Today marks the beginning of almost a solid week of superhero movies. Unfortunately, we start off with one that was a real disappointment. See, back in the early 90’s, there was a breakaway from Marvel of several of their top illustrators, who had wanted to maintain the copyrights for characters they created, thus giving birth to Image comics. One of the most popular comics in that new company was “Spawn”, created by Todd McFarlane. Now Spawn was a definitely a darker, and bloodier, comic than what most fans expected (similar to the Punisher) and it made sense that someone might try to make a movie off based of the comics. Unfortunately, the end result was a little less than desired and I, having a tendency to torture myself with my movie choices at times, decided to buy it just to work on my superhero movie collection. So let’s get this headache over with as I watch today’s movie, Spawn.
The plot: In Hong Kong, Special Forces operative Al Simmons takes over an airport control tower, where he then fires a missile to take out his target before detonating the launcher to remove all traces of his being there, unaware that he is being observed by a man named Cogliostro. Back in the US, Jason Wynn, the head of the agency that Al works for, is meeting with a demon known as Violator, who has promised to give Wynn world domination in exchange of certain favors and asks for one last favor, kill Al Simmons. Some time later, Al and his friend/partner Terry Fitzgerald are heading to work and after showing Al the paper discussing the civilian deaths in the latest operation, Terry comments about how several of Wynn’s ops seem to have more civilian casualties and that he is going to keep an eye on Wynn. Al goes to Wynn’s office and tells him he wants out, causing him to be taunted by Wynn’s bodyguard/assassin Jessica Priest, and Wynn tells him he will have him transferred after completing one last mission. Al is sent to North Korea to destroy a bioweapon facility but when he gets there, he finds the place is already prepared to blow and Wynn waiting for him. Al tries to stop Wynn from releasing the gas, as there is a village nearby, but he is shot by Priest, who then pours an accelerant onto him and Wynn sets him on fire. Al calls out his wife Wanda’s name before collapsing to the ground just as the plant explodes. 5 years later, a horribly burned Al is shown to be alive and in the top of an old church, where Violator is watching him. Al climbs down from the church and finds himself in an alley where the homeless live, and Cogliostro attempts to talk to him but Al shoves him aside so Cogliostro gives him a coat to help hide his burned face and skin. Al heads to his home to find Wanda is now married to Terry and they have a daughter, Cyan. When Cyan chases after her dog Spaz, who had recognized Al, and offers Al some candy but Wanda sees them and grabs her away from him. Wanda yells for Terry, who tells Al to leave and Violator, who was dressed up to perform for the party, grabs Al and leaves with him. Returning to the alley, Violator explains that Al promised to lead the Demon Malebolgia’s army in exchange for getting to be with Wanda again, taking Al to his grave to show him that he died. The pain causes Al’s necroplasm armor to emerge and Violator dubs him Spawn. Back in the alley, Spawn realizes the usefulness of his armor in getting his revenge on Wynn and he heads for Wynn’s new company only to be confronted by Cogliostro, who tries to stop him but when Spawn continues on his path, Cogliostro summons a blade and debates on if he needs to use it. Al breaks into Wynn’s new company, A-6, and steals some of their weapons, then follows Wynn and Terry to a reception at a nearby embassy. Spawn breaks in and confronts Wynn, who is shocked to see what Al has become. Spawn then confronts Terry and asks him how he could betray him and Terry, shocked at see Al there, tells him that Wanda was devastated when Al died and he was taking care of her when they fell in love. Priest and a security team arrive and attack Spawn and though he is shot, his wounds heal and he manages to kill Priest before being blasted out of a window, where he uses his armor to escape from the police. As Wynn watches Priest’s body being taken away, he sees Violator nearby and goes to talk with him, angry at what had happened. Violator calms him down and tells him that he should get a device attached to his heart which will release the Heat-16, the new bioweapon Wynn has developed, worldwide if his heart stops beating, which will serve as a deterrent from anyone killing him. Spawn heads to where Wanda is giving a lecture about the effects of Heat 16, realizing how Wynn has been using him all this time. When Cyan runs off after Spaz and falls, Spawn helps her up and carries her to where Wanda can find her, just as Terry shows up and takes them home but Spaz ends up staying with Spawn and returns to the alley with him. In the alley, Spawn starts to befriend a homeless boy name Zack when Violator shows up and Spawn attacks him. Violator then transforms into his demonic form and easily beats Spawn, eventually throwing him into the bent spires of an iron fence. Violator changes back into the clown and taunts Spawn about going to see Wanda before he leaves. Cogliostro appears and pulls off of the fence, then threatens to kill Spawn but when Spawn seems to have calmed down, he retracts his blade. Cogliostro then starts training Spawn in how to use his armor and abilities. Spawn then goes to save Wanda and Cyan from Violator, who stalls Spawn as he makes his way there. Meanwhile, Terry had made copies of Wynn’s files and was sending them to a local news channel in order to take down Wynn when Wynn shows up and takes them hostage. When Spawn shows up, he finds Wanda held captive, with Wynn threatening to kill her unless Spawn agrees to lead Hell’s armies. When Spawn refuses, Wynn stabs Wanda and Spawn proceeds to attack Wynn, threatening to kill him. Wynn says if he dies then everyone dies, including Cyan, and Spawn uses his powers to remove the device from Wynn’s heart, preventing the Heat 16 from being dispersed. As Spawn approaches Wanda’s body, she suddenly comes to life and attacks him, slashing his throat and revealing that she was actually a disguised Violator. Cogliostro appears and saves Spawn, chasing Violator back to Hell, and after Spawn heals himself, Violator grabs them both and drags them back to Hell. Cogliostro attacks Violator but he is easily beaten and thrown aside before Spawn starts attacking him and manages to stab him in the neck, causing Violator to retreat. Spawn is then confronted by Malebolgia and his army of hellspawn, who tells Spawn to lead his army or die. Spawn refuses, then uses his powers to attack the hellspawn but when he finds himself about to be overrun, he grabs Cogliostro and returns to Earth. As the two rest form their adventures, Cogliostro explains that he had been fighting the war for centuries and was waiting for a new Hellspawn to take his place and believed Al was that one. When Violator reappears and attacks Spawn, Spawn uses his chains to cut of Violators head, who taunts them one last time before disappearing back to Hell. Outside, Terry gives an interview to the press concerning Wynn’s activities while back in the alley, Spawn has taken up residence there as the homeless’s protector.
Spawn was panned by the critics, holding an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Spawn is an overbearing, over-violent film that adds little to the comic book adaptation genre.” The movie originally had a budget of $20 million but due to all of the special effects needed in the movie, New Line cinemas decided to double the budget to $40 million. Despite the low ratings from the critics, the movie was a modest success at the box office, earning $87.8 million worldwide and a sequel was planned but it fell into “developmental hell” and ended up being cancelled but a reboot has been announced and is scheduled to start filming in 2018.
This was an absolute disappointment of a movie, made even more so by the fact that there was a successful animated series on HBO that was way better. The acting was ok, with Michael Jai White (Spawn) and John Leguizamo doing decent jobs in their roles. The plot was essentially an origin story and I know there were some changes compared to the comics but it has been so long since I read them that I don’t know what they all were. I do think the changes that they made to the movie to drop it from an R-rating to a PG-13 did hurt it a lot, as the HBO series did a much better job with the subject material. The special effects that they spent so much money on honestly looked terrible, which is surprising as the effects in some other movies that came out that year were much better with a smaller budget. I’m hoping that the reboot might be better but in the meantime, I will watch the animated series if I want to get my fix.
Rating: 2 out of 5