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.
This adaptation of "The Punisher" came out while I was in high school during that mandatory phase that boys my age went through when they were required to like "The Boondock Saints" (and any movie in that vein) to an unreasonable degree. Because the 2004 "Punisher" fits in that category (relatively small cast, lots of small sets with gratuitous violence), I look back on it fondly through the rose-colored lenses of nostalgia.
I have really been enjoying the early 2000's, pre-MCU, walk down memory lane in this Reflections series. It was an era of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. Comic book movies were still figuring themselves out and the idea of a shared universe was little more than a dream. Hulk enters this conversation in a pretty interesting way. Most people have a passing understanding of Hulk's origin, probably less so than Spider-Man or Batman but more than Ghost Rider or Daredevil. After all, there had been a 1970's era TV series starring Lou Ferrigno and a few made-for-TV movies. This leaves enough space to tell an interesting story but enough foundation for an audience to know they should expect some smashing. Director Ang Lee went pretty heavy on the former and maybe just a little light on the latter.
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.