SDCC '08 - The Punisher: War Zone Panel

SDCC 08 - The Punisher: War Zone Panel

Only a half an hour long, there was no way that the panel for the upcoming Punisher: War Zone movie at this year's San Diego Comic-Con could have been anything but explosive. In a short amount of time, the hall was packed to capacity for even a glimpse of the new movie from Lionsgate and Marvel Studios.

Things were kept quick and lively as Producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Incredible Hulk) and stars Ray Stevenson (Rome) and Julie Benz (Rambo, Dexter, Angel) were introduced to applause. Hurd promised fans something new, something classic and closer to the comics than we've seen before with the film. "Marvel and Lionsgate really understand and listen when the fans speak," said Hurd, who noted that they realized fans wanted a Punisher that cued more closely to the comic series, and they chose to base their storyline off the popular Marvel MAX line of comics for "ruthless, ultra-violence, vigilante justice". Fans know a Frank Castle is a New York city guy, they set the movie in classic NYC, Hurd said. Fans wanted a new Frank Castle, 'someone who came straight out of the comic book' and Ray Stevenson was cast.

Looking a lot different than his 'Pullo' role in Rome and fitting the bill of a classic Tim Bradstreet Punisher cover, Stevenson was humble and spoke highly of the people who trained him and the mindset of a man who faces down his opponents with an intent to kill without mercy. He sad that he was enamored with the Garth Ennis stories he read when looking into the part, though certainly disturbed by the ruthlessness. When he found that it wasn't glamorized and there's certainly a price to pay for all of this, he couldn't put it down. "You don't want to be Frank Castle, but you're glad he's there," noted Stevenson.

Julie Benz was more hush-hush on her specific role, only giving the name of her character, Angela Donatelli, that she's a cop and the elusive note, "something happens and she's just not very happy".

Hurd promised plenty of Easter eggs in characters right from the comic, from Detective Soap (Dash Mihok) to Microchip (Wayne Knight) and many more.

And then we saw footage: the new trailer highlights more of leading villain, Jigsaw (Dominic West), who apparently goes through a horrible 'meat grinding' accident. After that it was nothing but action and explosions, a lot of the shots we saw from the first trailer (the chandelier shot, etc), but the look and feel were very dark and artistically shot. As a special bonus, they put together a 'music video' showing clips set to hard metal song, 'Days of Vengeance'.

And this is where the comic roots really shine.

I am proud to tell you that this music video sold me more on the movie than any of the previous parts of the panel. If you're familiar with the grievous head wound count that Garth Ennis can produce, this movie wants to recreate it all in living color (and sometimes an artistic shot of black and white). From a terrible way to use a chair leg on a man's face, to exploding skulls, flying grey matter... it's all there. West's Jigsaw looks lean and hungry and more than menacing and Stevenson is really bringing a cold character to life, punctuated by moments of extreme violence. Stevenson seemed to be very proud of his work and stayed after to sign autographs, shake hands and give the Legionary salute when asked.

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