Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
December 8, 2008
It felt a little like punishment, frankly.Kim Hollis: Punisher: War Zone opened to a pathetic $4 million against a $35 million production budget. Why did this film fail in spite of Marvel's other 2008 successes?
Brandon Scott: A new lead actor who nobody knows. Poor marketing. Audience fatigue for this type of pic at this time of the year. Poor word-of-mouth. And in all likelihood, a pretty bad movie (though I am speculating here). I read that Thomas Jane, star of the first Punisher, was pissed that he wasn't asked to come back to develop the character more. He definitely wanted to do it and was a little shocked that he didn't get the chance. For them to go to another complete unknown to replace him was kind of silly in my mind. Jane isn't a great actor by any means, but he is serviceable and this role only calls for a serviceable actor, so this is kind of a muddled outcome in total. I think a lesson will be learned here and maybe someone else can shed more light on what that lesson is.
Les Winan: They neglected to ask for the support of Lucius Vorenus, so nobody from the Aventine showed up.
David Mumpower: I disagree with Brandon about the appeal of Jane. I don't believe that replacing the actor negatively impacted the film's appeal. Ray Stevenson fits the bill of an intimidating action hero better anyway, as anyone who watched Rome knows. The problems with Punisher: War Zone are threefold. The first is that a script was accepted that was absurdly violent. I doubt Eli Roth could sit through a title this bloodthirsty.
The second is that the director was reticent to change much in it, and that (correctly) made the studio nervous. Lionsgate got the dailies, realized what a disaster this was shaping up to be, and (rather coldly) took control away from Lexi Alexander, forcing a PG-13 rating on a grisly production. I doubt they had the guts to do this face to face either since she's a certified bad-ass martial artists and she has reason to be bitter since it's happened to her twice now. Lionsgate doesn't have an excuse since they knew what to expect from both the screenplay and her. Once they accepted what a tragic miscalculation had been made, their third mistake was to hold a December release date. Who wants to see something like this over the holidays? It's a mistake the industry watched Black Christmas make. How did Lionsgate not learn from it?
Eventually, the distributor made peace with a comically inept production and slotted it here, the week after Thanksgiving, and accepted that it's a bomb. Situations like this are exactly why Marvel Studios has been trying to exert more control over its properties, but they dropped the ball here as well. Punisher: War Zone is as total a failure as a movie production can be...at least one that doesn't involve Terry Gilliam.
Pete Kilmer: Actually, Thomas Jane walked from the franchise when the studio decided to pass on having Walter Hill direct the film and change the script. Then, from what I remember, this was supposed to become a direct-to-video project. Of course, seeing what other Marvel Properties like Iron Man and the Hulk made at the box office, Lionsgate seemed to think they could at least make budget back and changed their minds on it. Putting it on the screen in December was a total mistake. This should have been a February release.
I really feel bad for Lexi Alexander, I think she's someone who really could have made a good film if Gale Ann Hurd had gotten her a strong script and helped her.