Punisher: War Zone Review

This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative

It’s time for the return of the Punisher but this one isn’t quite able to match the first one. It goes all in with making the Punisher a rather imposing figure who takes down everyone in his way but along the way it forgot the charm of the series and doesn’t focus as much on how he helps people on a local level. This film is one you’ll ultimately want to end up skipping.

The movie starts with Punisher taking down a group of villains as he always does but this time he ends up taking out an FBI agent as well. The guy was undercover so Punisher figured that he was one of the villains but that was not the case. Now he feels like he should retire out of guilt but his partner Microchip convinces him not to do that. At the very least he tells the Punisher that he needs to finish the job by taking out Jigsaw first since that villain ended up surviving. Punisher agrees so he’s back on the streets to murder the villains but will he really be able to take out Jigsaw and his brother Jim?

The interesting part about the movie is that it would be over before it began if this version of the Punisher wasn’t so sadistic. Usually the Punisher goes around just shooting everyone as a quick death. He dishes out the punishment which is lethal for these villains and that’s the end of it. Only this time instead of doing that he tossed Jigsaw into a machine that crushes glass so it would slowly shred the guy to bits. Usually that would work but not in this case. The Punisher just seemed to be enjoying the show a bit too much here as he was even watching until some other villains attacked and he had to deal with them.

It’s clear that in this version the Punisher really enjoys his work to the point where he goes all in on this. You’d almost think he was a super villain as well with some of the scenes here. There’s another moment where he beats one guy up, then tosses him to the ground where he is impaled by spikes, then he breaks the guy’s neck/slashes it with a final fall. It’s all so extra and unnecessary that when the Punisher lands you could easily photoshop him with Michael Myers or someone like that and nobody would bat an eye. That would absolutely be a villain’s intro.

Now, I would always argue that the Punisher is a villain in all continuities. He murders all of his opponents and while they are villains, it’s still murder. Characters like the Punisher are always interesting as a what if since you can imagine this to be how things would go if Batman or another hero would murder their opponents. Ultimately it may result in safer streets and probably does but the cost is too high. So while it’s an interesting idea, we’ve still got to keep in perspective that if the heroes were here they would have a duty to take him down.

At least what still makes Punisher a decent character is he does have an honor code and doesn’t go after innocents or anything like that. When you see him just taking out the villains it’s fun enough but anytime you have to resort to torture or really taking it to the villains then it can be a bit too extreme. For that reason I much preferred the Punisher as portrayed in the earlier film. He seemed to have a lot more of his humanity and he was still punishing his opponents but very somberly and without getting into it.

Now if the Punisher’s scenes are that violent, you’re probably wondering what the villains do. Well, they don’t hold back either and you have people being eaten and ripped apart. The film’s absolutely as edgy as you would expect and it’s all really over the top. It’s the level of violence that would doom any film right out of the gate. You’ve got to have some restraint with scenes like this. Establish that the villains are evil and we don’t really need to see the rest. It would have made the film a whole lot better.

There’s no real reason to like Jigsaw as a villain. The guy is your classic mobster who wants a shot at greatness and will do anything for it. He betrays allies and just keeps on moving up. The guy is rather insane although you would expect most villains at his level to be insane since they probably crack on the way up. His design after getting torn up is certainly gruesome.

Then his brother Jim is even worse. That guy is completely off the walls and even talks like he’s looney. The scene of him being a cannibal is disturbing and you know that ultimately he won’t be taking the Punisher down. This guy is good against people who won’t fight back but a gun will take him down like all the rest. It’s not like any of these villains are bullet timers after all.

Paul is the main FBI agent trying to take the Punisher down. You can see why he’s so frustrated since the local cops all seem to support the Punisher and even the guy at the head of the taskforce isn’t particularly cooperative. The reason for this is fairly clear as everyone is rooting for the villains to be taken down. The city seems extremely corrupt so they’re probably tired of every villain just getting in and out of jail. This makes Paul’s job of avenging his comrade a lot tougher.

Paul’s a good character though and one of the few that you can root for all the way through. He does tend to get in the Punisher’s way but it’s very understandable from his perspective. Then you have Microchip who is a good partner to the Punisher. He knows exactly how to make that guy tick and what sets him off. You need someone like that to have your back and get the ammo ready. Punisher wouldn’t be able to function nearly as efficiently without him. The guy should probably carry more guns with him though so that he isn’t picked off.

While the movie is mainly devoid of humor, there is one scene that was pretty fun. You’ve got 3 athletic villains who are running and jumping across the roof while a really fast paced happy song is playing in the background. You can see how it’s all going very well for the villains but suddenly one of them explodes and we cut to Punisher with his cannon. That was the best scene in the movie by far. It works in showing that the Punisher is absolutely not playing around here and also in how fast the tone changes. It instantly goes from being a happy moment to a really intense one. The scene also helped to enhance the film’s overall soundtrack since the music there was really good.

Overall, Punisher: War Zone will definitely remain in the shadow of the first one. It just doesn’t really improve on much while falling below on a lot of areas. I would say the only area where this one wins is in showing the Punisher off as more of an unstoppable force. You can see why the whole city fears him and one scene shows how he has already taken down hundreds and hundreds of opponents. That was a great moment without a doubt. The film just can’t get away from its tendencies to make every scene as violent as possible. Show don’t tell is a rule that it takes too literally and that can often be what takes a film down for the count.

Overall 2/10

Squirrel Girl vs Punisher

Suggested by Sonic Squirrel Girl has some decent super strength and speed at her disposal but it’s nothing that Punisher hasn’t seen before. He’s been shown to fight at a high level as well taking guys like Captain America on in the past. He has a whole lot of guns and even got the Venom symbiote at one point. Squirrel Girl’s unpredictable fighting style won’t be enough to give her a decisive edge over the Punisher. He’ll still find a way to claim victory the way he always does. She would need at least one more critical ability to win here. Punisher wins.

Meta Knight vs Punisher

Suggested by Destroyer Punisher returns one more time. This time he’s up against an old foe of Kirby’s. Meta Knight is pretty fast and skilled with a blade. That said, he’s still not quite a match for someone like the Punisher. Punisher’s fire blasts will keep Meta Knight at bay from the start and a good cosmic blast will finish the job. Meta Knight just can’t hope to stand up to the Punisher’s fierce attacks. This is where speed will win the day for the gunman. Punisher wins.

Sailor Moon vs Punisher

Suggested by Destroyer Sailor Moon is one of the ultimate glass cannons of anime. Her magical blasts can deal massive damage but in terms of defense she’s basically equivalent to that of a human or a slight meta human. The same can usually be said for Punisher but he’s obtained many power ups over the years. He has the speed needed to dodge Sailor Moon’s attacks which is critical and he only needs to land one true counter to win the match. I’m fully confident that he would land this counter. Punisher wins.

Punisher vs Topman

Suggested by Destroyer Topman can spin a whole lot which makes him a pretty fun fighter. That being said, I don’t think he will be able to stop Punisher. Punisher has the Power Cosmic as well as the Ghost Rider abilities making him a formidable foe. He can easily shut down any attempt Topman makes to try and score some damage. Punisher is just on a completely different level in speed and power. Topman’s attacks are already limited as it is and that will become readily apparent as soon as Punisher launches his first attack. Punisher wins.

Master Chief vs Punisher

Suggested by Destroyer Master Chief is a pretty good shot, but he’s not ready to take down Frank Castle. The Punisher has been through a lot over the years such as obtaining the Power Cosmic, becoming Ghost Rider, and even merging with the Symbiote. He’s far more powerful than the Master Chief could hope to reach at this point. No gun is going to be enough to take this guy out of commission and Chief’s armor can’t block cosmic level attacks. Punisher wins.

Dante vs Punisher

Suggested by Anonymous The Punisher is a pretty tough guy and he did get the Ghost Rider power a while back so he won’t lose instantly here. He can probably give Dante some good burns and put up a good fight along the way. It just won’t be enough though as Dante can regenerate from anything Punisher throws at him and then some. Dante is faster and stronger than the Punisher thanks to his demon modes and that’s not a fight you can win. Dante wins.

Guyver vs Punisher

Suggested by Anonymous Punisher has a gun which doesn’t sound too impressive at first, but he became the Ghost Rider at one point and I think he also got the Symbiote. He’ll put up a reasonable fight here, but Guyver still has the massive edge in firepower. That’s what’s going to set Punisher back. Guyver can fly at high speeds and fire off energy blasts. Punisher will have to stay on defense for a while and then he will eventually go down. Guyver wins.

The Amazing Spider Man Spider Hunt Review

Time for another classic Spider Man volume! You can never tire of these adventures and this was during the height of quality for the famous hero. As much as I liked Next Chapter, Mary Jane was pretty out of character and stopped being a likable character. That was reversed here although I believe this may have taken place before the earlier collection. Either way, it deals with the origin of Spider Man’s alternate costumes, which is always neat.

Things aren’t going well for Peter Parker because Norman Osborn has taken over the Daily Bugle. This spells trouble with a capital T. Norman has spread the Anti-Spider Man regime even more intently than J Jonah Jameson to the point where the hardened reporter does not get along with him. Norman has also threatened Jameson so this comes as no surprise. Spider-Man will have to be sure not to go outside all that much, but that’ll be difficult to pull off. When someone’s in danger, you can bet that Spider-Man will be on the case no matter what.

The art is big and bold in the classic style that it always fun to see during these Spider-Man issues. As with the Cosmic Spider-Man trade or the other recent ones that I’ve been reviewing, the art just works really well. It is also a clear signal that this is from the Prime Spider-Man comics where he was depicted just right. It’s hard to ever call something a perfect adaption, but this Peter Parker is about as close as we’ll get. Spider-Man’s not treated as a joke, but is seen as a capable hero just like any other. His sense of justice isn’t skewed or in doubt. Spider-Man just takes on the villains and never crosses any kinds of lines.

One of the main sagas involves the Punisher comic from the cover. Punisher has lost his memories yet again so he’s not sure what he is even doing at this point. He wants answers though and Spider-Man isn’t about to let anyone die from this quest. One thing leads to another and Punisher decides to help Spider-Man out, but it is really a one way road. Whenever Punisher shows up, Spider-Man just ends up tying him up or pushing him to the side. Spider-Man’s not really sure what is happening here, but he certainly doesn’t want to team up with anyone who uses guns so freely. He’s not really given a choice though as bounty hunters start showing up from the woodwork to take Spider-Man down.

Spider-Man can take these guys down no problem if it were all one on one fights, but they start wear him down as the collection continues. Bullseye comes into play and Norman’s son also goes missing. Of course, it could all just be a ruse, that’s not a risk that Peter Parker can take. This collection eventually sees the start of his costumed personas since going outside in his full gear starts to get a little dangerous. It’s a nice compromise since he is still out there saving lives instead of simply putting the costume on the shelf for a little while.

One problem with not reviewing this comic for so long (It’s probably been on the back burner for almost half a year at this point) is that it’s easy to start mixing up the plots a little. The Spider-Man comics have always been iconic for having numerous subplots scattered throughout the issues. When one plot ends, another 3 or more will pop up in its place and then those will interconnect to others along the way. As a result, I can’t say with full confidence whether or not these plots have started or even begun to wrap up in this one. Some that I recall (Probably) involve the Venom calls to Mary Jane, the Kingpin is starting to get back to power as well. I think Black Cat and her luck powers may be around, but that plot may have actually ended already. Well, you get the jist of it. There are dozens of players running around at this point so it’s tough for Spider-Man to even know which villain to focus on. Every time he turns around it seems like someone else is in danger.

One odd issue involved a crazy scientist kidnapping Spider-Man and forcing him into a fake virtual reality world until Spider-Man finally broke free and snapped the machine. For a while there you didn’t know if the whole thing was fake or not so it was a little intriguing although probably one of my least favorite issues. I don’t think we ever even find out how Spider-Man was kidnapped and that’s likely because it is all a little sketchy and hard to believe. One fun issue was seeing Spider-Man don the now famous paper bag over his head to fight a few comic relief villains. It just goes to show that even without a good costume Spider-Man can take down some villains.

Another stand alone story away from the main plot of being framed by Osborn has Spider-Man take on the combined forces of Sand Man and Hydro Man. Both of these villains can be very dangerous on their own so combined they make for a very good opponent. Their team work isn’t the best though so Spider-Man can exploit that. Another random issue has Spider-Man go up against the cosmic villain Blastaar. Spider-Man goes to town on him although it’s a fairly good fight. It’s another match up that I can’t picture going quite as smoothly in the newer comics. Even if it did, the art wouldn’t be quite as full and dynamic as it is here.

Two more stories involve fights against Mr. Hyde and Black Tarantula. Black Tarantula is a surprisingly powerful villain who actually gives Spider-Man a really good fight. I also like the design here and feel like it is much better than any other incarnation that I’ve seen of him. Mr. Hyde’s not quite as interesting and I don’t care for him as a villain. Still a decently fun issue, but I would prefer a different villain. I do hope to see more of the Black Tarantula in future Spider-Man collections though. That guy has a lot of potential.

Overall, This was a fun collection. I always enjoy seeing a comic have many plots at the forefront so you never know which plot the next issue will follow. The framing of Spider-Man was a complete success by Osborn here so Spider-Man is once again being driven into a corner. I suppose it wouldn’t be one of his series without that as it is practically a requirement of a Spidey title by now. I definitely recommend this to all Spider-Man fans out there. This era certainly has a lot of stories to pull from and hopefully they all get adapted into collections like this one someday. I feel like a lot of them are probably lost in the shuffle between collections. We need a “Marvel Masterworks” sort of series for these issues. A series for the titles that aren’t super new, but aren’t extremely old either. The 90’s and early 2000’s lose out a little in that respect. That’s why I’m glad that everything goes into trade so quickly nowadays. 50 years down the road, those will be extremely helpful for new comic readers. This review’s a bit short for a comic of this size, but hopefully I’ve still illustrated why this is a must read. It has good writing, solid art, and likable main characters. All of the issues are interesting as well with even the filler ones still making for good stand alone adventures.

Overall 8/10

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher Review

It’s good to see the Marvel anime once more. For the most part, this project was a great success. The Iron Man anime was a lot of fun, Wolverine had some of the best Marvel action scenes and themes out there, and Blade was a fun mix of both. It wasn’t as fun and Vampires are pretty bleh, but it was still decent and much better than the average Blade product should be. X-Men dropped the ball for me, but I still don’t think I’d call it bad. A little dull…maybe a little boring, but it wasn’t bad. Avengers Confidential manages to get up to Wolverine levels of epicness and it’s a superb film. Automatically one of Marvel’s best!

SHIELD captures Punisher and they explain that his vigilante practices cannot be tolerated at the moment. He just messed up an infiltration mission that had been months in the making and now SHIELD is no closer to finding out who the mastermind of this new terrorist organization is. Punisher brings up the valid point of how SHIELD was just standing aside and watching as many innocent civilians were being massacred so he made the call. SHIELD doesn’t have a good answer for this so they run off and so does Punisher. Punisher leads Black Widow to the villain hideout as part of the deal and then he leaves to get his job done. He wants to destroy the main villain. (You may not know this, but the Punisher never takes prisoners)

Punisher’s the main character and his plot is the most interesting in the film. He openly goes around destroying everyone who gets in his way. Essentially, he believes that dirtying his hands to get rid of the criminals that infest the world is a good deal so he goes ahead and does it. You couldn’t call Punisher a hero, but at least he does try to protect the innocents and only fatally injures villains. He’s a great main character and he may be more likable than the other anime leads. Only Wolverine would be close. Punisher has been around the block a few times and you can see his experience. He may not have a fancy spynetwork backing him up, but Punisher still knows what’s happening on his streets.

He has a good amount of super strength and speed like Captain America so Punisher can always hold his own in a fight. There’s never a doubt as to who will win when Punisher is in the battle. His character was handled well and when written correctly, Punisher is definitely one of the most likable Marvel characters on the block. We’ve got another super soldier here as well in the form of Black Widow.

She’s nearly as strong as the Punisher and probably a little quicker. I’d say that the Punisher has the edge in their bouts, but Black Widow always makes it a close contest. The action scenes in this film are great, but I’ll get into that in a second. The one off putting thing about Black Widow is the voice used in this film. I could probably get used to it if we had a lot of sequels to look forward too, but it’s not the case. The voice isn’t bad, it just doesn’t sound like Black Widow. Maybe it’s a little too happy go lucky for her. It doesn’t negatively impact the actual portrayal of the character though.

It’s good to see her show some free will as she disobeys Shield. Voice aside, this is easily one of Black Widow’s best portrayals in animation. She’s a character who can easily be misunderstood and poorly written by the writers, but at her core Black Widow is a powerful assassin who has a lot of experience in the spy game. I still do not care for her portrayal in the MCU and the Civil War trailer basically confirms that this will not change, but if the writers could pick up on her attitude from this film a little more that would change. Granted, I could do without the flirting with Amadeus, but besides that Widow is basically on point. We also have to ignore the sideplot with Elihas. Wait a second…was this actually a good portrayal…..

Well, for the most part it is. Clearly the character is still not perfect, but I still do like the fact that she disobeys Fury quite a few times as the film goes on. That’s something that her live action persona would have a tough time doing. Widow treats everything like a game and never actually gets serious, which is fitting for an assassin since she is involved with death just about every day. Trying to stop Punisher towards the beginning of the film from leaving for his own goals was pretty much futile, but at least it gave us an extra fight or two.
Nick Fury’s pretty iffy the whole time. He is about as corrupt here as you’ll ever see him and the end game is the only thing that he cares about. Fury didn’t even realize that his own agent had switched sides so I think he probably needs to lower the tough guy act a little. It’s definitely not working on anyone if you ask me and the Punisher nearly took him down when they first met. Nick’s basically a normal guy surrounded by superhuman fighters. He’s really stretching his luck every time he comes off as antagonistic.

One annoying character in the film was Amadeus. He’s the generic kid genius who’s basically a hassle and can’t back up his tough talk. His first scene in the film is him just opening up a villain’s program without debugging it. Sure enough, the program was a virus and you wonder why this kid is supposed to be some kind of genius. Black Widow’s always teasing him as evidenced by their conversations and Amadeus uses this as his inspiration to help the team, but it’s a sideplot that got old the second it was mentioned and the guy’s a terrible character.

There was one other subplot, which was terrible and that was actually Black Widow’s. Back in the day, she actually got attached to a Rando (Name for any random original character. It’s actually a pretty neat slang word. I don’t approve of most, but this one’s all right) but the guy figured that he wasn’t worthy so he joined Hydra and decided to destroy as many people as possible. Not directly though, this guy doesn’t get his hands dirty. He did get super powers through his vaccine though so now he can actually give Punisher and Black Widow a good fight. Unfortunately, he never goes up against the Punisher, which was a mixed opportunity, but it was good that Widow got to fight her own battles I suppose.

His name is actually Elihas is you’re curious. I decided to look him up and it turns out that this guy is Egghead. Hahahahahahahahaha! That fits perfectly if you ask me and the guy sure gained some weight after this anime adventure. He’s a great fighter so it’s a shame that the character was no good. He even seemed to be better than Black Widow as she mostly held her own through cheap shots and appeal to emotion arguments. The whole thing was Elihas’ fault, but you still had to wonder why he fell for the same cheap shot over and over and over again.

Orion was the big boss, the head honcho, the big cheese of the film. He only got to appear for a few minutes, but he’s decently tough. What he lacks in athletics, Orion makes up for in pure power. His energy blasts were cool to look at and I liked the armor. He made for a fun final boss although the action fight scene wasn’t quite as fun as the others since he couldn’t hope to keep up in terms of speed.

Ignore the cover of this movie, the animation is actually quite good. If the movie looked like the cover then that would have very significantly hurt this film and I probably would have dropped two stars. The animation would start a ripple effect that would hurt several other areas as the characters would not have been quite as cool. Yes, you heard correctly, animation has the power to actually affect the characters on a personality level. Luckily, the animation is stunning and the fight scenes are great.

These action scenes don’t try to tone down the character’s abilities for the general audience so we are treated with some high speed hand to hand rumbles. They are much better than any action scene that we’ve seen in a Marvel film to date. Yes, this is the single best Marvel film when it comes down to the fight scenes. I just wish that the film could have been longer so we could have had some more action, but it was at a decent length anyway.

This film’s pretty intense and also has a dark color scheme, but the film pulls it off quite nicely, which is a thumbs up for the writing. If the film’s writing was sub par, then there would be a lot of language, gratuitous blood spilling after every shot, and the film would have basically been indistinguishable from the average film that DC animation has been churning out. Luckily, that was not the case. I’m not saying that the film is completely tame as some necks are still broken and people are shot left and right, but the film never dwells on the violence. It never pauses to remind us how dark and depressing the environment is. The film is very fast paced so despite all this, it tends to actually be a pretty uplifting film that keeps you energized. Fun is still the name of the game after all and this film knew how to achieve the perfect balance. It’ll remind you why the Punisher is no hero, but at least you can still root for him as the lesser of two evils. The film could have easily made him go too far and then we’d have nobody to root for. (Black Widow I suppose, but the sub plots…nooooo)

That goes to why I found the Avengers to be a bit of a disappointment though. I wasn’t expecting them to do much, but it felt like they were just added for the kicks. They get the worst fight scenes in the entire film and the drop in animation quality is noticeable. Suddenly we have a lot of random CGI and compared to the smooth hand to hand fights, you’ll probably be wincing at this point. The designs for the Avengers also aren’t that good to be honest. I’m glad that the Hulk is immune to telepathy once again as that varies from movie to movie, but these guys didn’t need to be around. It’s retro to see anime Iron Man return, but please…lose the CGI. As it stands, the Avengers tried to steal the thunder from Punisher, but failed to do so.

The thing is, the scene had a lot of potential initially. When we see the beams of light descending down upon the villains, I was ready for an epic opener. Instead…it was the odd blend of CGI and hand drawn with vibrant colors that were not streamlined at all. Whatever the film was going for, it just didn’t work out for me and I’ll have to settle for a “better luck next time.” We do have the Toei Avengers show coming up though. I haven’t seen it yet, but the Dub version should be out someday.

I’m also giving the film 5 stars for the soundtrack. It was fast paced from start to finish and just about every theme was suitable for battle. If someone ever tells you that a film can’t have a great soundtrack if it’s just filled with mindless battle music over and over again, just show them this film. It suits every fight scene since the action is always fast and I was loving it. Easily the best Marvel animation in that regard, even taking out the Wolverine anime. (That still has an incredible theme song though)
Overall, This product lived up to expectations as you can clearly see in the review. It was pure hype and downright awesome. The villains were basically original characters for the film, but they served their purpose as powerful villains. The established villains were the ones who could have used some work. I’m tempted to give this a 9, buuuuuuut the romance and the annoying kid keep me from giving it that score so it teccccccchnically loses to Ultimate Avengers. These are technicalities though and odds are that I’ll still be referring to this film as the best Marvel animated feature. Think of it as a recommendation that surpasses the actual quality of the product. The two weaknesses bring the film down just enough to lose the official star, but the film is so enjoyable otherwise that I can easily recommend it to anyone. It’s a shame that the Marvel anime features are now over, but maybe someday someone will bring it back. Until then…….back to Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider Man!

Overall 8/10