It’s not often that you hear of Marvel Studios being envious of something Warner Bros. did, but then again, it’s not often you get a film like Joker. The award-winning movie arguably surpassed Avengers: Endgame as the biggest comic book pic of 2019. While Joker didn’t make nearly as much money, it had a bigger cultural impact and will certainly be remembered for longer. Now, we’re hearing reports that Marvel Studios is looking for something to match it. And what they’ve apparently decided upon is The Punisher.
According to our sources – the same ones who told us Transformers was being rebooted and Han was returning in Fast & Furious 9, both of which turned out to be correct – they’re hoping to replicate the same kind of R-rated success seen in Joker, hunting for a director with experience in dark material to retell Frank Castle’s tragic origin story in a big screen outing. And though the Netflix show did go over some of that already, Kevin Feige apparently isn’t too bothered by that and apparently doesn’t really care for the series.
Now, given Disney’s rules on R-rated content, it seems unlikely that the studio would release a Joker-inspired movie that explicitly takes place in the MCU. A realistic story about a veteran seeing his family shot to death and going on a revenge-fueled gun rampage just doesn’t sound like Disney material to me. Perhaps we could see the cinematic equivalent of Marvel Comics’ adults-only MAX range though (which may also make room for an R-rated Deadpool 3).
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By far the best of the comics’ MAX line was The Boys and Preacher creator Garth Ennis’ 75 issue run on The Punisher. This told the tale of an older Frank Castle who was still a Vietnam vet, didn’t feature any superheroes or supervillains and well, let’s just say that it more than lived up to the MAX line’s adults-only billing.
If they did go down that road, I’d hope they would include some elements from Ennis’ amazing Born miniseries, which took place in Vietnam and indicated that the seeds of his violent future were planted long before his family were murdered. But if Marvel Studios does take inspiration from Garth Ennis, I hope they remember that while The Punisher is naturally a pretty dark character, there’s a vein pitch-black comedy running through his best stories. After all, an origin tale that plays the events completely straight is just the story of a mentally ill spree shooter, and that doesn’t sound like much fun to me.
In any case, it’s still early days for Frank Castle’s next big screen outing, but again, we’re told that Kevin Feige wants to have his own Joker. A dark Marvel movie that pushes the boundaries a bit. And it seems that the planned Punisher film is the perfect candidate for that.