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The Punisher Is Joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Should Fans Be Happy?

With apologies to Nathan Fillion, an actor who has to play a Marvel hero at some point (Simon Williams, perhaps), there is only one Castle that should come to mind when discussing pop culture, and his first name is Frank.

Frank Castle is better known as the Punisher, and he will be bringing his particular brand of justice to the second season of Daredevil when it premieres on Netflix in 2016. The Punisher, unlike the title hero in the series, is not at all afraid to kill the criminals that get in his way as he works to clean up the city.

This will be the fifth time a live action Punisher has been filmed, and Jon Bernthal will be the fourth actor to take on the role. With all the factors that will be contributing to this take on the character, I believe fans of the character — especially fans like myself who developed their love of the Hell's Kitchen section of the Marvel Universe during the 80's — will be very happy.

Here is a quick summary at the history of live action adaptations of the character:

The Punisher: Dolph Lundgren had the first shot — Punisher pun right there — at playing the character in a direct-to-video release. I remember Louis Gossett Jr. and a scowling Dolph, but that's about it.

The Punisher: Fifteen years later Thomas Jane took his first turn at wearing the white skull and hunted down bad guy John Travolta after Howard Saint (Travolta) murdered Castle's family. This was a straight up vigilante origin story where the vigilante is a former Delta Force commando.

Punisher: War Zone: In 2008 a sequel to the Jane film was released, albeit without Jane, who had publicly dropped out due to P2 becoming a film "I just don't believe in." While I would have preferred Jane to replacement Ray Stevenson, I enjoyed the film and it has a place in my DVD collection.

Dirty Laundry: Jane showed up at Comic-Con in 2012 and premiered Dirty Laundry. Jane said it was "a love letter to Frank Castle and his fans." His quote is extremely accurate, as all of my friends were directing each other to watch this awesome 10-minute movie as soon as it became available on the internet.

Before I go any further in my commentary, I have a confession to make. I just finished Episode 9 of Daredevil (I'm keeping a promise to my daughter not to skip ahead). Despite this fact, I think I have a good idea of what Hell's Kitchen is in this universe and what we can expect when Frank Castle arrives. However, I concede I may have to revisit what I think now in this column after I view the next four episodes.

The Hell’s Kitchen that exists in Netflix's Daredevil has all sorts of organized crime elements. This fits right in with the origin story of the Punisher. In all iterations somehow Castle's family is killed by criminals and he begins his crusade. At this point, it'ss hard for me to imagine that this has happened already because there is no way Castle would be sitting on the sidelines during all this mob war craziness. No, I think that at this point in the series his family is either still alive or has just been killed, perhaps as collateral damage, during Fisk's purge of the Russians.

If the events of season one are responsible for the birth of the Punisher, it would then be logical that he will figure prominently early in Season 2 and appear on the scene in search of revenge. This would set up an amazing dichotomy between the two characters, as Matt Murdock follows a set of moral guidelines while he is fighting crime and Castle's only guideline is that those who commit crime must be punished. The only real difference between Murdock, the-lawyer, and Murdock, the hero Daredevil, is the black outfit (I know the red version is coming). Whether in costume or out, Murdock is always trying to find a way to operate within the law as much as possible. In contrast, Castle just cares about justice and will accomplish this by any means necessary.

Now you may be saying that Stick already served this function as the opposite of the moral Daredevil in Season 1. If you are saying that, I think you are wrong. Whatever Black Sky was it was clear in the episode that Stick did the world a favor by dispatching it (deliberate use of pronoun here because in no way do I think Black Sky was a little boy). Stick killed for the greater good, whereas the Punisher kills to mete out justice.

Frank Miller's run on Daredevil is an obvious influence on the series and even if they change the Daredevil-Punisher relationship I am still excited to see what is going to happen in Season 2. Marvel Studios hasn't had a casting mishap yet and Bernthal won't be the first. It would be cliche, I think, at this point to mention his portrayal of Shane on The Walking Dead in order to discuss what to expect with his take on the Punisher. Shane was all rage and not restrained at all most of the time. When Shane was restrained before Rick arrived on scene that doesn;t apply either. What may serve as a good gauge of what to expect is his character in The Wolf of Wall Street, Brad, before one of his many explosions in the film. Each time he is on screen, even in the calm moments, it is apparent that he is dangerous and not someone you would want to upset for fear of what he would do. Castle is calm, restrained, yet incredibly dangerous.

The hardest thing about these Netflix releases is the long wait between seasons. I am positive the wait will be worth it though.
The Punisher Is Joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Should Fans Be Happy? Reviewed by Charlie Bielinski on 6/13/2015 Rating: 5

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