An assassin named Al Simmons is double-crossed and murdered by his evil boss Jason Wynn. Al makes a deal with the devil and returns to earth as Spawn to see his wife. He is ordered by the devil's minion, The Clown, to kill Wynn. Wynn has made a deal with the clown too and is suppose to destroy the world with a deadly virus that will help start Armageddon and allow Hell to attack Heaven. Spawn must choose between Good & Evil. Written by
Keith Haney <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The first film to feature an African American as the lead comic book superhero. See more »
After the party, when Spawn jumps out of the window, you can clearly see a wire attached to his foot. See more »
The battle between Heaven and Hell has waged eternal, their armies fueled by souls harvested on Earth. The devil, Malebolgia, has sent a lieutenant to Earth to recruit men who will turn the world into a place of death in exchange for wealth and power, a place that will provide enough souls to complete his army and allow Armageddon to begin. All the Dark Lord needs now is a great soldier, someone who can lead his hordes to the gates of Heaven and burn them down.
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Credits shake, are being scratched over and turn left-side and right-side up and down. See more »
"Spawn" is a special effects spectacle unlike anything before it. It has some dazzling CGI effects to complement its dark tone and breathe life into the Gothic fantasy, and wondrous cinematography to carry it out. Unfortunately, that's all it has to offer, which is a real shame, because this had the potential to be one hell (pun intended) of a movie.
As a reader of "Spawn" comics and collector of "Spawn" merchandise (and affiliated McFarlane Toys products), I saw at an early age how "Spawn" revolutionized the comics industry with its mystical premise, graphic visuals, Heaven vs. Hell battle theme and gratuitous sex and violence, and while such gusto has been embraced by fans, this 1997 film adaptation of Todd McFarlane's popular underground comic, directed by Mark A.Z. Dippe', is rated "PG-13" (subsequent home video versions were of the "R"-rated director's cut, which contained additional footage), the watered-down violence more cartoonish than graphic. In short, in the comic book world, Spawn is not like anything else out there.
The story is that the demon Malebolgia needs fresh souls for his ever-growing army of undead soldiers to lead an eventual conquest of Earth, and then, Heaven, in what will eventually bring about Armageddon. All Malebolgia needs is a general for his army, and, Holy Lazarus, recently deceased CIA operative Al Simmons (newcomer Michael Jai White) has just the extra-crispy corpse for the job.
See, Simmons was set up by his insane former employer Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen) after making a bargain with Malebolgia's go-to guy and Earthbound lieutenant, the pudgy, disgusting Clown (John Leguizamo, completely unrecognizable in his get-up), to kill Simmons so that he would be sent to Hell. While in Hell (which looks like a CGI version of a Marilyn Manson concert on steroids), Simmons makes a deal with Malebolgia to lead his army, in exchange for one last chance to see his wife Wanda Blake (Theresa Randle), who is now married to his best friend Terry Fitzgerald (D.B. Sweeney) and together the two now have a young daughter named Cyan (Sydni Beaudoin).
Back on Earth and unaware that five years have passed, Simmons has a burnt-to-a-crisp visage that doesn't sit well with people not accustomed to undead soldiers from Hell. He establishes sympathetic links with the homeless denizens of alley Rat City, chiefly young Zack (Miko Hughes), and is watched over by the Godsend Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson). When Simmons's body comes out of its larval stage and transforms him into a "Hellspawn," a being with an endoplasmic and invincible suit of armor, he sees his chance to use these new powers to exact vengeance on Wynn, his lethal vixen Jessica Priest (Melinda Clarke), reunite with Wanda, and seek a way to break out of his agreement with Hell.
As stated earlier, "Spawn" is one hell of a special effects spectacle, and it looks great, but a lot goes wrong in too many places. I was dazzled to see one of my favorite superheroes on the screen nearly 10 years ago as an impressionable pre-teen. Now at 21, I am sorely disappointed by what I see today. "Spawn" still could have been good, even without with the full-on graphic content and Heaven & Hell mysticism of the source material. While a largely accurate reflection of the comics, it still gives more credence to my assertion that this is "Spawn"-lite. Presumably, studio bosses weren't keen on marketing a Hellbound superhero to the masses, so measures were probably taken to make the vehicle more accessible. (Take my advice and stick to the animated HBO miniseries.)
On the plus side, Michael Jai White makes an efficient hero and this remains the actor's most well-known part. We do feel his pain (even if it seems forced at times), his quips, and overall faithful portrayal of the character. Sheen makes for a coolly sadistic madman but it's Leguizamo who steals the show. His gross-out-humor, maggot-munching portrayal of the Clown is just what takes this movie out of the dregs and into full-blown camp territory. Lastly, the soundtrack, a mix of heavy metal and techno, does have some pretty wicked sounds.
It's easy to see that only core fans will want to stick with this picture. It had such a great chance to be something unlike anything else out there. With the comic book craze still in full swing in Hollywood, "Spawn" seems forgotten, or at the very least, sitting on the sidelines. But "Spawn," to me, seems to be an example of mis-marketing, a brilliant idea gone haywire. Maybe it should have stayed in Hell, where it belongs.
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