Thursday, January 25, 2018

PUNISHER: THE NETFLIX SERIES is very "Bourne-ing."

Let me tell you something, folks.  I am a huge fan of the Punisher.  I have the character's first appearance in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #129.  I have just about every issue of every volume of the Punisher's main run of comics as well as a ton of his appearances in other characters' comics.  I think he is just the tops!  Superheroes are often the outsiders of society.  If that is so then Frank Castle is the outsider of outsiders.  He cannot rely on his superpowers to save the day because he has none!  What a fascinating hero in a world of super powered superheroes. I tell you all of this to assure you that this review is not going to be one of those "It sucks because the show isn't like the comics" kind of reviews.  I promise.  I will say, however, that Netflix's THE PUNISHER is terrible for so many other reasons.  Yea, that's right.  I didn't care too much for this show.  Everyone else seems to love it but I found the show to be a 13 hour endurance test of boring.  It's a thin unimaginative story populated with a bunch of characters that serve as oversize luggage that drag down and get in the way of anything interesting happening.  Oh, and the show is nothing whatsoever like the comics!

The story is another origin story!  Can you believe it?  How ballzy do you have to be to put out another origin story of the same version of the character?  It is like the creators of this show don't know what to do with this guy or are too afraid to write stories that concern what the Punisher actually does.  So in DAREDEVIL season 2 we are introduced to Frank Castle who is hunting down those who murdered his family.  By the end of the show he gets them all.  Now for his new show he discovers that there was one more person left and he spends the entire 13 episodes trying to find out who he is and kill him.  You can rest assure that season 2 of the PUNISHER will feature yet another character tied to the death of Frank's family that he will have to go after for another 13 episodes.

The show starts off with Frank Castle played by Jon Bernthal running around killing the little fish that were tied to the death of his family.  He is wearing the white punishment death skull prominently on his bulletproof vest so I took that as a good sign.  I thought all that stuff with his family was over.  The show can move on into new territory.  But then after he kills them all in the first five minutes of the first episode he burns the vest and retires to hitting concrete walls with a hammer.  What is he going to do for the rest of the season?  Oh, he is going to go around and yet again uncover the conspiracy that got his family made not alive anymore with the help of his new friend and computer whiz, Micro.  Fun?

Jon Bernthal really isn't playing the Punisher.  He is playing a character that should have been called the Revenger.  His motivation is based only on getting revenge on those that wronged him.  The Thomas Jane movie of the same name also made the same mistake.  Once the Punisher has dealt with those who murdered his family what is left for Franky to do?  What would motivate him to go on and wage war on bad guys?  It feels wrong for him to go on killing unless he is unstable mentally which this show insinuates with his apparent PTSD.  If there was any doubt that Frank Castle is not the Punisher the scene where Frank has a gun to the head of Turk, the gun runner who also helped traffic people in the slave trade.  Turk is kind of a running gag always popping up in the previous Netflix Marvel shows like DAREDEVIL and LUKE CAGE.  What was funny about his character is that you knew that he would show up in the PUNISHER show and that he was going to die because Daredevil and Luke Cage don't kill but the Punisher does.  We knew it was too good not to happen but it didn't.  After finding Turk with all his weapons ready to be sold to the city's bad element Netflix's Punisher just knocks him out.  That is when you know that this is not the Punisher.  He is the Revenger.  Turk had nothing to do with the death of his family so Frank had no reason to kill him.

When you see Punisher fan art you usually see Frank Castle armed to the teeth carrying two big guns with two rows of grenades strapped criss-crossed to his vest and ammo magazines protruding from every possible pocket stitched to his clothing with all that weight doing nothing from disrupting his aim as he, with his face frozen in a warriors scream, blasts away at the unseen baddies that most likely lay dead in a hail of gunfire.  This is how we sum up what the Punisher does and how we want to see him do it.  The Netflix seems embarrassed by this character.  Frank doesn't go after drug dealers and rapists.  No, he instead meets and gets involved with Micro's family or dreams of his dead wife over and over again with additional flashback sequences to constantly remind us that he misses his family.  Micro too has his own flashback sequences with his family too.  How many times do we see Micro looking at a computer monitor watching his family on camera?  How many times does Frank dreams or flashbacks to his family?  The show creators can't seem to think of anything interesting to put on the screen.  But they sure do make it a priority to stop any possible momentum the story may have made with these family moments

The name of this show should have been titled THE JASON BOURNE SHOW.  What we have here is an uninspired remake of the Bourne films.  The bad guys are all CIA, FBI or politicians in suits who did bad things during the war.  Now they have to kill the rogue soldier because he knows too much.  Now he has to run from the authorities, beat up two cops then jump down a stairwell and get into unimpressive car chases while killing former military henchmen.  There is nothing in this show that we haven't seen before.  Its a typical American action film in episodic form.

The Netflix original THE PUNISHER simply tells the wrong kind of story.  It should be an action show about a one man war against crime.  This show is more of a family drama wrapped up in a police procedural.  Bernthal could be a good Punisher but his portrayal as a PTSD ridden homeless guy is just sad.  He doesn't emote badassery.  He just cries sometimes or comes across as an upset dock worker.  It should be simple not a bunch of conspiracy nonsense with the usual twists and turns.  The Punisher show should break the formula of telling one long story arch over 13 episodes.  Every episode should be about him tracking down a killer of killers and killing them like a monster of the week kind of thing.  DEXTER did it on occassion. 

So what will happen in season 2?  I predict that he will once again go after another former military bad guy that is revealed to be involved with the death of Frank's family that will also be involved with a bunch of White Supremacists.  Expect more dream sequences and flashbacks of Frank's family too.  I am surprised about how many people who are Punisher fans love this show.  I just don't get it.  I never read or watched a single negative review of it. I'm sure there are some out there but I didn't look very hard.  I figure they are caught up in the Disney/Marvel hype unwilling to accept the fact that the show does not deliver the most basic motivations of the character. The PUNISHER never moves forward always stopping to look at the past developing a character that was already developed in DAREDEVIL season 2.  Just like Frank at the beginning of the first episode hitting walls over and over again with a hammer the show accomplishes nothing and bores the audience with redundancy.  Next time, Netflix let me write the dang show.