Will moviegoers demand Justice after being Punished?

The Punisher with guns from Marvel Comics
Image Courtesy Marvel Comics

Tomorrow November 17th , two heavyweights will step into the ring once again as Marvel’s Punisher and DC’s Justice League hit their respective screens. As a longtime fan of the comics, I’m not unfamiliar with this ongoing competition. As a film lover, I have seen how things have played out to this point. It is possible for both to be a success and for most viewers to see both, possibly even within the next few days. Unfortunately, between the two companies and consequently for us the viewers, one has to be superior. There will be a winner and a loser. Let’s pretend we can only choose one. Making an educated guess; I’m here to support watching The Punisher over Justice League.

First off let’s make it clear that I am not biased, in truth my favorite superhero happens to be Batman. From the comics to the myriad of versions of the character, to the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film, Batman is my guy. This situation will call for me to leave Batman blowing in the wind, while I choose a character I’m not as deeply familiar or connected to.

Let’s look at where these two franchises have come from in the cinematic world. This Punisher first appeared in Netflix’s Daredevil season 2. He showed up as a brooding, emotional and exciting antihero. Daredevil season 2 was successful because it took the time to build the characters that already existed even more while introducing and building new ones. The Punisher was interesting just sitting on a roof with Daredevil and talking. His character’s motivation and methods are questionable, they give us something to think about. We see his pain and can relate it to something we have experienced in some way in our own lives. When we did see the Punisher in action, his scenes were stunning. They were realistic and absorbing. You felt the blows being dealt and cringed at the sound of violence being executed. Daredevil season 2 led to the continuation of the Marvel Netflix universe with at least four more series hitting the screen and The Punisher getting a series of his own.

Justice League is based on Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice (BVS). Three members of the Justice League, Batman Superman, and Wonder Woman had major roles in the film while the others had cameos. Batman v Superman seemed to rely on lots of CGI, settings, and previously somewhat established characters of Batman and Superman. Every character was very powerful and didn’t have very many qualities to relate to. The film was long, had plot holes that made it confusing and didn’t really make proper use of the characters. Batman, for instance, one of the smartest superheroes ever established, comes off as an arrogant, misguided, child. The entire movie was based on Batman, now a veteran crime-fighting vigilante, being afraid of and wanting to destroy this person he never met. The film wasn’t exactly a success with the final verdict being split down the middle with those who did and didn’t like it. It did lead to  Wonder Woman, the also debated Suicide Squad film and now the Justice League movie.

So far we have trailers for both adaptations to make some predictions off of. The Punisher looks like a dark, emotional, revenge-fueled action series. Justice League looks like a Magnificent Seven-esque gathering of very super-powered misfits to save an overly dark world on the brink of Armageddon. The Punisher looks like it takes the time to establish something and then execute the action we all want to see. The character seems like the basic hero from the comics vowing to avenge the deaths of his family. The Justice League look out of place. They look silly costumed up in their overly serious world and they seem like they are partying. They look like a bunch of frat boys going out to prank a rival fraternity. The trailer shows us everything that’s likely to be repeated ad nauseam in the rest of the film. What is there left to see? When are the characters going to gain proper substance instead of being plot pieces? Why do I care if they defeat the already revealed, but no one cares, villain Steppenwolf?

Finally, it comes down to what I am going to invest in. The price of a standard movie ticket out to Justice League and the price of a month of Netflix subscription are equal at about $11. For that $11 though, we want something. In the case of Justice League, if the trailer with six superheroes teaming up for explosive action sequences hasn’t wowed you, there probably isn’t much more to hope for. In The Punisher, it looks like there will be drama, action and maybe a surprise or two. If this Justice League movie doesn’t fail, then perhaps we’ll see a couple of sequels with more of the same give or take a few Leaguers. It’s questionable though with the instability of the DC cinematic universe and casting troubles. If The Punisher doesn’t fail, we’ll probably see a 2nd season and see more of him teaming up with the other Netflix heroes.

The choice for me isn’t really difficult. Although I love Batman, I don’t love this imitation of a Batman type character. I’m not intrigued by the trailers and I don’t wonder what else I might see if I watch another hour and 50 minutes of it. In the case of The Punisher, I want to see: Who the supervillain is? How a mere human is going to achieve all this vengeance? And I honestly want to watch this guy brutally do it. Although The Punisher and Justice League both hit the screen tomorrow; I think I know who’s actually going to end up being punished.

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