Revisiting Daredevil and Punisher War Zone

Depending on who you ask, comic movies are hit or miss. They’re either good or they’re not. People get attached to the source material and if the movie goes against it, the immediate reaction is usually hate. Two of the most hated Marvel comic movies are Daredevil and Punisher: War Zone. These are also two movies that I really enjoy. I think that they get a bad rap, but both have their redeeming qualities.

 Daredevil

Daredevil is the most hated of the two. The theatrical release version isn’t the greatest movie in the world, I will full admit that. Also, I’ll just get this out of the way now. The playground fight between Elektra and Daredevil almost ruins the entire movie. I will rank that as one of the worst scenes I’ve ever seen in a movie. I tend to press the skip button on the remote when that scene starts. The flaming DD in the subway is a horrible moment as well, but that’s just one of those things that you see in comic movies.

Honestly, I’d recommend skipping the theatrical version of the movie (but still buy the DVD just for the documentary about the history of the comic) and watch the director’s cut. The director’s cut is a much fuller film. Any plot holes that were in the original cut are filled here. The director’s cut also has more of what makes Daredevil interesting; Matt Murdock.

The director’s cut shows much more of the lawyer aspect of Murdock’s character. This is one of the things that makes Daredevil different from other super heroes. Murdock fights crime off of the streets and it’s actually shown in depth here. There’s an entire subplot involving the court case of a murdered woman that was removed from the theatrical cut. Foggy Nelson (played fantastically by Jon Favreau) and Matt defend the man who was wrongfully accused of the crime. The case provides the explanation of why the police arrest Kingpin at the end of the film. By removing this subplot from the movie it removes the reason the police were able to arrest Kingpin, leaving a plot-hole the size of an eighteen-wheeler.

The director’s cut also has a much darker and violent tone than the original cut, giving it a feel closer to the Frank Miller written/drawn issues of the comic. It also earns the director’s cut an R rating, which is the main reason that the violence in the film was cut down.

I think if you’re a hardcore Daredevil fan, you’ll enjoy the movie. People tend to focus on the negative aspects of the film and forget the good of it. One thing that brought the movie a lot of crap was the lead; Ben Affleck. The movie was released right around the time that Affleck was on the cover of every tabloid. Because of that the movie was dumped on and the actor overshadowed his performance, which was actually pretty good.

Another thing that hurt the film in the eyes in quite a few viewers was the special effects. They weren’t the greatest, but for their time they weren’t that bad. Many were expecting Spider-Man quality CGI, but the budget for Daredevil was $78 million, a little over half of the Spider-Man budget. You get what you pay for and Fox didn’t pay enough.

I think that Daredevil was a movie that was not only held back by the studio, it wasn’t given a fair chance by the viewers. The director’s cut redeems what was a film that felt like a puzzle missing pieces. Is it still flawed? Yes. Should you give it a second chance? Yes. It gets a lot more things right than it gets wrong.

 Punisher

While Daredevil is hated, the same can’t really be said for Punisher: War Zone. It was disliked by critics (it has a 27% rating on RottenTomatoes.com) and it was forgotten by the fans. The film only pulled in about $7.9 million at the box office. War Zone can be called a failure in terms of box office success because it didn’t even make back its $35 million budget. Others might even call it a failure as being an entertaining movie. Personally I don’t agree with that at all.

Whether you enjoyed Punisher: War Zone or not depends on what you want out of a Punisher movie. If you want something more serious or more realistic, you’ll probably like the Thomas Jane Punisher movie more. If you want a Punisher movie that is dark, but is heavily comic influenced, you’ll probably like War Zone.

War Zone, in my opinion, was truer to the comics than the Jane Punisher. The violence, which turned many people off from the film, was a character itself. The violence was over the top. It was incredibly graphic and bloody. At times it even brought a bit of comedy to the very dark film. The violence was what I want to see in a Punisher movie. He blew up one guy with a rocket launcher and punched through another guy’s face. Yup, that sounds like something I should see in a Punisher movie.

The comic even influenced the look of the film. The movie was lit more often than not with bright neon colors, contrasting the darkness of the character. The look reminded me very much of the coloring of a comic. It was bright and it was colorful and it didn’t match the tone of the story at all. This juxtaposition added something to the film that was missing in the other Punisher movie, which took itself too seriously.

War Zone had a style that was similar to the grindhouse films of the 70’s and 80’s. It was over the top and it was kind of cheesy, but it knew what it was and it owned them. It didn’t try to make a villain like Jigsaw seem anything other than ridiculous, but they still made him dangerous. Frank Castle came off as a fearless badass throughout the entire film. You knew that when he suited up lots and lots of people were going to die horribly violent deaths.

I think people disliked this movie because they went in expecting something different from what it was. In my opinion this was one of the most faithful comic book adaptations that I have ever seen. The script wasn’t the greatest, I will fully admit it. After the first 15 minutes or so, I was able to accept that and move on. With what kind of movie this was, the script had to have a bit of a cheesy quality to it.  

More than anything Punisher: War Zone was fun and I think that is what the filmmakers were going for. They weren’t trying to make something that would win an Oscar; they were trying to make something that would be fun for fans of the Punisher comic. They succeeded in doing that.

Both Daredevil and Punisher: War Zone are movies that I find myself defending at times. They are also two of my favorite comic movies. Hopefully if you don’t care for them, I’ve given you a reason to give them a second chance. They’re probably better than you remember.

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