The first season of Marvel’s The Punisher was hit with a mixture of reactions. During the time of its release, there was a lot going on surrounding gun control and even now there still is. Reactions condemned the series as distasteful with Frank Castle’s blatant use of firearms. If you separate yourself from the harsh reality of it all and dive deep into the emotionality of The Punisher, you’ll find a thoughtful series that touches upon several subjects such as Post-traumatic stress disorder, the toll the military takes on you and how it affects the people around you. While it started off slow, the first season ended on a high mark and ultimately hit its target, setting up Frank Castle’s future remarkably. He’s murdered or left the people responsible for his family’s murder comatose, causing the audience to ask one thing: what’s next?
I’ve officially seen the entire second season of Marvel’s The Punisher and I have to say it sets the bar for the future of gritty Marvel series. This is ultimately disappointing because the series will probably meet its maker shortly after premiering on Netflix, but for what it’s worth, it’s a damn good season. When we first see Castle, he’s a man with a new life. The series opener gives you hope that the vigilante can get a honest-to-God fresh start in life. That all gets cut short after he’s introduced to Georgia Wingham’s character and she ultimately lands him knee-deep into some shit. Season two starts out much faster than its predecessor and the all the action pieces are visceral and easily rival those of Marvel’s Daredevil. It’s a culmination of the series and the second season ties up any loose ends you may have had with the first season finale.
We get introduced to a lot of new characters, and this season’s 13 episodes are long enough to set up some great character development for almost every member of the main cast. Jon Bernthal enters the psychosis of Frank Castle as if he never left the character. Castle is different in this one. It’s like a weight has been lifted and Bernthal plays the part masterfully. He’s out of dodge, out of trouble, but if you know Frank Castle, he can’t stay that way for long. By season’s end, you see Bernthal and Castle with a sense of knowing who they are and what they’re meant to be doing and it’s something that will drive comic book fans wild. Amber Rose Revah returns as Agent Dinah Madani and she seeks Castle’s help with a problem that brings the plot back to New York City. Madani going to Castle leads her on a journey of what’s right and what’s wrong, but the lines are quickly blurred.
Blurry lines don’t help Madani as Castle is accompanied by Georgia Wingham’s Amy. She’s a young girl with a story to tell that she tends to keep to herself. Her sass and secrecy leads her and Frank on a journey that ultimately becomes the fight of her life. The many moments she shares with Bernthal are great as they show a much lighter and caring side of Frank because all he wants to do is protect this kid. Jason R. Moore returns as Castle and Billy Russo’s military brother Curtis, and this time he’s at the forefront of the fight with Frank. You get to see a different side of Curtis, showing both the viewer and Frank that he’s absolutely nothing like Castle or Russo.
Floriana Lima enters the cast and what she brings pushes the series forward as well as moves a few pieces on the second season’s chess board. She starts off as a regular psychiatrist for veterans (specifically, Billy Russo) and then by the end of the season her ties to Russo lead her somewhere totally different. The main antagonists for season two are Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) and the newcomer Josh Stewart as a mysterious character known as John Pilgrim. Now, I won’t go into detail on Russo’s role, but he’s back and he’s really dangerous. Barnes dives back into the villainous psyche of Russo to one caveat: The Punisher beat the holy hell out of him in the season one finale.
Barnes’ performance is rooted in that beating and it is dangerously psychotic. Stewart enters the season as Pilgirm and is sinisterly tied to Wingham’s Amy. He’s a hitman after her and Castle who will kill anyone in the way of his goal. The Pilgrim role is rooted in religion as he believes he’s on a mission from God. Stewart is a force of nature as Pilgrim and we all know Castle is a deadly storm so when these forces go at each other, death and destruction lay in their wake. The addition of the new cast members and fast paced plot adds up to what I believe is the best season of television that Marvel and Netflix have ever done.
Overall Thoughts: Visceral action pieces, an intense plot and tremendous acting makes you want a third season of The Punisher as soon as possible. Marvel and Netflix fixed almost every problem the first season faced and easily created a second season of The Punisher that rivals the entire Daredevil series. I found myself stunned at every moment and I just couldn’t put it down. What The Punisher season 2 does for the comic book genre is simply brilliant. It totally levels up the gritty superhero TV stuff. If you’re a fan of The Punisher or just comics in general, you’re going to want to watch till the very end. It’s masterful.
The Superhero Movies Of 2018, Ranked From Worst To Best
2018 has gone by too fast. It seems like yesterday when the beginning of the new year was upon us, and the advent of having so many superhero movies hitting theaters seemed like a dream come true for every fanboy and fangirl. It’s also funny to look back and remember that although we ended up with a whopping nine major theatrical superhero movies, we almost had eleven. Sadly, Fox delayed both Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants to 2019 instead.
Even with those two films delayed, 2018 was still a massive year not just at the box office, but for the continued advancement of the genre on a number of levels. Whether it was through the cultural significance of a film like Black Panther or the exciting animated adventures of Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there was no shortage of exciting superhero stories told on the big screen this year.
Here are the 9 theatrical superhero films of 2018, ranked from worst to best.
Yeah, Venom is an interesting film to say the least. Many have doubted Sony and their plans to create their own universe centered on Spider-Man villains that is said to be “adjacent” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially after what happened with their proposed plans for a shared universe set within the canon of Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man films.
What director Ruben Fleischer brought to audiences is this bizarre, clunky, yet surprisingly entertaining throwback to the early 2000s era of superhero cinema. It has major narrative and technical flaws that keep it from being legitimately a “good” film beyond some moments of ironic brilliance, but Tom Hardy’s performance is one of the most entertaining comic book movie performances put on screen in a long time.
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
It’s pretty hard to follow in the footsteps of such a massive crossover event like Avengers: Infinity War, but the microscopic (yes, pun intended) scale of Ant-Man and the Wasp is a nice lighthearted cleanser after witnessing Thanos’ decimation. It falls short of its 2015 predecessor, but director Peyton Reed still brings in some entertaining sequences that are a nice blend of action and comedy.
Both Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly have great chemistry, and the entire climactic chase sequence is pure delight.
7. Deadpool 2
2016’s Deadpool was the surprise hit of that year. While many hardcore comic book fans were excited to finally see a proper iteration of the Merc with a Mouth, the industry was particularly surprised by how mainstream audiences embraced Ryan Reynolds as the beloved antihero of the Marvel Universe.
Deadpool 2 continues that trend of self-aware comedy mixed in with the badass action directed by David Leitch. Unfortunately, the film falls into some of the trappings of a “more of the same” type of sequel, but put on a bigger scale. The film certainly could’ve benefited from a more clever script beyond just making everything bigger than the first. While the film never recaptures that lightning-in-a-bottle that the first film had, it still holds its own with some great character moments and perhaps the best mid-credits scene of all-time.
Plus, the additions of Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) add more to the irresistible tone that Deadpool brings to the big screen. Overall, a decent sequel.
6. Teen Titans GO! To the Movies
It’s kind of funny that Teen Titans GO! To The Movies is as entertaining as it is. Sure, the film is still targeted towards younger children that tune into the series on Cartoon Network, but the film is a surprisingly clever send-up of both the superhero movie genre as well as a hilarious tribute to the lore of DC Comics seen through the eyes of the Teen Titans themselves.
Also, the fact that the film ends with a stinger that teases the possible return of the original Teen Titans series justifies its existence in more ways than one.
Aquaman is a much-needed win for the DC Extended Universe. The franchise received its biggest win in 2017 with Wonder Woman but unfortunately hit a massive roadblock with the disappointing Justice League. As it turns out, all the DCEU needed to do to get back in the right direction was to add water and filmmaker James Wan into the mix.
Wan really goes all out with this film. This is a visually stunning adventure film on both land and sea that really leans into the inherently cheesy nature of the character while simultaneously turning Aquaman into perhaps the most badass superhero in the DCEU thus far.
Some may be turned off by how campy Aquaman can get at points, but it’s hard not to get swept up into the fun when you have Jason Momoa having the time of his life.
4. Incredibles 2
It has been 14 years since we were last acquainted with the Incredibles. Thankfully, they haven’t missed a beat even after that long, long wait for the most-requested Pixar sequel of all-time.
It’s great to see Brad Bird bounce back with this exciting sequel after the earnest, yet disappointing mess that was Tomorrowland. Here, Bird is back on his element as a brilliant storyteller and is adept at further developing these characters.
Seeing the entire family in these hilarious and death-defying circumstances is so enthralling, particularly in the film’s climax. Also, everything involving Jack-Jack and Edna Mode are some of the funniest sequences of animation that Pixar has ever done.
3. Avengers: Infinity War
What else is there that needs to be said about this 2018 film? It really is the most ambitious crossover event in cinematic history, and it has sparked an entire year-long conversation about what our surviving heroes will be doing next after all the chaos.
Anthony and Joe Russo accomplished the near-impossible task of balancing out dozens of larger-than-life characters in this kaleidoscope of comic book beauty that leads to some of the most epic battles ever brought to the big screen.
Also, with Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, it’s going to be interesting if that film has a moment that tops the pure awesomeness that is the scene in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) arrive on the battlefield in Wakanda.
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Who would’ve thought that an animated Spider-Man movie that features Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham on the big screen would be the best film centered on the webhead since Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2?
Leave it to the minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller along with the incredible creative team to bring us a true love letter to the character that would make Stan Lee and Steve Ditko proud. Yes, Peter Parker will always be our original Spidey, but this film proves that the best part about being Spider-Man is the fact that he/she can come from anywhere despite their personal background and circumstances.
1. Black Panther
As big as Avengers: Infinity War was, it’s harder to find a 2018 movie that has had as big of an impact on the popular culture than Black Panther. But beyond the cultural significance that comes with such a film, Ryan Coogler crafted a powerful, touching story about legacy, family, principles, power and purpose.
It’s hard to log onto the internet sometimes because the world is in such a chaotic place. But Black Panther represents the power of storytelling and why seeing more diverse characters and stories on the big screen matters.
Films like Black Panther remind us about the power of cinema. It can unite audiences together despite their differences and can also inspire us to be better people. All those reasons and more are why Black Panther is the best superhero film of 2018.