Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Spawn (1997) – A Grotesque Comic Book Adaptation.

By Michael May 25, 2024

Spawn follows Al Simmons, an elite US Marine who is murdered by his evil boss Jason Wynn. Simmons then makes a deal with the devil to return to Earth as the reluctant superhero Spawn.

Spawn is depicted as a dark, violent, and twisted superhero story, blending elements of horror, fantasy, and action. The film features Spawn fighting against the forces of evil, including his former boss Wynn, while also struggling with his own internal demons.

The film adaptation starred Michael Jai White as Spawn and featured a supporting cast including John Leguizamo, Theresa Randle, and Martin Sheen.

Review By Ben Dover:

Sweet Beelzebub’s fiery taint and the sheer ineptitude of 1997’s Spawn are almost impressive in their breathtaking ability to misfire on every conceivable level. This bargain-bin bastardization of the popular Image Comics series had all the ingredients to be a deliciously schlocky cult classic – an R-rated supernatural premise, impressively ghastly visual effects for the era, and the rubbery stylings of god-tier thespian John Leguizamo. And yet director Mark A.Z. Dippé squanders it all on what amounts to a long, tedious slog through the dankest dregs of overcooked edge lord juvenilia.

From the opening frames, Spawn hurls viewers into an incomprehensible vortex of muddled worldbuilding, nonsensical plotting, and enough overwritten brooding inner monologue to make Batman blush. The hellishly convoluted story, ostensibly about an elite mercenary soldier who makes a literal deal with the devil after being brutally slain, is conveyed in such a slipshod, haphazard manner that following the narrative geography is an exercise in futility. Characters, allegiances, and basic supernatural tenets are introduced and discarded with reckless abandon.

And at the cold, charred center of this unholy mess is the eponymous Spawn himself, rendered in effects so dated and chintzy, that they make Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls seem like an ILM marvel. This lumbering, Rob Liefeld fever dream of a hellspawn design, all bulging muscles and jutting angles, stomps through the film with all the gravitas and balletic ferocity of a third-grader’s Halloween trick-or-treating getup. Any potentially visceral horror or primal terror is immediately negated by the complete credulity-shattering nature of the shoddy CGI/makeup effects.

Not that the live-action performers acquit themselves with much more dignity. Leguizamo, for all his pint-sized manic intensity, simply doesn’t have the dramatic heft to sell the brooding inner torment required of his demonic clown villain. And Michael Jai White’s somnambulant lead turn makes Keanu Reeves seem like a peerless thespian by comparison. It’s as if the entire cast received direction cues to play every moment with all the subtlety and nuance of a professional wrestling promo.

The cherry on the joyless fecal sundae that is Spawn may be its wildly tonal confusion, clumsily swerving between dreary supernatural angst and flailing to incorporate juvenile, sexualized anti-humor that plays like adolescent pandering at its most cynical. Just witness the scene where Leguizamo graphically mimes the motion of crude masturbation while growling about “boning.” If any directorial decision encapsulates the artistic and creative nadir of this fiasco, that’s surely it.

In a just world, Spawn would be rightfully reviled as a towering folly of cinematic misjudgment – a cautionary tale of how not to bring stylized source material to the big screen. Alas, we live in a fallen timeline where its box office disappointment didn’t deter future, equally catastrophic comic book misfires like Daredevil and Catwoman. A grotesque desecration on every level, and an eternal pox upon this mortal plane.

Release Notes:

The original choice to direct was Tim Burton. That would have been a much different and dare I say much better film.

Critics Consensus:

Critics 17% Audience 36%
 Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer:

AI Images:

By Michael

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