Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Bad Movie Month unleashes hell with Spawn

Our next nefarious offering in Bad Movie Month's The Devil Made Me Do It series is the 1997 adaptation of Todd McFarlane's comic book creation Spawn.

Micheal Jai White plays the title role here in this origin story where he starts out as Al Simmons, a special ops agent who is betrayed and murdered by his boss Jason Wynn(Martin Sheen) and upon landing in Hell, is offered a job to lead Satan's army. Quite an opportunity there,too bad he had to get past the interview the hard way!

The payoff,of course, is that in exchange,Al will be sent back to Earth to be with the love of his life Wanda(Theresa Randle). As in with all deals with the devil and most insurance claims, there is a catch in that (a) Al returns as a burned up version of his former self and (b),it's been five years since his death and Wanda is now married to his best friend Terry(D. B. Sweeney),plus they have a cute little girl named Cyan.

 The family dog recognizes Al but that doesn't help him much. Part of the problem with this movie is the number of scenes that Al/Spawn has to share with either a cute kid( a little homeless boy named Zach is tossed into the mix for no particular reason) or the dog, both of which would make W. C. Fields crawl out of his grave. Not to mention the endless excuses for overblown fight/chase sequences that show off the cheesy  CGI special effects available in those days:

 Like any anti-hero caught between Heaven and Hell, Spawn has a good angel(Nicol Williamson,best known as Excalibur's Merlin in his final film performance) and a very naughty devil at his side to urge him towards his destiny.

The demon,who takes the somewhat human form of a short,fat obnoxious clown(kind of like a cross between John Wayne Gacy and Don Rickles) is called The Violator and John Leguizamo not only chews the scenery here, he rips it apart,gobbles it up and spews chunks everywhere.

Granted,The Violator is a popular character in the Spawn comics yet a little really does go a long way and then some. Leguizamo went through some physical pain for this part,having to squat down in a specially made suit, yet his never ending vulgar rants and torturous puns are just about as painful to watch:

The Violator's true purpose is to get Spawn to kill Wynn(who was talked into getting a special heart implant that sets off a mega load of biological bombs if he dies,not too smart there,buddy!) at the right time to start the Apocalypse.

Spawn veneers back and forth until he ultimately decides to be the good guy,which is fine but done in such a over the top Saturday Morning cartoon caper fashion that's insulting to the intelligence of the audience.

What's really sad about this movie is that HBO was airing an animated version of Spawn prior to the film's opening which captured the dark pathos,creativity and visual wonder that McFarlane brought to the readers,unlike this movie which turns the whole concept into a bad video game version of itself. McFarlane has been trying to make a reboot of Spawn for some time now,yet the studios would rather let this less than stellar PG-13 rendition stand than invest in a hard R remake,which for once is richly deserved:

More hellish hijinks next time, as Kim Basinger tries to Bless The Child. Yep, even in church, those magical little kids can be real creepy even when they're doing something sort of sweet:


Thaddeus said...

Nice review! My brothers gave my young self a love of comics, so I started reading Spawn from the its initial release up until around the time I started dating (probably not coincidental, huh?). I remember being excited about this movie and going to see it in the theater. And I remembered being disappointed in all but a handful of scenes.

Michael Jai White is a solid and charismatic actor - just see Black Dynamite if you need proof - and he had the martial arts skills to pick up from (and improve upon) the movie trend that made Steven Seagal and JCVD into stars.

But you're right. This extremely grim tale was made PG-13-friendly, which is a crime. The lead *does* veer back and forth between his bitter anger at terrible circumstances and his natural altruism. And the film is more into showing off action scenes than in truly developing the story in a way that was as engaging as the comic book was.

Still, some Leguizamo segments are fun, and a few scenes do manage to hit instead of miss. Occasionally, the movie keeps the darkly-comic tone of its predecessor. And it had a very fun soundtrack. Hopefully, studios will wise up some day and make more movies with the high quality and admirable tone of something like the first Blade film. *That* thing was just excellent...

lady t said...

Thanks,Thaddeus-I like the first Blade movie,too(altho the second one was totally next level while the third was an abysmal mess)and yeah,there are good moments in Spawn but the bad seriously overwhelms them here.

I do hope that McFarlane can get a remake/reboot made-normally,I'm sick to death of that route by Hollywood but there are exceptions to the rule and this one is definitely it!