Why Punisher: War Zone Failed, According To Punisher: War Zone's Director

Marvel has a formula that has definitely been successful when it comes to turning their catalogue of comics into movies. When other companies produce movies based on their titles, however, the results are less consistent. One case in point is 2008’s Punisher: War Zone, and director Lexi Alexander says a big part of why the film failed is because Lionsgate was in the driver’s seat, not Marvel.

In an interview posted to her personal blog, the Green Street Hooligans director discussed the working relationship between the two companies, and it sounds like she was caught in the middle. Like how Sony owns the rights to Spider-Man and the X-Men, Lionsgate purchased the rights to Punisher. Marvel was involved in the process, but when it came down to it, Lionsgate had the final say, and though she’s publicly stated she’s happy with the final product, Alexander wishes it was the other way around. She says:

Marvel was an equal partner, but unfortunately when there were creative decision conflicts, Marvel would let Lionsgate be the tiebreaker. I always regretted that I made a Marvel movie this way, because 99% of their notes were much better than the studios and I was more in tune with them.

Marvel has such a clear vision of how they want to bring their characters to life on the big screen that you can’t help but wonder what could have been if they’d had final say over War Zone. The Punisher is such a tricky character to adapt, since the title is so violent and brutal that it seems like it would inherently clash with the fun, sarcastic, PG-13 cinematic universe they’ve cultivated. Perhaps upcoming offerings like Neflix’s Daredevil, which is supposed to be darker and grittier, will lay the groundwork for the Punisher movie for which fans have been waiting.

Lexi Alexander has been one of the most outspoken voices championing an increased role for female filmmakers in the Hollywood system, and goes on to compare Marvel to other massive companies, like Coca-Cola. While that’s fine -- who doesn’t like to crack open a can of Coke from time to time? -- and their customers and shareholders are more than happy, she worries about a time when that becomes the only option available.

Alexander would like to see Marvel use their earnings to open a more indie-centric comic studio where they would adapt smaller titles with a fraction of the budget, but give filmmakers more creative freedom, things like final cut (which she did not have on War Zone). This doesn’t seem likely to ever happen, and she knows that, but it’s certainly a cool idea.

Brent McKnight