The era of Marvel's Netflix shows was an exciting time; from Charlie Cox's Daredevil to Kristen Ritter's Jessica Jones, and Jon Bernthal's Punisher––fans felt spoiled. This made the cancelation of those series all the harder. Marvel Studios' proper move into the streaming world meant the end of shows like those and others such as Agents of SHIELD and Runaways.
Thankfully, Marvel hasn't forgotten about them entirely, as plenty of rumors have swirled about some characters returning. Cox's Matt Murdock may show up in Spider-Man: No Way Home while Vincent D'Onfrio's Kingpin looks to be the big bad of Hawkeye.
With all of those whispers going around, other former Marvel actors have been quizzed in interviews about how they'd feel returning to their character. Among those is Jon Bernthal, who has spoken a few times about a theoretical return to The Punisher.
Even Cox has been vocal about wanting Bernthal back as the infamous anti-hero. But would it work given the family-friendly nature of the MCU?
Can Jon Bernthal's Punisher Work in the MCU?
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Jon Bernthal commented on whether his take on The Punisher could work "in the PG-13, action-comedy context of the MCU."
The actor reiterated how much the character means to him, saying that "[he's] enormously protective of [the] character" and how he understands the loss in which Frank Castle suffers:
"That character, in particular, has real, real, real deep, deep meaning for me and resonance in me. He’s really in my heart, man. He’s really in my bones. I’m enormously protective of that character. I’ve said before that there’s nothing in this world more important to me than my wife and my kids, and only until you understand that kind of love and understand what it really means to willingly die for somebody, and what it would be like if somebody took them from you."
Bernthal continued, firmly saying that "[the] character needs... to be [at] a [specific] level of darkness:"
:That’s a road and a darkness and a rage that really, really scares me and brings me to places that I’ve worked the last 20 years to get away from. So I was really grateful, respectful and weary of the places where that role took me and the world in which I had to live in. That being said, that’s where that character needs to be. It needs to be a level of darkness."
He feels that if "there's any let up on that character, you do a disservice to the character:"
"I think if there’s any let up on that character, you do a disservice to the character, to every iteration of the character, to every comic book that’s come before, and to all of the unbelievable fans of the character. This character means so much to people in the military. So like I said before, it’s not about whether you do the character; it’s about whether you can do it right, and I’m only interested in doing it right."
Punisher's Darkness in the MCU
It would be misguided if this meant that Jonathan Bernthal thought the character couldn't exist in any PG-13 or lighter setting outside of what fans saw in Netflix's Punisher. The character has been around for nearly four decades and has thrived in all sorts of situations, tones, and amounts of levity; limiting him to any one scenario would be a true disservice.
That said, the actor certainly feels the same way a lot of fans do when it comes to Marvel needing to let more adult elements into the MCU.
Deadpool 3 is another project that many think needs to retain its R rating; thankfully, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige feels the same. With Ryan Reynold's next outing, his Merc with a Mouth could be the next real step toward carving out a more mature corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That way, these characters would be able to tackle those darker elements of their stories without needing to conform to the limits imposed on them by a lower rating.
Plenty of characters would benefit from opportunities like this, including Mahershala Ali's Blade, Charlie Cox's Daredevil, and Oscar Isaac's Moon Knight––needless to say, it would be a big deal.
Marvel's current project is Hawkeye, which airs weekly every Wednesday on Disney+, and its next film, Spider-Man: No Way Home, hits theaters on December 17, 2021.