The Punisher is one of the most challenging comic book heroes to try to adapt on screen. In a lot of ways, he's just a guy. Sure, he's a guy with enough firepower to occupy a small country, legendary combat skills, and more baggage than a 747, but he's still different from most comic book heroes. He doesn't have superpowers or a brightly colored spandex suit to fit into. He's not particularly wealthy or intelligent in the Reed Richards sense, nor is he mystical in the Stephen Strange sense. Frank Castle is just someone out to punish evildoers and maybe, while he's at it, get revenge for his murdered family too.
What happens when you cast a prominent actor known for a lead role in an action TV series to star in a comic book movie spinoff from an existing franchise? Obviously you end up with... a commercial and critical flop that becomes a byword for missteps in the genre. Wait, that can't be right.
The early 2000s were a time of great experimentation in comic book movies. Sometimes those experiments paid off and spawned giant franchises. Other times they did well enough to get a sequel or two before fading away. And then there were the one-offs that, for what ever reason, never came back. Today we are considering a movie in the last category, one that never got a sequel (although there was a spinoff). And I happen to think we missed an opportunity to see another adventure from the Man Without Fear.
I remember seeing a trailer for the 2015 incarnation of "Fantastic Four" and recognizing Kate Mara from "House of Cards" and Michael B. Jordan from all sorts of projects. I shared it excitedly with a friend and thought, "Wow, this is great. They are finally going to get the Fantastic Four right." Then I never really saw or heard anything about the movie again until I watched it this weekend. Needless to say, they didn't exactly get it right.
If "Fantastic Four" taught us anything, it's that you can create a so-so movie based on a comic book property, and you can expect to do well enough to earn a sequel. That is the model "Ghost Rider" followed, including ending the franchise after only two movies. By its release in 2011, it's not enough to just put a comic book character on the big screen anymore, you have to earn the audiences' trust. "Spirit of Vengeance" made some improvements over the original, but fell short of earning a full trilogy.