Final weekend totals have yet to be calculated, but Entertainment Weekly reports that Punisher: War Zone did a dismal $1.7 million on Friday. The previous offering in the “series”, The Punisher (with Thomas Jane and John Travolta) did over $13 million in its opening weekend.
My guess is that two things hurt the film: 1) No bankable star with any corresponding buzz, and 2) I don’t think general audiences care that much about The Punisher. Sure, The Punisher as a comic icon had his day in the ’80s and early ’90s, but that’s when cineplexes were dominated by guys with guns. Today, Punisher’s comic book cousins, actual super-heroes, rule the screen, and the stone-faced shootist seems almost like a retro picture. With regular action offerings now featuring the more cerebral Bourne series, the kinetic work of Statham, and the occasional top-flight import, a movie like the Punisher has a big hill to climb. On Friday, it only climbed into 6th place.
Too bad that the whiff of failure is so strong about the character now. With a little thought, The Punisher could have been a top-notch offering on FX to replace the slot formerly held down by the terrific The Shield. Now, it should probably just rest.
Update: Yikes. Full weekend numbers show that Punisher: War Zone ended the weekend with only $4 million raked in from over 2,000 theatres, which gave it an eigth place opening.