Disney Executives’ New War Could Affect Punisher Reboot

Will an internal Disney struggle kill the Punisher reboot?

By Michileen Martin | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

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Ever since Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009, fans have wondered about the darker corner’s of the Marvel Universe. While many of Marvel’s marquee heroes exist safely in the kind of PG-13 — or even G — narratives that Disney remains the most comfortable with, there are also characters like the Punisher who don’t play by the Avengers’ rules. Now it seems like there’s an internal conflict between the Powers That Be at Disney directly related to whether or not to broadcast more adult content, and the long-awaited Punisher reboot could wind up a victim of the struggle.

According to entertainment reporter Dylan Byers (via ComicBook) Disney CEO Bob Chapek wants to expand what’s available on the Disney+ streaming service, to go beyond what’s generally considered “family friendly.” Chapek reportedly feels subscription growth will stop unless the service makes some changes to what they offer. Opposing this move, Byers reports, is former Disney CEO and current executive chairman Bob Iger who believes the family friendly model is still the right way to go. Byers further claims some of the opposition to Chapek believe, like the current CEO, that Disney+ should expand its offerings into more adult content, but feel Chapek isn’t the one to execute such a change.

In the long term, Disney’s internal back-and-forth could have a significant impact on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For the time being, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige may not have plans for any R rated movies beyond Deadpool 3, but that could always change. In the short term, it could sink plans to bring back Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, aka the Punisher.

In January we exclusively reported that Jon Bernthal was returning to the role of the Punisher, and our scoop was confirmed in September. If Disney ultimately resists any attempts to introduce adult content onto its streaming platform, that would mean a new Punisher series would need a different home. As we saw with Helstrom — not to mention Ghost Rider‘s failure to launch — darker Marvel fare hasn’t done so well on Hulu.

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Studios have been struggling to bring the Punisher to live action since long before Disney acquired Marvel, starting with 1989’s The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren of Rocky IV fame in the titular role. In later films, Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson tried their best to make Frank Castle a headlining hero, but it took Jon Bernthal’s casting in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil for the character to enjoy both critical and commercial success. Every single Punisher film has come with an R rating, and both his series and his appearances in Daredevil have proven equally brutal and bloody.

The reports that the Punisher is returning to action seem to coincide with more reports about the return of Daredevil as well. While Charlie Cox continues to deny any firm word of his reprising the role of the Man Without Fear, stories continue to float to the surface about Cox’s version of Matt Murdock making his first return either in Disney+’s Hawkeye or in December’s Spider-Man: No Way Home. Netflix’s Daredevil series wasn’t quite as bloody as The Punisher but it was decidedly more on the adult content side of things than what you usually find on Disney+, so Daredevil’s return could also be endangered by Disney’s in-fighting.

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