There may have been two films made regarding this most traumatized and downright dangerous of Marvel characters, but I personally don’t feel that either one has come as close to the powerhouse that John Bernthal displayed as Marvel’s Punisher in the recent Netflix series.
For those of you who are yet to watch the series, I will save on the spoilers during this blog post, but let me tell you, this is one Marvel series worth bingeing on as soon as you get the chance!
Former Outings of The Punisher
For the more eagle-eyed of Marvel fans, you won’t have failed to notice that this isn’t the first time that The Punisher has made it to the big screen, alongside a host of some more well-known and respected names accompanying his performance during the process.
In 2004, it was American actor Thomas Janes’ turn to take the leading role of the Marvel vigilante, as he went head to head with dirty boss Howard Saint played by the charismatic John Travolta. Though he may have been referred to once or twice by the media at the time as more eye candy, his appearance on the big screen wasn’t overwhelming, and fans such as myself were left feeling a little short-changed by the presence of the somewhat oddly cast group of actors present throughout the entire film. Whether this had more to do with Janes himself or perhaps the appearance of Travolta trying to masquerade as a credible corrupt businessman, I can’t be sure, but it wasn’t really the most memorable Punisher version, and we were left wanting more.
Cue, Ray Stevenson, the British hard man of TV, who took on the role of The Punisher in the 2008 film, Punisher War Zone, some four years after Jane had given it a shot. Stevenson is a powerhouse and usually a great performer in everything that he lends his acting expertise to. Yet, even he couldn’t salvage the film and fans, myself included, tended to see him as a somewhat cuddly bear rather than a full-blown murdering punisher! This time, War Zone followed the format that we have all come to know and love as fans of the cult figure, but it tended to err more on the side of comical, dare I say it, rather than pure revenge.
However, the one remaining saving grace of this version had to be for me, the appearance of the crazy Billy, a.k.a Jigsaw. This was undertaken by yet another British performer, Dominic West, but this time I believe his performance outshone Ray’s rather lack-lustrous character. Dominic was perfect for the role of a swaggering man about town, obsessed with appearance and, above all, the women. This love them and leave them mafia man was excellently portrayed by the dashing Englishman, so much so that when he became disfigured by The Punisher, it was hard to not feel a little empathy for his predicament. But, regarding the film making a lasting impression, we were once again left wanting more.
So, we may have had to wait a grand total of 9 years until we got a new Frank Castle but, when Netflix announced they were giving The Punisher his very own Marvel series, boy did we celebrate!
The New Punisher Holds His Own
Though this isn’t the first time we have had the pleasure of meeting John Bernthal’s character, as we were introduced to him during Daredevil’s second season, this is the first time he has stood on his own and most certainly held his own.
When Netflix announced a series devoted to The Punisher for 2017, we Marvel fans were left counting down the days. However, the season took all of us avid fans by surprise because this was a Frank Castle that we were not used to seeing, and this was one Netflix Marvel series that we had never witnessed before. So, what made it different to all the other dramatizations that had gone before it? The answer was two things; Jon Bernthal and an action-packed storyline.
How Netflix Punisher Turned Things Around
I have enjoyed watching the recent run of Netflix’s Marvel outings, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage. However, whether it was a Marvel overload or, as I suspect a sheer boredom with the new addition, the Iron Fist series left me cold. For the first time ever, I found myself struggling to get through a Marvel series and this was when I suspected that the franchise was experiencing a bit of fan backlash. However, when talking to like-minded fans of the series, I realized I was not alone. As much as it pains me to say it, I struggled to find anything relatable to the character of Iron Fist, and there were times when I just gave up, dare I say it, even skipping huge chunks just to make it through to the end to finish the series off! Consequently, I have yet to sit through an entire episode of Defenders. However, after watching the whole series of The Punisher, I am now regaining my passion for the Netflix franchise once again.
The American actor Jon Bernthal is mesmerizing as Frank Castle, so much so that I cannot imagine him being played by anyone else now. If I had been expecting the same old storylines as before, I was in for a shock. They upped the ante and took the story in a different direction this time, while still managing to hold onto the known and loved the ethos of what The Punisher was all about. However, this time, he was fallible and prone to making mistakes – and boy did he get into some dangerous situations.
Overall, Netflix’s Punisher series was dark, and I mean the darkest of the dark. You need a strong stomach to sit through it, and it doesn’t make for the most pleasant of viewing experiences in several scenes. If you thought that the films were disturbing, you will no doubt be left reeling from the series and that shocker of an ending. However, the script was astounding and held its own all the way through in my personal view making it one of the best Netflix Marvel series to date!
What’s more, I can say with utter delight that Netflix has decided to commission a second season – Now if that isn’t proof that the first series is a triumph, then I don’t know what is!