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 <email@example.com>
During the battle in Hell, when Cogliostro is approached by the Violator, he extends his Necro-sword twice. 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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For about 1 frame and blurry in the opening credits, the name Terry Fitzgerald appears. See more »
A flawed but enjoyable absurdist horror-comic book film
Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) is one of the top operatives for Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen), who is the head of an organization called A6. When Simmons becomes aware that A6 might be a little shady, he learns the hard way that he isn't allowed to quit A6. This leads to his transformation into Spawn, a superhero with a background and motivations that are just as morally ambiguous as A6. The film largely concerns Spawn discovering and exploring his new identity, while working to uncover a nefarious plot and attain revenge.
If you read my reviews frequently enough over time, you'll notice that my ratings often change on repeated viewings. My rating for Spawn has definitely gone down since my last viewing, but currently, I'm giving it a generous 8 out of 10. There are a lot of things that are brilliant about the film, at least for viewers with particular, odd tastes similar to mine, but there are also too many unfortunate missteps to allow for a higher score.
Let's look at the missteps first. The main problem with the film is that screenwriter Alan McElroy and writer/director Mark A.Z. Dippe tried to squeeze far too much plot and too many characters into a 90-minute film. In retrospect, it would have been better to make one film covering everything up to Spawn's transformation (or the beginning of the transformation), and then save the other material (which comprises the bulk of the story here) for later films. Maybe Todd McFarlane, who created the comic books upon which this film was based, was worried that he wouldn't receive funding for sequels, so a multi-film plan wasn't attractive. As it is, there have been no live action sequels to date (there have been animated versions of Spawn), but I think there may have been if the first film would have been handled differently.
As the film stands, too much time has to be spent explaining the plot. The A6 plot is complicated enough, but there is a very high-concept idea behind the creation of Spawn that also has to be explained, too. Also, a lot of characters, most critically Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson--one of my favorite character actors), are basically wasted. There just isn't time to get into them.
A further problem is that both Sheen and White use odd affectations in their speech. I suppose it's supposed to be over-the-top in a comic book way, but on this last viewing, at least, it was more distracting to me. Also, a lot of the cgi-heavy effects already look very dated, and there's a weird cheesiness to most of the scenes in Hell. On the other hand, I personally like that kind of weird cheesiness, so I didn't subtract any points for that.
And speaking of weird cheesiness, I'm sure a lot of people hate John Leguizamo's character in the film (Clown/Violator), but I love it. It's exactly the kind of surreal campiness--part horror, part humor--that I cherish. As Mike Mayo has said, he's like (an evil) Krusty the Klown on acid. That works well for me, but if you're not the kind of person who loves films like Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), you probably won't like this Killer Klown either.
There is also a great campy quality to the material overall, including some of the dialogue (a scene where a father yells at a son in "Rat City" for spitting out a meal they retrieved from the garbage because it's "wasting good food" is a treasure). Spawn, the comic, is really a bizarre amalgamation of a number of different influences, from horror to twisted fairy tales, and the film is not afraid to indulge in that.
The best part of the film, though, aside from Leguizamo's character, is Spawn as superhero. The costume and devices of the costume are fantastic, the cgi for the costume is excellent (I especially loved the cape), and White (as well as the stunt person(s)) does a great job physically. All of the action sequences involving Spawn were incredible. I wanted to see a lot more of that kind of material. In fact, the visual style of the film overall is admirably creative, all the way down to the opening and ending credits.
In the end, the film teeters between being something that's "so bad, it's good" and being just a good film with some unfortunate flaws, but in either case, it's still very enjoyable to watch. You just need to approach it not expecting a realist dramatic masterpiece, but rather with a love for the absurd.
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