The Punisher's Frank Castle has a long history on the silver screen. To date, there have been three Punisher solo movies, all of which tried to do something different with the gun-toting anti-hero. With The Punisher TV series now streaming on Netflix, it begs the question of whether or not those films played a part in informing the show. CinemaBlend's Nick Venable recently chatted with The Punisher showrunner Steven Lightfoot, who explained that he didn't want to use those movies as guides in any way, because this Frank is rooted in the characterization we saw in Daredevil. When asked, Lightfoot said:
Not really. I've known those movies as they came. I'm an action genre guy. I love that stuff. I'd seen all those movies. I'd seen the Dolph Lundgren one when I was like 14, or whatever I was when it came out on VHS. And I'd seen the Thomas Jane one and I'd seen War Zone. And I didn't go back to them in any way, because I thought my touchstone was what Marvel had done on Netflix and what Jon had done in Daredevil, and I sort of carried on from there.
It's almost immediately clear that The Punisher TV series is an entirely different beast when compared to the movies, and as such, it had/has some unique opportunities to actually surpass the films in several crucial areas. In that regard, Steven Lightfoot had quite a bit of creative freedom to shape and mold the brutally violent new series in a variety of different ways, but for the showrunner, it all had to stem fromJon Bernthal's scene-stealing work from Daredevil Season 2. Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane, and Ray Stevenson all created different and arguably memorable versions of Frank Castle that needed to exist for their specific worlds, but Bernthal's take on The Punisher has his foundation rooted in the dark and visceral Defenders corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Framing Frank Castle as an existing television character, and not as a movie hero, also factored into the pacing of the series. Elsewhere in his interview with CinemaBlend, Steven Lightfoot addressed the series' slow-burn nature and talked about how Netflix offered a chance for smarter long-form storytelling that a single movie couldn't achieve. The Punisher showrunner said:
I fell that's the joy of the super-smart approach that Netflix and Marvel have taken. And as a story-teller, having 13 hours to get around to the skin of it. You can't do that in two hours in a movie. And I think the slow burn of letting the audience in piece by piece is what's so great about television these days.
That deliberately methodical storytelling shines through in scenes that we likely could never see in The Punisher movies. For example, Frank's relationship with Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is a significant element of the series that informs his vulnerability and his non-grunting emotional side, and while it's fundamental to the series' characterization of its titular hero, those scenes would likely end up on the cutting room floor of a movie because of its limited runtime. Some characters just work better in a serialized format, and the broodingly complex Frank Castle is one of them.
The Punisher is now streaming on Netflix; check out our in-depth review of the new Marvel series and make sure to take a look at our definitive ranking of the show's most violent action sequences. If you're on the lookout for more great information about the world of streaming content, then you can also check out our 2017 Netflix premiere schedule and listen to The Cord Cutter Podcast -- this week we're talking about Frank Castle and his rampage through New York!