The RocknRolla adventure, unfortunately, kept me away from the Punisher: War Zone party and panel, which I had every intention of attending and covering for all of you. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing, since the talk of the convention wasn't the panel or its footage, but of director Lexi Alexander's departure from the project. Obviously the news surprised me, although the timing did not. It was obvious from the scheduling that Lionsgate was trying to bury the panel -- if a studio is trying to sell their new comic book movie, they generally don't schedule a panel at 8:00pm when the geeks are out feasting and drinking. They put it at 2:00pm in Hall H and give us a free t-shirt.

Now, this movie could be terrible. This movie could be pure awesome. I don't know, I'm certainly not going to judge it or Alexander's direction at this stage. But it frustrates me to see any movie this badly handled, its chances of being successful destroyed before it even gets to a theatrical trailer. I just don't understand how or why it happens when the ultimate goal of a movie (from the studio perspective, anyway) is to turn a profit.

This whole debacle has made me a very sad panda. First, for Alexander, who I admire purely from a feminist standpoint. Female directors are too far and few between, and it was exciting to see one not only directing an action movie, but one based on a comic book. I wanted her to succeed in a big way -- and I hope that whatever happens with this film, she has a solid career kicking cinematic ass. At least some studio people are in her corner -- according to MTV Movies, producer Deborah Del Prete says she and Alexander are working together on an adaptation of a little-known British fantasy novel. (I hate teases like that.) So at least she's not persona non grata yet, which is a relief. We need chicks like her in the business.

And I especially feel for Ray Stevenson, who I had the privilege to meet on Thursday afternoon. (See the photo above -- oh, for the days when you could be photographed next to the celebrity in question!) Like a lot of people, I know him mostly as Titus Pullo from HBO's brilliant series Rome. If you haven't seen this series, dear readers, you need to finish this post and then hit your preferred rental outlet. You will love it, and you will love Stevenson in it. You will not doubt that he is capable of being an excellent Punisher.

I've been rooting for this movie to make it largely because Stevenson deserves a bigger career -- and having met him now, it really does break my heart that this movie is getting the run-around. He was so friendly and enthusiastic, and really wants to do justice to the character. (Oh yeah, and he was incredibly handsome. Damn. They make such nice men in the UK.) I haven't attended a lot of promotional signings, but often they are dull and duty-bound affairs. Stevenson and Tim Bradstreet seemed happy to be there meeting everyone. And if they were pulling off that level of enthusiasm despite the Alexander news, then they really deserve a round of applause.

And so, Lionsgate, from one girl who willingly queued to meet your new Punisher, who did it as a fan and not a member of the press, I beg you to do right by this film. It's obvious that all involved worked hard on it and care about it, and they deserve to have their faith rewarded. Don't hack at it, slap a heavy metal soundtrack on it, and shove it out into theatres. Do whatever it takes to make a good film. Your profit margin will thank you, fans of the character will worship you, and you can take your place in the comic book franchise world.