Because three failed movies starring three lesser action heroes (that’s Dolph Lundgren in The Punisher, Tom Jane in The Punisher, and Ray Stevenson in Punisher: War Zone) weren’t enough attempts to milk money out of a comic book franchise whose salad days are still the 1980s, FOX has purchased the rights from Marvel Studios to make a “The Punisher” TV series. If the thought of network-TV-sanctioned action and violence weren’t enough to make you question the viability of a series centered around a man whose sole raison d’être is to murder criminals in the most graphic, stomach churning, lizard-brain rewarding ways possible, then how how does it sound if I tell you that it will also be a police procedural?
Yeah, I thought you might not like that.
For those blessed not to have seen the previous movies, or read the mostly-not-very-good comics, Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher, is a Vietnam vet/New York City police cop who witnesses his wife and son’s assassaination at the hands of mobsters and decides to go on a vengeful killing spree, righting the criminal justice system’s wrongs by any means necessary. If you’re thinking he sounds like Batman with an even starker moral code and a penchant for blowing things up but good, you would be correct. But, as fun as that sounds, the character has never worked well enough in live action to earn more than a few million dollars at the box office. Don’t blame it on the giant skull insignia, either — that’s really the most lasting contribution to culture the character has, and it’s pretty radass in its own right, too. But Castle’s inability to translate (or, really, his ability to translate perfectly well from crap comics to crap movies) probably explains why proposed showrunner Ed Bernero (“Crimial Minds”) is tweaking the concept so much that the new drama sounds more like Showtime’s “Dexter” than Batman With Guns.
I’m far from alone in noticing that connection, but here’s Deadline’s description of the series’ overall narrative and format:
“[A]n hour-long procedural with a Marvel signature and a new take on one of the comic book giant’s iconic characters, Frank Castle, a rising star detective with the New York Police Department who moonlights as the vigilante Punisher, seeking justice for those the system has failed.”
So, even if you’re a fan of the Punisher, his comics and/or his movies, even if you’re a fan of Dexter, his books and/or his cable series, do you really want to see a watered down version of either on FOX, of all networks? Plus, with Frank Castle being described as a “rising star detective” it sounds like he’ll be rather young, which means inexplicable Tron: Legacy star Garret Hedlund will probably be announced as the front-runner to play the normally grim and grizzled veteran in the upcoming series. Hey, if he can play a Japanese teenager, the guy can do anything. By the sound of it, Castle may even lose his status as an ex-soldier and grieving family man, the latter of which may be caused by FOX’s aversion to anything that might reconnect the network to “The Cape.” Hell, I don’t even like the Punisher all that much, but I get why people do (everyone loves a good, explosive comeuppance), and this just sounds like a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea.
Which means “The Punisher” will probably get at least six seasons and a movie.
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force and tweets on the Twitter @RobOfWar. He thinks the Dolph Lundgren Punisher is probably the most entertaining of the bunch, by virtue of being ridiculously fun with a handle of rum.