Considering some of the incredibly dark and gritty material that “Sons of Anarchy” covered in its several seasons on the air, you would think creator Kurt Sutter is a talent who would be perfect for some dark protagonist with violent tendencies.
A bit over a decade ago, before ‘Sons’ went to air, Sutter was involved with just such a dark hero – The Punisher. In the wake of the Thomas Jane-led 2004 “The Punisher” film, a sequel was put into development with Sutter writing the script.
Just over ten years on, Sutter has now finally revealed some details about why said project was rejected. He tells Looper that his deconstruction of the vigilante character pitch didn’t go well with Marvel executives at the time:
“I’m a Marvel fan, but I was not a comic book kid. I didn’t really get into that whole world until about 15 years ago, which is when I started getting into graphic novels. And that happened in Paris, because their graphic novel industry is decades beyond ours!
But I didn’t realize that you can’t take liberties with some of the characters and some of the traits, because they are what they are. They’re very derivative, they’re stereotyped, but this is the guy that does this, and this is the guy who does this… So they’re two-dimensional for a reason: that’s the purpose they serve.
So I was trying to expand the Marvel Universe in a direction it should not have been expanded in. I think I was trying to write to the emotionality of this dude and motivate the absurd violence with some kind of meaning. I don’t mean that I was, like, f-ing Gandhi [Laughs]. But I was just trying to root it a little bit more in the mental anguish that he went through to justify it, and to take a little bit of that journey.
So I think that’s what I was trying to do: humanize him a little bit more. But it’s the kind of thing where there’s only X amount of time [in] the movies, so you have moments of that, but you can’t really have a subplot that explores that kind of thing. Not in a summer blockbuster or Marvel picture.”
In the wake of Sutter’s rejected take, a sequel was made titled “Punisher: War Zone” with Ray Stevenson in the lead role and directed by Lexi Alexander. It didn’t achieve much success.
Hollywood and Marvel have now wised up, if only a little, regarding the need for multi-dimensional antihero characters and scenes which develop them. Even so, cinema hasn’t made as much recent progress as television has – in no small part thanks to the likes of shows like ‘Sons’. In any case Marvel is keeping The Punisher in the TV arena for the forseeable future with Jon Bernthal in the role.