The Punisher has made it to film several times already, but none of those versions quite got him right. Will the Daredevil season 2 Punisher be the definitive version of the character?
With Daredevil season 2, Punisher fans are finally getting to see their favorite character join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While many are looking forward to seeing the Punisher fight Daredevil and dole out his unique brand of justice to the criminals of Hell’s Kitchen, some fans are also looking for something else: The Punisher done right.
After getting three takes on the gun-toting antihero, will the Daredevil season 2 Punisher finally be the version of the character that fans have been longing for? Let’s look at who the character is and where previous versions have gone wrong to see if the Netflix Punisher will be the version that nails it.
Who is the Punisher?
Depending on the version of the story that’s being told, Frank Castle is either a war veteran, a special forces operative, or some other highly-trained individual who experienced the death of his family at the hands of organized crime. This led him to take up arms and launch a one-man war against the criminal element, “punishing” them for their crimes and often running afoul of other heroes who don’t use such permanent solutions. This was used to notable effect in Marvel’s “Civil War” comic event, since it showed that Captain America was the one hero that the Punisher was unwilling to come to blows with… even someone as cold as the Punisher can have heroes, and Cap is likely the one person that the Punisher believes hasn’t done anything to merit a punishment.
The character’s mindset and moral standing is pretty complex, and that can be hard to capture in a movie while still fitting in the requisite action. That’s one reason that people are excited about the Daredevil season 2 Punisher, since they’ll have more time to develop the character.
The Punisher (1989)
The first version of the Punisher that made it to film was barely recognizable as the character. An ’80s action movie first and foremost, The Punisher starred Dolph Lundgren and Lou Gossett Jr. and featured the character living in the sewers without his trademark skull costume. A former police officer who’s family was killed in a mob hit, this version of Frank Castle had been acting as a vigilante for five years with over 100 confirmed kills when the film opened. Castle has to save the children of the various mob families in the city, is betrayed by the leader of the Mafia at the last minute and tells the man’s son to be a good boy so he can grow up to be a good man. There’s essentially no chance of the Daredevil season 2 Punisher coming across like this version.
The Punisher (2004)
For our next Punisher, we got Thomas Jane in the role of Frank Castle, FBI agent and former member of Delta Force. The storyline of the film was heavily based on the “Punisher: Year One” and “Welcome Back, Frank” comic arcs, with John Travolta’s Howard Saint character created as the big bad instead of the villains in those arcs. The movie explored some of the character’s motivations and featured a few key scenes from the comics, though it still didn’t fully represent the character and his moral complexity. In the end, it seemed to be a blend of the Punisher mythos and a generic 90s or early 2000s action movie. Most critics hated it, but it does have a decent fan following.