REVIEW – ‘Spawn’ (1997)

Just when you thought 'Batman & Robin' was the worst superhero film...

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: August 1, 1997
DIRECTOR: Mark A.Z. Dippe
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Guillermo Navarro
WRITER: Alan B. McElroy
MUSIC: Graeme Revell

Todd McFarlane recently announced that a new feature film would be made based on his most famous comic book creation, “Spawn”. The writer and artist announced that he had made a deal with Blumhouse Productions to produce a small budget remake. Well, I definitely hope it turns out better than the original 1997 adaptation from New Line Cinema.

In the film, covert operative Albert Simmons (Michael Jai White) is betrayed by his superior Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen) and killed. This is done because Jason had made a deal with Malebolgia, the ruler of Hell. Jason has been promised power on Earth as long as helps the Violator (John Leguizamo) bring about Armageddon.

As part of the deal, the Violator wants Al in Hell in order to become the latest Spawn, the soldier that will lead the armies of Hell to the gates of Heaven itself. Spawn is assisted, however, with the help of Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson), a former Spawn himself that has decided to train the new Spawn into working for the good guys.

There is absolutely one thing about this movie that I like and it is Leguizamo as the Violator. Leguizamo brings an appropriately demented sense of humor to the character yet ironically, he also seems to be the only one who wants to take the film seriously. If the Violator should show back up in the upcoming remake, I would not mind it if they cast Leguizamo to give him a proper shot at playing the character.

Everyone else here is as bland as a cardboard box. White gives a one-note performance as a Spawn that is filled with cheesy one-liners and fake surprise when he realizes that he can do something else “cool” with his powers. Even the usually dependable Sheen fails in this movie, making Wynn a run-of-the-mill villain that doesn’t have any real depth.

Of course, I don’t completely blame the performers in the movie. Alan B. McElroy’s script is completely devoid of any of the comic’s originality and the movie is just another basic superhero adaptation. McFarlane claims that he has written the new screenplay and here’s to hoping that his script actually has some personality to it.

Finally, there are the terrible CGI effects including Spawn’s cape but also including terrible sequences in Hell that look like they came out of a video game. Ultimately, I can’t really say that the film has aged terribly when it was already bad to begin with, but there is a sad realization that there could have been a good movie here. I’m just hoping like Hell that the remake will succeed where this film ultimately failed.

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