SPAWN (1997)

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SPAWN (1997)
Directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé

After being sent on a mission in North Korea, Government assassin Al Simmons is betrayed by his boss Jason Wynn and burned alive. Awakening in Hell, Simmons is given a chance to reunite with his fiance, Wanda, in exchange for leading Hell’s army on Earth.

Fast-forward five years, a badly-scarred Simmons is back on Earth as his new persona Spawn, accompanied by clown-demon, Violator, who keeps him on the path to kickstart Armageddon. However, Spawn only has one thing in mind: seeking revenge against the man who killed him. With Wynn’s heart wired up to a device that will trigger biological weapon HEAT-16 should he flatline, Spawn will have to learn how to control his rage and his newfound abilities if he’s to rescue the ones he loves or risk exterminating mankind as he knows it.

Looking like a straight to video or TV movie, I’m not sure how SPAWN attracted a cast that includes Michael Jai White, Martin Sheen and John Leguizamo, but somehow it did. With computer generated effects that look even cheaper than anything Sony PlayStation was producing at the time, a wafer thin script and characters with little to no depth, it’s a struggle to actually sit through the entire film without grimacing.

As far as comic book movies go, this is perhaps the worst I’ve ever come across. With the camera almost always centred around the character of Spawn, there’s hardly any time spent involved with Wynn’s business to create the much-needed tension that may put a spanner in the works of Spawn’s revenge plan. Everything seems to just ‘be’ and executed on a whim which makes the film more of a series of scenes rather than a story to get stuck into and enjoy. Then there’s the presence of the clown Violator who is possibly the most aggravating thing in the movie, alongside the CGI, but is also its greatest asset. To be fair to John Leguizamo, who proper gives it his all as the flatulent, toothy demon, he has the most dialogue and presence in the movie, stealing every scene he’s in as the clown. Having checked out the imagery of the character from Todd McFarlane’s comic series, it seems they were fairly faithful in bringing the antagonist to life.

As an anti-hero, Spawn has a whole host of abilities up his sleeve, mainly to do with his symbiotic suit. His swirling red cape seems to have a life of its own and he can control what defence mechanisms his suit has purely by visualising what he requires in that moment. An example is tentacle-like, mechanical arms that emerge from the chest area with pincer-type grips on the end. It can also provide a defensive armour that can be a challenge to any oncoming vehicle. Outside of this, Spawn also boasts enhanced strength, speed and the capability to heal himself. Whilst we see these abilities throughout the movie, it feels as though everything including the kitchen sink is thrown onto the screen at once that it’s hard to actually get any sense of Spawn’s actual limitations. From where I was sitting, he seemed pretty untouchable which lessened the impact of the action on screen. A vulnerable hero provides a more realistic threat that the objective may not be achieved but the only weak spot Spawn seemed to have in this movie was crying over Wanda every five minutes.

As a fan of Michael Jai White, it was painful to see what little dialogue and character development he had to work with. The same goes for the great Martin Sheen who’s resigned to play stereotypical bad guy in the form of Jason Wynn. These are two actors who’s capabilities are so much more but this film didn’t give them the room they needed to develop as characters worth investing in, for good or bad.

There’s very few positives I can say about the movie. Even the opening credits made me nauseous with its flickering, shaking font, which caused me to be apprehensive about the movie before it’d even begun. I suppose the soundtrack wasn’t too bad, playing songs from the likes of Marilyn Manson and Metallica, but that’s not enough to save a movie from the depths of the bargain bin which is where this movie belongs, and even then I’d urge you to rethink purchasing it.

For many years, there’s been talk of a SPAWN reboot. Considering the amount of money comic book movies make these days, there’s clearly a market for it now more than ever. Judging from the 90’s effort, they couldn’t do any worse than what’s already been made… could they?

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

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About Bat 4345 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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