I saw The Punisher on Friday night. Growing up, I was a big fan of the comic Punisher: War Journal, for which the great Jim Lee was artist, and an ever-rotating collection of writers provided stories for. Unfortunately, I’d also sat through the 1989 Dolf Lundgren version of the comic, which was a terrible, wretched mess of a film (also — only loosely based on the comic and notably, the famous skull was nowhere to be seen). So I had high hopes and low expectations for this version.
I was, I must say, pleasantly surprised. Thomas Jane was good Punisher, John Travolta chewed scenery enjoyably as the villain, and there was lots of guns and fist fights. Also, The Punisher took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’, which is sort of his bag in the comics. He, being a non-superpowered guy, is virtually always overmatched, but comes through on sheer perseverence, which I think came through in the film quite well. There was a number of times where you could visibly see him ‘pull himself together’ and get on with it, despite injuries, etc.
The side story of the outcasts providing and proving humanity was sweet, but definitely the clunkiest of the storylines — the direction just felt more forced, less fluid, whenever moving away from the main storyline into this more backdrop story.
If you’re a fan of the comic, or the shoot-’em-up genre, definitely see this movie.
For good measure, here’s my unofficial good-to-bad comic book recent adaptation list (Note that I don’t include American Splendor in this list because of the nature of the film. It’s definitely the best of the lot, IMO):
- Ghost World
- Hell Boy
- The Punisher
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- The Hulk