After being murdered for quitting his role as a government assassin, Al Simmons makes a pact with the demon Malebolgia to be resurrected to see his beloved wife Wanda. In exchange, Simmons agrees to be transformed into a Hellspawn, and lead the demon’s armies to storm the gates of Heaven.
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I'd argue there's potential for this property to tell a fairly sophisticated, R-rated superhero tale a la "The Crow" or "Darkman"...but it's clear from "Spawn's" opening montage that the film has been incoherently edited to meet a 90 minute runtime, and its violence neutered for a PG-13 rating. Still, the film is not without its pleasures for those who spent the 90's drinking Big Gulps and browsing comic book stores.
This is a solid comic book movie, even if some of the special effects feel like a video game. John Leguaizmo gives a transformative performance that is funny and disgusting all at the same time. Despite its cheesiness, this would set the tone for these types of films. A fun ride.
I saw a sneak preview of this in 1997 and thought it was shit then. Not sure why I thought watching it 16 years later would help. Anything positive Spawn had going for it was put towards its now badly-executed special effects and nothing else. This movie has quite possibly the words titles I've seen in my entire life. But for as awful as Spawn is, for some reason I always watch it when its on cable.
They messed up the clown! He is supposed to be a relentlessly sadistic demon who never gives Spawn a break. They made him far too intelligent. In the comic book his plotting against Spawn is done purely through his manipulating him into self-sabotage. As mighty as Spawn is, he can never shake him, the clown is a constant presence and Cogliostro is more of an observer. They made it far too pleasant.
So ludicrously badly made it's almost Brechtian. Every angle, every shot, every cut, every line of dialogue is sh*t. It's like some kind of memetic post-internet video art. It boggles the mind, really, to pull off something like this. I hear one third of the budget went into the special effects, which look like something out of Realms of the Haunting, which was a butt-ugly game even in 1997.
It doesn't nearly capture the sharp visual style of Todd McFarlane's drawings. I will say it feels more like an experimental film, certainly this was the first "dark superhero" flick aside from the Batman movies. But it feels so uneven, ranging from terrible one liners to intriguing special effects, it doesn't find a middle-ground. Its script and direction seem hashed together to create a sorta cinematic experience.
2 on a good day, otherwise 1.5. Boy, it hasn't aged well at all, especially in the effects department. But on the other hand, it's so off-kilter and almost unbelievably bad that it has some weird positive qualities that make this one nejoyable at times.