Marvel fans usually love when the studios takes risks and thinks outside of the box with its hires, especially when it comes to directors. Taika Waititi and James Gunn weren’t natural choices when it came to taking over bigger-budget superhero movies, but they brought their unique voices and approach to Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor: Ragnarok, and now those movies are up there with the best Marvel movies ever made. These risks don’t always work (more on those in a moment), and we sometimes hear of situations where a radical, left-field selection almost happened, creating a tantalizing “What if?” for the Marvel universe.
This one involves the movie series The Punisher, which starred Thomas Jane as the vigilante Frank Castle back in 2004. This was an early stab (no pun intended) at bringing the extremely violent Marvel character to the big screen, and was in no way part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It never got a sequel, but during an appearance at the Fanboy Expo in Tennessee (via ComicBook), Jane mentioned that Rob Zombie was a name in the mix to helm Punisher 2, and excuse me… what?
One of the criticisms leveled at Thomas Jane’s The Punisher, which was directed by Jonathan Hensleigh, is that it pulled its punches regarding the amount of violence needed to be a true Punisher movie. Frank Castle is a man who wages war on criminals after his innocent family is caught in the crossfire of rival gang members. The Punisher forgives no one, and leaves bodies in his wake.
Hiring Rob Zombie to take a crack at The Punisher 2 would have given the sequel the edge that was missing from Hensleigh’s movie. Look at how Zombie reimagined Halloween when he took over John Carpenter’s classic franchise, or the spin he’s putting on The Munsters. They look nothing like what we would expect, and I know his interpretation of The Punisher would have been as extreme. You KNOW we would have gotten a killing montage set to Dragula, and that's badass.
Instead of Rob Zombie, the Punisher character landed in the hands of Lexi Alexander, who ramped up the violence for the more-fitting Punisher: War Zone but still created a movie that even the director hates. Then the character received some level of stability when fan-favorite Jon Bernthal donned Frank Castle’s body armor for multiple Netflix appearances. But then that, too, got cancelled.
The Marvel Netflix heroes are making their way back to the MCU, with Daredevil about to appear in the She-Hulk series, and Kingpin being added to Echo. Despite the rumors that Rosario Dawson has been spreading, however, The Punisher isn’t ready to appear on a new Disney+ show. But if and when he does… maybe Rob Zombie can be in the mix again?
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.