Welcome to Remake This!, a series where we look at past movies and not only propose they be remade but suggest how to remake them. Whether a movie tanked, had a good concept hidden within a weak film, or we just want to give something another chance, Remake This! is a cinematic “What If?” wish list. Our last installment argued to give an Irish cult classic novel a second chance at the big screen, and this time, we turn the spotlight on the nefarious Frank Castle as part of our Marvel Week.
Everyone keeps talking about Daredevil. For the last two weeks, the 13-episode Netflix series has kept pop culture writers on their giddy tippy toes. Indiewire drew parallels to HBO’s The Wire, widely considered the greatest show of all time. Slate thinks it’s the best superhero show they’ve ever seen. Grantland finds it “generally pretty-good” and the “least Marvel-y Marvel property yet.” And The A.V. Club gave a handful of A’s and A-minuses to a number of episodes, with the lowest being a C+. Although Forbes thinks it’s overrated, the general consensus seems to be that it’s another hit for Marvel. So, why the hell are we talking about Matt Murdock when you clearly clicked on a link promising some discussion of The Punisher? Simply put, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen has paved the way for a proper return by Frank Castle — almost literally.
Last week, Netflix renewed the series for a second season surprising next to nobody. As such, actor Charlie Cox has been busy fielding questions about what we could expect next year. While speaking with IGN, Cox revealed that he’d personally be interested to see Stilt-Man and Owlsley, adding: “I think in our show we’re more likely to see the likes of Bullseye, The Punisher, and Elektra.” Granted, he followed that up by saying he’s clueless as to whether any of those characters will actually appear (despite Bullseye seeming like a lock), but he’s on the right path, and logistically they all make sense. Without spoiling too much, the first season pieces together Daredevil’s finer details — from his special abilities to his driving motives to his proper suit — and essentially constructs the deep, dark underbelly of Marvel.
Those dim-lit streets are exactly what Frank Castle needs to roam freely, and it would appear that he has them now. It’s funny: After watching the sunny California lifestyle of Tony Stark or the heavenly worlds of Thor or even the intergalactic adventures of Star Lord, who would have thought that fans would have such a carnivorous hunger for the violent inner city, especially given today’s current state of affairs. Then again, maybe that’s why we need this visceral, more earthly brand of escapism; it feeds into our collective consciousness, eerily comforting us in all its gritty terror as we meditate on our rampant social issues. Heroes like Matt Murdoch, Ben Ulrich, or Karen Page are far more realistic than the demigods that have racked up box office dollars.
Marvel’s smart enough to embrace that trend, which is why fans will soon binge-watch new series for Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, inevitably linking them together with Daredevil to produce a mini-series of The Defenders. Now, that’s an exhaustive amount of time on Netflix, and a strong opposing argument for the inclusion of Castle (at least in the meantime), which is why we’re not arguing for a television series. No, The Punisher doesn’t really necessitate a recurring 13-episode arc; instead, he could use another film. But here’s the thing: Since his brand didn’t exactly work in theaters — the 2004 film made $33 million domestically, while the 2008 reboot snagged a paltry $10 mil domestically — it might be best if he also calls Netflix home.
The Punisher could be Marvel’s first event film for Netflix. Carve out two hours, avoid making the unnecessary origin story, and hammer down the essentials within a dynamite storyline. First, you’ll want to give cause for Castle’s introduction, and Marvel can do that in a subtle fashion. Throughout the second season of Daredevil, it might be interesting if Murdock starts hearing about a string of murders involving various crime families, all linked by their ghastly deaths. This could be a B or a C plot point, but something that’s on his proverbial radar. Somewhere down the line, Murdock’s own problems cross paths, and that leads him straight to the elusive culprit, our favorite gun-toting Frank Castle. Immediately, we fade to black, it’s the end of the season, and the Internet goes apeshit.
The story would then continue with the aforementioned film. However, rather than having things pick up where that season left off, we would actually see the events we’ve been hearing about all season long. By pulling from various issues and threads — In the Beginning, Widowmaker, and parts of Born/Valley Forge, Valley Forge — the film would introduce Castle by pitting him against a shadow of his deadly and violent past, Micro. Castle’s former wingman and equipment expert would be a smart and savvy villain that would allow audiences to divulge into our hero’s past without feeling so forced. That way, origin elements of Born and Valley Forge, Valley Forge could be introduced as Micro shares the guy’s deepest and darkest secrets to his furious mafia collaborators who are hellbent on stopping Castle’s blitzkrieg.
From there, The Punisher could appear in any number of Marvel entities, but especially the third season of Daredevil. We’ll know about his violent past, we’ll know why he’s killing who he’s killing, and that knowledge would serve as fodder for the writers to utilize as Murdock continues to question his own tactics. After all — and mind you, this is coming from a former Spider-Man and Daredevil reader — The Punisher was always best in his surprise appearances. He arrived when you least expected him to and delivered in the most dire of moments. That inherent presence, the idea that he’s somewhere out there, would be a welcome addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Who Should Direct?
David Chase (The Sopranos) immediately comes to mind, but he’s busy working on that long-gestating miniseries of his for HBO. The same goes for the young and talented Adam Wingard (The Guest), who would also be an exceptional get if he didn’t just sign on to adapt the horror manga Death Note for Warner Bros. So, what if they went a little left of the field and signed Deadwood creator David Milch and veteran director Walter Hill? The two know a thing or two about reckless souls in sinful settings, and they appear to be free with the exception of a few developing projects.
There’s something vintage about Frank Castle, and having Milch and Hill behind the scenes might ensure that fans finally receive The Punisher film they’ve been imagining for years. Milch could have a field day with the source material, while Hill would be wise to revisit his past works, say The Warriors, 48 Hrs., and certain elements of the ill-fated-yet-good-intentioned Streets of Fire. What’s more, Milch has an extensive resume in television that goes way beyond Deadwood, specifically his work on NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, and the iconic Hill Street Blues.
Who Should Star?
Thomas Jane. Sorry Ray Stevenson. Farewell Dolph Lundgren. You already have Crossbones, Frank Grillo. This is Jane’s role, and if we’re going by the fan consensus, not too many would be disappointed to see the veteran actor back behind the skull. Let’s be honest, the 2004 film was a major disappointment, from filming in Tampa to the stereotypical Italian villains to John Travolta’s curious facial hair. However, Jane absorbed the role and elevated the tax-saving production from being something more than forgettable. It was all in his dedication: Prior to filming, he spent seven months training alongside Navy SEALS and gained up to 20 pounds.
For years, he was patient for another shot — a proper shot, that is — and continued to train as Marvel and Lionsgate fumbled the project. In 2007, he finally announced his departure to Ain’t It Cool News in a lengthy, emotional letter, describing his weekly exercise routine and how he’d been watching cult action films suggested by fans that believed in him. “What I won’t do is spend months of my life sweating over a movie that I just don’t believe in,” he wrote. “I’ve always loved the Marvel guys, and wish them well. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to search for a film that one day might stand with all those films that the fans have asked me to watch.”
That opportunity surfaced in 2012 when he teamed up with producer Adi Shankar and director Phil Joanou for the 10-minute short, Dirty Laundry. It’s a violent, brusque snapshot of an afternoon in the life of Frank Castle, which finds him living in a van, using a public laundromat, and, you know, killing some awful gangbangers. The use of Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s score certainly assists with the tension, but Jane’s performance indicates that, yes, he has always been ready to commit towards a stone-cold vision of The Punisher. He even managed to rope in actor Ron Perlman, who plays a grumpy veteran at a nearby convenience store.
“I wanted to make a fan film for a character I’ve always loved and believed in — a love letter to Frank Castle & his fans,” Jane explained in a note that was posted on YouTube below the video. “It was an incredible experience with everyone on the project throwing in their time just for the fun of it. It’s been a blast to be a part of from start to finish — we hope the friends of Frank enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.”
Since then, Jane has seemingly put The Punisher behind him. Earlier this year, he spoke at great lengths about the character with I Am Rogue, who asked the star if he would be interested in revisiting the character:
“I feel like I’ve done it. That’s why I did the short film. I wanted to create something that was truer to my own vision of what that movie could be. I feel like I put that out there. It was really well received. I hope that The Punisher will continue. I hope they get an idea of what it can be and how to make it successful. I hope that they use that short film as a template for how to make it truer to what that character is. I feel like I’ve done it even though it was a short film. I said what I wanted to say with that guy. I don’t think I ever really was the perfect Frank Castle. I look at him as Italian. A guy who, I guess I’m the right age now, but I would see him as a weathered guy. My body is not quite perfect for Frank. I would see Frank as more of a square jawed, lock-jawed kind of guy. I don’t know who it would be. I think you’d need an unknown to play Frank. He’s really the ideal asshole!”
Of course, the next day he hosted a Reddit AMA and said he would return if the story was right. Now, considering that the Daredevil series has a fairly similar tone to Dirty Laundry and that Jane has previously expressed an admiration for Walter Hill’s work (something that this writer strangely didn’t discover until after writing the section above), it’s likely that Jane would hop on board almost immediately. Besides, he just wants his role back.
Who Else Should Work on This?
It would be ideal if Milch could round up a few faces from his Deadwood days, names like Ian McShane, Kim Dickens, John Hawkes, and Molly Parker. Hawkes could pull off one hell of a tortured performance as Micro, while McShane was born to play a villain. As for Castle’s past life, it would be intriguing if they brought back Samantha Mathis to play his wife, especially if they’re going to have any loose photos or tangential flashbacks.
Outside of star power, the filmmakers would be wise to gloss this film over with a brooding score. That honor should go to Steve Moore, whose compositions for The Guest radiated with future potential and begged for wet, glossy city streets or lonely, dangerous alleyways. His work wouldn’t be too far off from that of Daredevil composer John Paesano, either. Both seem to have an affinity for minimal swells that climb as opposed to soar. Hear for yourself below:
So, what do you think? Are you in?