were about a something else entirely.

  7. While I respect The Beat’s opinion, I think there are few other lessons to be learned here. Name me one person that actually had any high hopes for this sucker. Not-a-one. Why? The trailers were terrible. Was it going to be a action slasher with a metal-soundtrack or a preposterous action vehicle with a lead character who hangs from chandeliers as he shoots automatic machineguns?

    Also worthy of note is the gobs of bad press it received pre-release. Was director Lexi Alexander shut out of the editing room by Lionsgate? Were they taking away the (quite fantastic) score by veteran composer Christopher Franke (The Keep, Near Dark) and replacing it with non-stop metal tunes? Geekdom had damn near sworn off this entry long before it hit the screens — and they’re the ones that needed to be swayed. Throw in the whole “they screwed up the skull” debate and you’ve got a mega-mess on your hands even before the movie opens.

    Fast forward to the Monday after. The flick takes 8th place at the box office. Critics don’t get it. Ain’t It Cool publishes not ONE reaction to it. Lexi gets crapped on. Stevenson gets crapped on. Tom Jane somehow becomes a saint. And where are the fans? Many who see War Zone are actually pleased. It’s stylish black comedy gore camp. More in line with Darkman than Dark Knight.

    Is there room in the comic-to-screen world for War Zone? Absolutely. It’s just too bad that its poor performance is being turned into a reaction against its hyper-violent content rather than an admonishment against a studio who dug their own grave with their handling of a major comic property.

  8. The tricky thing about making a Punisher movie is that he loses something when he’s singled out. He works in comics because he’s a killer and stands in contrast to the Marvel heroes as someone who works outside their normal scope in ways they wouldn’t dare. He’s different. But in movies, how often is there a hero with guns who kills without compulsion? He might stand out among superhero movies, but not among movies in general.

  9. Count me in the “liked it” category (, but much like the Jane version, it really does flip between humor and violence (ultraviolence in this case) in a very unconventional fashion and a lot of people aren’t going to know what to make of it.

    If Marvel wants a straight forward Punisher movie, they need to quit including the first Ennis run in the box of comics they send to the director. That’s where most of the humor comes in (though they have perfect casting for Soap in this one).

    As for the initial weekend total – I’m not sure where the 2500 screens are, since the distribution in Chicago is closer to an art house number of showings. You have to expect the last version to have done better since it was a John Travolta movie.

  10. I don’t think Punisher will ever work well as a movie character. He’s too one note – make him too much like the comics and no one but the comic fans will like it; try to give him a character arc and it’s a pretty good bet no one at all will like it (still too hardcore for general audiences, not faithful enough for the comic fans).

    However, it seems to me these studios don’t want the movie to succeed. The prior movie opened against Kill Bill 2; that it made as much as it did was a minor miracle. This one opened three weeks before xmas, only one week after Lionsgate put out another violent action film aimed at a similar audience (Transporter 3). And as a prior poster noted, I think a majority of the general film going audience didn’t even know a new Punisher film had opened.

  11. It isn’t the type of fare, but the way it is made. This year we had the Coens and the DK film show that grim and violent can have both critical and financial success. When I saw the PUNISHER trailer, I suspected a big portion of the audience who liked the idea of the character would see this as lame. Horrible tactics, choreography and general disregard of what makes him cool. Just think what a PUNISHER film would be like in the hands of Nolan or Fincher.

    Pencils have been gutting people for ages. :)

  12. The more I think about it the more of a failure it was. I agree with the point above that The Punisher is interesting in that he goes so much further than other heroes, that he needs to be in context to really stand out. Like when he showed up in Civil War and when Ennis put him up agains Spidey, DD and Wolvie.

    In fact, in that, I thought Ennis found an interesting aspect of the character that made him less one note. Ennis creates a character who isn’t doing it for revenge anymore. He just has a taste for killing bad guys and the adventure.

    What this movie lacks, though, is that larger context. It also lacks a really engaging script. I said it elsewhere, but none of the characters in this movie impress you with anything but prowess. Geeks need more than eye candy, though… we need people to be smart and brilliant and surprise us. The only moment that got a real reaction out of the viewers at the North Philadelphia showing I went to was when he killed the room full of guys about to ambush him and when he blew the guys head off while the cop was reading him his rights (and holding a little girl, I might add).

    No, it wasn’t too great. Though Frank was cast well and Soap was cast well. Micro was not cast well. It was hard to even tell what his job was. If they had been communicating via intercom it might have been something.

    Anyway, I dug Jane’s Punisher. Mostly. Not so much this one. I won’t be buying it on DVD, I don’t think.

    P.S. Who didn’t see that hopeless mommy getting her head blown off coming? Gimme a break.

  13. Yeah, I wanted to throw my hand in the LIKED IT too. Not great, by any means, but a LOAD of fun compared to the previous two nightmares.

    I was just talking about this with friends — Punisher is tough in movies, because he is pretty much exactly like any other dumb action hero from an 80’s Van Dam or Segal movie. So, separating this “super hero” from those kind of characters will always be difficult.

    FIRST OFF, Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle was perfect. Dolph was always a B-Action hero for that B-movie version, but it wasn’t good. Thomas Jayne was just too pretty boy, and he failed at this too. Ray has size, strength, attitude and even just enough of heart deep down to be Frank Castle. He blows through people.

    The Punisher film franchise appears to be moving along though and with this one it is SQUARE in the over-the-top black humor era of early Garth Ennis. Frank Castle vs. The Parkour Trio in this movie was f’n hilarious. The small crowd (obviously, with the money it made) I saw it with Friday had some good laughs throughout. The ultra-violence here worked.

    Jigsaw and crew were a bit sillier than I would have liked, but with the Ennis cartoon tone it was going for, it worked. (Hell, Garth had Polar Bears leaving Ma Gnucci as a torso and Russian assassins with giants breasts!). So basically, they did their job.

    Bottom line, no one saw the movies, but those that did and are Punisher fans (especially early Garth as I’ve said a bunch) are really having a good time. I definitely mowed through a bowl of popcorn!

    (Let me add that i was pleasantly surprised to see the addition of Soap. Who was always entertaining, and perfectly used here.)

    Lastly, the one thing that bums me out about the lack of money this made, is that we won’t get the next iteration of Punisher film. The later, more serious Ennis MAX ones. There is a good movie to be made of this character, and I think we are finally getting around to telling one. One that treats the main characters, the villains and the tone correctly. Too bad it won’t be Ray, but the time someone takes a chance on THAT.


    (PS. For Netflix peeps, I have the first two Punishers 2-stars, and this one 3.)

  14. I’m kinda glad that I didn’t see this one. My brother invited me to go with him, and I couldn’t go. I think Marvel should make ANOTHER Punisher, but bring Thomas Jane back. I think he looked the role more than Ray Stevenson.

  15. I absolutely freakin’ loved it! Casting Ray Stevenson was a stroke of genius. He looks just like a Tim Bradstreet cover come to life.

    Dominac West as Jigsaw? Brilliant!

    Doug Hutchinson as Loony Bin Lonny? Unexpected surprise ( Eugene Tooms rules!!) and hands down, one of my favorite character actor of all time, completely stole the show!

    Maybe it was a little over the top – but wasn’t it the point of the screenwriters to invoke the mood and tone of Garth Ennis scripts? Indubitably!

    This movie has succeeded on all levels for me!

    Now they’re using Marvel Knights as a production company? Could there be that there’s a Moon Knight movie in the works in the foreseeable future?



  16. That’s the problem with Castle. He’s a determined and driven individual. They HAD to add Wayne Knight and Julie Benz for the character to have someone to TALK to.
    Because, otherwise, he’s a loner, no friends, no contacts, cut off from the rest of the human race for decades.
    He’s grim, sociopathic and homicidal. He has NO redeeming qualities, considering he’s the most dangerous man to ever walk the earth, who coldly dispatches his enemies in a blaze of lead and cold steel, while at the same time planning how he’ll murder the next ones on his list.
    Merry Christmas!

  17. Stevenson killed the punisher. Jane was perfect, lionsgate was just to dumb to see it. 04’s punisher had it all, the actor, the reviews, and the top of the boxoffice.08’s was the worst thing ive ever seen. Please MARVEL, bring jane back.

  18. They shoulda had Jane in War Zone, alright…
    To play Martin Soap.
    He looks just like him.
    Thank Gosh that Marvel listens to REAL Punisher fans and not guys like Val.
    Who wouldn’t know Frank Castle from Strawberry Shortcake.
    Put the 5’9, chubby-faced, unintimidating Jane in Downy commercials where he belongs.

  19. I agree with Bugs. Jane would be better as Cyclops, not Frank Castle. Ray Stevenson would destroy Jane with one arm behind his back.