Marvel Movie Reflections, Issue #34: The Punisher: War Zone

Written by David Holland

People give Spider-Man a hard time because of all the reboots. If you spend any amount of time on the internet, Spider-Fans are divided into camps over their favorite portrayal of the webslinger – you’ve got your Tobey Maguire Stans, your Andrew Garfield Heads, your Tom Hollanders, not to mention a sizable contention of Shameik Moore Fans. But the Punisher has also been through his fair share of reboots. The difference? None of them has been successful enough for a sequel. “War Zone” attempts a story that is truer to the comics than previous versions, and by that I mean it’s a bloody mess.

Punisher: War Zone (2008) - IMDb
“Vengeance has a name – ‘Lundgren’. I mean ‘Jane’. Nope, shoot. Who is it now?

What Worked?

As I said above, this version of the Punisher is meant to be truer to the comics. It’s bloodier, grittier, and darker than the 2004 Thomas Jane version. If “War Zone” Punisher had been in the previous movie, he wouldn’t have messed with the convoluted plan to slowly strangle Howard Saint’s criminal enterprise and turn the man against his own friends and family. He would have shown up in the middle of dinner, killed everybody, and the credits would have rolled after twenty minutes. I know this is what would have happened because one of the first scenes of the movie is the Punisher showing up in the middle of dinner and killing everybody.

Punisher: War Zone (2008) | Bomb Report
“Other than that, how was the meal?”

“War Zone” brings Jigsaw, one of the Punisher’s most recognizable villains, to life on the big screen for the first time. It is nice to have a real member of Punisher’s rogue’s gallery as the film’s central villain, rather than generic mobsters like Howard Saint. Jigsaw is truly terrifying, like something out of a horror movie, so we don’t feel bad about the lengths to which the Punisher goes to defeat him. We also see the first iteration of Microchip, Punisher’s tech-savvy ally and occasional black market weapon supplier. Fans of the Punisher comics will rejoice at seeing familiar faces from the pages come to life.

Microchip (Character) - Comic Vine
“These are all for hunting. I’m a hunter.”

Finally, your mileage may vary on the tone of “War Zone”. Again, those who clamored for a Punisher film closer to the one in print will love the dark, bloody action. There are enough blown off heads and gnarly stabbings to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty fanboy.

Punisher: War Zone is still the best Punisher adaptation - Polygon
Deleted scene: Punisher tries in vain to get all the blood off the skull symbol.

What Didn’t:

The over-the-top bloodbath just isn’t my style. I realize that statement is based on personal preference and that this is a review of a film based on a character whose whole shtick is over-the-top bloodbaths. I think “War Zone” substitutes bloody effects for substance. I couldn’t really detect any particular character arc in this Frank Castle. The bad guys are all so unquestionably evil that any question of Castle’s morality is solved for us. Again, this section is personal preference from someone who isn’t a committed “Punisher” comics reader. If you’re a fan of the source material, chances are good that this is your favorite film version of the character, and I can respect that. It’s just not for me.

Punisher: War Zone | Ray Stevenson | Lionsgate
You couldn’t fit a flashlight in one of those holsters?

Final Verdict:

If you want a gritty, bloody, shoot-’em-up, this “Punisher” is for you.

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