Need to see the film? It's a great visual ride. Just don't expect much more than that. It did make for some cool toys, though.
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Need to see the film? It's a great visual ride. Just don't expect much more than that. It did make for some cool toys, though.
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.
It's an irony but true, most people do not appreciate the story line, neither the acting. We only worship the actors and the level of publicity before the release.
A military assassin called Al Simmons was betrayed by the head of a covert government agency. The head of the govt assigned Simmons a mission to take out a Bio-Chem plant in North Korea while ordering his top assassin, Jessica Priest to assassinate Simmons. Very cruel political picture. After Simmons dies from a gas fire, he arrives in the Hell where The Devil offers him a Faustian deal. If Simmons becomes his eternal servant and leader of his army in Armageddon, he will be able to return to Earth to see his beloved people. Simmons accepted the offer.
That's the beginning of the story. Rest of the plot is very perfectly made that can hold your attention for the whole time. I liked this film.
I'll start with the good points; John Leguizamo is perfect as the Clown; both over the top and malevolent. And a few of the visual effects are impressive. And there were a few nods to the comics (Sam and Twitch making a cameo at the end). But that's about it. Here's every other problem:
1. Michael Jai White just sucks as the lead. He's terrible. His interpretation of Spawn is not particularly heroic, or anti-heroic, or likable, or has any character moments, but is just an angry guy yelling: "I'mma gonna kill Wynn! Arrgg!! These powers rock!" Gone are any of the philosophical underpinnings of the character.
2. Hell and the devil Malebolia - laughable, laughable. They could've at least animated the devil's mouth to move in sync with his voice. If this is hell, I just laugh at it. And for those who say "Hey, it was 1997; those were the visual effects of the time," I say look at Independence Day, Space Jam, and Titanic, all films made around the same time with superior effects.
3. Martin Sheen, whom we all know is a good actor, adds little to the Wynn character. He concocts an idiotic plot about inserting a bomb in his heart, so that no one will dare kill him. This plot line isn't in the comics, but even if it was it would still've been idiotic. Doctors are really going to insert a bomb in someone's heart and not think: "Gee, this guy's gonna die someday, so there's no question this bomb will go off and kill people someday?"
4. Child actor Miko Hughes shows up in a subplot, and has to look for Spawn's dog. WTF? It's like the producers realized "We should make this more family friendly by giving Spawn a kid sidekick," but then realized there really wasn't anything he could do, so they had him go look for a dog instead.
5. And after all this, we have a mess of a climax. Spawn fights off the Clown in Hell by transporting through the fireplace! And then we get the big cliché about ending with a shot of Spawn looking out on the city he will now protect. Please. An unsatisfying ending, due to zero character development or reason to care about any of the "saving" that Spawn did throughout the movie.
But there is some good in the world: after all, I walked out of this knowing that if any demonic Clown comes after me, I sure can count on Spawn to decapitate him for me. And if my dog ever runs away, I can count on Miko Hughes to find him for me. And if I ever get confused during a movie, I can count on Nicol Williamson's tacked-on voice-over to provide exposition.
And finally, if I ever go to hell, I know I can look forward to a place filled with cartoon characters. YEE HEE!
It tries to be a darker and uglier type of comic book movie but it ends up more or less campy. I can't really take John Leguizamo seriously. Danny DeVito would have been much better. Everybody is trying too hard to be a cartoon character. Martin Sheen doesn't have to act evil. He would be so much more effect if he acts Presidential. The visual style looks cheap although Spawn himself looks good. The makeup looks pretty good and the CGI is incorporated as well as can be expected. I guess most of the effort was concentrated on the look of Spawn and everything else took a backseat.
Well down to business great:A killer named Al Simmons " Michael Jai White"Want's to retire is job but is boss Jason win"Martin Sheen"send's him one last job as a set up and kill's him by burning him in a facility.He goes to hell and The devil Malbolgia tell's if he lead's his army of hell spawn's he'll let him see His wife Wanda "Theresa Randle" and the story goes on.
The effects are what they are, and you can't do much with a budget too low for your aspirations when it comes to a work like this. As it is, the suit and cape look pretty good, but it seems like those are the only things that any money were spent on. However, that is the least of my concerns for Spawn.
The acting is...in a word...atrocious. No one other than Leguizamo has any fun in this thing. He's like the guy at a crappy party that says, "Hey, screw it. I'm gonna have a good time whether the rest of you guys are or not!" Did I like his performance? Not really, but you have to give him credit for trying. That's more than I can say for the rest of the cast, crew, pretty much anyone else associated with this. Jai White is awful. The script doesn't help him at all but he was just the wrong choice. That said, there probably weren't too many African-Americans at the time that folks thought could pull it off, so he was chosen. Wrong choice, but I guess you do what you have to. Sheen was so bad I had to watch Apocalypse Now again just to get the vision of Spawn out of my head. Sweeney and Randle....who? They were in this thing? See what I mean?
The movie should NOT have been PG-13 either. We know well enough these days that even when a movie is put out in a director's cut on DVD with an R rating that it doesn't help much. Spawn should have been a "hard R" all the way from the get-go. It also could have helped itself being a bit longer, say 2 hrs total. But maybe it's the best thing that Spawn only tortured us for 90 mins. Any more of Spawn the way it is and you wind up thinking too much about Death's sweet release.
Like I said, I really wanted to like it. I watch it when it comes on FX or whatever other TV channel just to see if I can find a reason to like it, so maybe I won't feel the disappointment I felt the first time. It never works...and it never will.
The bad points really hit this film hard. The pacing, attuned to its short run time, zooms by way too quickly with annoying video game like transitions and a score that didn't fit the film too well. Every time I was expecting more to be developed, I was let down. "Oh, this is a cool plot line-wait, what, we're moving on already? oh..okay..". And lastly, amongst 90% of the great CGI and make-up, the battle in hell is painstakingly terrible. They should've gone with an elaborate set and CGI here and there, but it becomes hopeless so you have to sit threw what you would call a lackluster climax.
But for what it is, I highly recommended this movie for its dark humor and awesome action.
The screenplay is a wreck, the acting is stiff and unconvincing, and the whole thing seems to fly by so fast, that we don't get a chance to experience much other than a look at some nifty visuals. In fairness, I suppose it is easy enough to argue that Spawn delivers its share of action sequences for a ninety minute movie, but perhaps it needs to back down a bit. It needs more story. In the end, Spawn feels like nothing more or less than an exercise in CGI and make-up effects.
It is pretty difficult to get involved with the story, in part because it makes no sense, but mostly because we simply do not care. The character of Al Simmons is about as cheap and plastic as the armour he suits up in during the second half of the feature. Quite frankly I don't find him all that likable. He is cold and nasty, even as a superhero. I really hate it when the good guys talk like the bad guys; when they cackle or make snarly remarks, like Dr. Westlake in the Darkman series.
Some of the special effects work, some don't. Our hero has a blood red cape which can expand to the size of Texas (don't ask me how). I liked that effect. The thing sort of has a computer generated life of its own, and its elegance clashes with the plastic of Spawn's armour. the primary villain is a clown from hell, who can turn into a ten foot armour plated beast which looks a bit like a cousin of the Queen from Aliens. That is another good effect. The climax takes us deep into the fiery pit of hell, which unfortunately does NOT so convincing. My screen saver is a more intimidating computer generated image. I was reminded a bit of the Brinstar level from Super Smash Brothers.
Like so many films do, Spawn ends on a note that just cries out for a sequel. Needless to say, there isn't one and there never will be. Spawn is entertaining in parts, but definitely not as a whole.
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.
Directed by : Mark A.Z. Dippé, 1997
Cult comic book comes to the screen looking like a bad computer game. Lacklustre story, illogically put together, some really awful editing and dialogue and finally the Tron-looking computer generated special effects (as in Tron from 1982, yes).
Joe Leguizamo is wickedly funny as spooky Stephen Kingish clown and the only highlight.
No person deserves to sit through this. Why are we wasting time and energy sending criminals to prisons?! Just threaten potential law-breakers with watching this film and crime will be as extinct as this film!
To celebrate my birthday I decided to go to see a movie. This film helped make it the worst birthday of my life!
The special effects look cheesy. Michael Jai isn't anywhere evil enough. And what was John Leguizamo doing in this pathetic film!
This is just ANOTHER example of a movie being made without thought, without heart, and most of all without a decent budget!!!
If I could give this movie a minus rating I would!
But I guess 0/10 will have to do!