The One Character We Need to See in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
And no, I'm not talking about Stan Lee.
...or Adam Warlock.
...or even Spider-man (though he is missed).
The character I'm talking about is The Punisher. You remember him, don't you? The guy with all the guns and the revenge fixation? The guy without any super powers? The guy with the big skull on his chest?
I think it's high time we saw Frank Castle make his appearance in the MCU, and here are some reasons why:
With all of these super-powered beings flying around, it would be great to see your average, everyday psychopath take up arms and surprise a few of them. After all, why let the superheroes have all the fun? Having The Punisher skulk around in their shadows would provide an interesting bit of contrast.
2. The Chance to Get Him Right
So far we've seen two movies that tried to introduce The Punisher. One, filmed in the 90s with none other than Dolph Lundgren, was less than convincing. The other, filmed in the 2000s with Thomas Jane, didn't strike the right balance between (black) comedy and breathtaking outbursts of violence. Yeah, that scene where he fights the big dude in his apartment is awesome, but the rest of the movie didn't live up to expectations.
There was also the sequel to Thomas Jane's Punisher, Punisher: War Zone. This featured Ray Stevenson (who now plays Volstagg!) as Frank Castle, and although this movie was violent enough (sometimes cartoonishly so), it was also a disappointment.
The Punisher is one of the most easily understood characters in the Marvel Universe. His family gets killed by bad guys, he goes a little crazy for a while, and he ends up giving the bad guys a taste of their own medicine. It's a story as old as The Iliad, and there is a very simple, human reason that it has been retold throughout human history.
3. What Goes Around Comes Around
If you are my age, male, and probably Caucasian, you will remember a point in your childhood when The Punisher was unspeakably cool. Why is that, I wonder? Part of the answer, I think, lies in the late 80s/early 90s version of "superhero fatigue."
I will agree that a lot of great comics came out in the late 80s and early 90s, but about 80% of what the major and minor publishers were putting out was crap (however collectible). By that time many of us were sick of superheroes, and The Punisher was a welcome change of pace.
We might be living in a similar era with regard to superhero movies. Hence the oft-repeated phrase "superhero fatigue." Since 2000 we've seen a slew of superhero movies from both Marvel and DC, and in the next few years it's going to get even worse. Some of us, by the time Avengers 3 rolls around, are probably going to be a bit tired of superheroes. So why not introduce a superhero who's not a superhero? Why not introduce The Punisher?
4. Civil War
In case you've failed to notice, the next Captain America film is subtitled "Civil War." This Civil War will not feature the Confederacy or the Union, but rather two groups of superheroes, divided over the question of the Superhuman Registration Act. Captain America and Iron Man are key players in this struggle, and so is (alas!) Spider-man. But the Punisher also had a great bit in the Civil War comic book, and the movie might be a good chance to bring him into the superhero fold.
5. A Suitable Replacement
Elsewhere on this blog I have voiced the desire to see a Marshal Law movie. In my thinking, such a movie would be the perfect antidote for "superhero fatigue." I am, however, a realist, and I realize that we will NEVER see a Marshal Law movie that does the character (or the comic book) justice.
This said, The Punisher does offer many of the same opportunities for critiquing the Marvel Cinematic Universe from within. You could easily show the bad side of superheroes, and the deleterious effect such superheroes would have on a less-than-democratic society.
Let's say the superheroes trigger a major conflict in another country, let's say two countries engage in some kind of "super powers arms race" against one another, and in the end you have a story very similar to what Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill did in Marshal Law. I'm not encouraging plagiarism here, but The Punisher presents such a possibility. Again, it's probably the closest we'll ever come to a Marshal Law movie.
6. Brand Recognition
Just about everyone is familiar with The Punisher. He's been in three films, and his comic books have enjoyed varying degrees of popularity. With The Punisher, Marvel also has the opportunity to play upon people's preconceptions of the character, and could do so in a way that adds a much-needed gravity to a world full of gods and monsters.
So come on, Marvel Studios! You OWN The Punisher now! Let's get it done!