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The Real Reason We Never Got To See The Punisher 2

From April of 2015 to June of 2019, Netflix hosted a handful of Marvel Comics' most popular street-level heroes. Daredevil became arguably the most popular series of the bunch, traversing three seasons before its cancellation. Alongside it were Luke Cage and Iron Fist, which span two thrilling seasons apiece, three seasons of Jessica Jones, and one season of The Defenders where the four titular heroes finally teamed up. Much like the character it focuses on, The Punisher stood on its own and arrived a year after Jon Bernthal's Frank Castle debuted during Daredevil's second season.

To many, this was their first introduction to The Punisher in the live-action medium. However, over the years the famous anti-hero has jumped from page to screen on more than one occasion. Arguably the most recognizable cinematic adaptation of them all came in 2004, with Thomas Jane taking on the role of Frank Castle. Directed by Jonathan Hensleigh of Jumanji fame, The Punisher delivered on the gritty, violent, edgy aesthetic of the character, but it wasn't a massive success. It only took in $54.7 million on a $33 million budget and didn't perform well with critics either. Nevertheless, it has developed a strong cult following in the years since its premiere.

Even with its many shortcomings, a sequel very nearly came to pass before those plans wound up canned. Here's why we never got to see The Punisher 2.

Thomas Jane's departure sent The Punisher 2 spiraling

Despite his initial hesitation in taking the lead role in The Punisher, Thomas Jane eventually went all-in. From reading all of the latest Punisher comics of the time to training with Navy SEALs (via TV Guide), the actor did everything in his power to make his performance and look as Frank Castle as close to the source material as possible. In fact, he became so confident in his work ethic and the film itself, that, according to USA Today, even before the 2004 movie hit theaters he began campaigning for a sequel.

Thankfully, as the mastermind behind Sons of Anarchy, Kurt Sutter, told Looper in 2016, there were plenty of ideas being thrown around for The Punisher 2. A romantic subplot, an exploration of the humanity behind Frank Castle, and even the inclusion of Jigsaw as a principal villain were all in play. Sadly, none of these plans came to fruition since the potential continuation was trapped in development limbo for some time. The seemingly endless wait, as well as the direction of the story, eventually led to Jane's departure from the project — effectively killing it before it could get off the ground.

In the wake of The Punisher 2's cancelation, the 2008 reboot Punisher: War Zone rose from the ashes in its stead. A handful of ideas were carried over for the Ray Stevenson-led production, but its ultra-violent tone and heavily comic book-inspired presentation made it clear that War Zone was a far cry from what The Punisher 2 would have been.