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The F*cking Black Sheep: Spawn (1997)

Jun. 20, 2013by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Spawn (1997)
Directed by Mark A.Z. Dipp

It goes into dark places where few comic movies ever attempt.

Lets get something straight. Spawn isn't a perfect movie. It isn't an awesome movie. What Spawn ends up being is an entertaining movie, one that isnt particularly bright, but just wants to have a good time at the party. Now I grew up reading Todd McFarlands comic (I still have the first 50 issues I think) and this isnt that. It can't match the highly stylized look and feel of McFarland's art world.Oh sure it follows the basics, but the movie is its own thing, defining a moment in time for a number of different mediums.

On one hand, there's the previously mentioned comic book world, where Spawn represented a Kim Kardashian-sized birth for Image Comics and the indie comicmarket, showing that creators didn't need a Marvel or DC to move a shit ton of books, which Spawn sure as hell did. It was a flash moment that didnt last, but comics at that time where the biggest thing in the collectable market. Then theres the there's the comic book movie world, which went into a state of limbo in 1997 as Batman and Robin temporarily killed the market, and Spawn didn't set the world on fire though it didnt bomb.

Lastly, Spawn also had one of the last heavy rock event soundtracks that I can remember. If my memory hasnt completed failed, there was a time right after The Crow that every genre flick had THE big ass rock CD, and Spawn had a good one with mashup of Filter, Tom Morello, Henry Rollins, Marilyn Manson, and others.

Back to the actual movieI dig Spawn. I think it works on several different levels as it goes into dark places where few comic movies ever attempt (well minus Hellboy of course). The idea of selling your soul for love and a second chance isnt new, but the idea that youd get spawned back all burnt and crispyAND have to lead Hells army is some heavy shit and the drama plays out on screen.Michael Jai White, who does his best as Al Simmons/Spawn, has some moments where he tries to define that feeling of loss and regret.While Spawn isnt a smart movie, its smart enough to move right along and never be cheap about the action. We dont have time to question too much, which is probably a good thing. Instead, lots of bullets flow and chains get shot out of Spawn's chest, which is pretty damn cool even if the rest of the effects don't hold up.

The cast is game here, especially John Leguizamo as the Clown/Violator. The fat suit doesn't really work (it looks like a fat suit) but dude sells it, even famously eating maggots on a slice of pizza and taking a massive, mans sized bite. Leguizamo is so damn over the top that he nearly becomes Jar Jar-ish. Some might say he killed the movie, but I think he added the life that the film needed. And besides, he played whats seen in the comic book. The Clown is...a clown, and one from hell so he should be annoying...to a point.Then theres Martin Sheen, who hams the shit out of his role as Wynn, the obvious big shot bad dude. Sheen plays it like hes the villain in that Baby Genius movie, tryingperhaps too hard but what the hell he's still Martin Sheen, and he looks like he's having a blast.

White asSimmons/Spawn doesa decent job trying to display the torrent of, you know, going to hell and all that. However, he doesn't display any of that Black Dynamite charisma, but he kicks a lot of ass and sounds the part. To be fair, with a better script dropping the cheese dick dialogue, this would have been something and maybe made White a star. But we don't have that. Instead, just gotta roll with the stupid. For example, when Simmons is murdered by getting "left in the oven too long" as the Violator jokes, he screams "Wanda!!!!!" in a moment weve all scene in 8984 movies before. Or when the Clown dons a cheerleading outfit, spitting out rhymes like dimes.But like I said, you gotta dig the cheese.

Now Spawn does have problems, mostly with how the film looks. CGI could do anything in 97, right? Well, almost as Spawns outfit looks pretty cool, but the nasty world of hell...ugh. Doesn't exactly hold up (Im looking at you, Satan.They didn't even bother to make him look like he's speaking.) and at times is laughable (also looking at you, random helicopter). With a first time director, everything looks cheap, especially the special effects, which is surprising considering director Mark A.Z. Dipp's background in...special effects. For $40 million this thing looks like it was shot on $10 mil or less. Whered the money go?

Creator Todd McFarland has been pimping a sequel for years, but nothing yet. The man has big ideas. Originally, Crow/Dark City director Alex Proyas was attached to this movie, along with Ed Norton and Richard Harris. I like what we have, but with Proyas, that could have been a masterpiece. I've heard McFarland's idea before where Spawn stays in the shadows and make the movie more like Seven than Batman. It's something I'd like to see, but he doesn't have to be ashamed of what's already out there.

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+1
1:15AM on 06/21/2013

Rock Album

I loved it when I was younger. Also, The Matrix was the last great rock soundtrack in my opinion.
I loved it when I was younger. Also, The Matrix was the last great rock soundtrack in my opinion.
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+1
1:14AM on 06/21/2013

Rock Album

I loved it when I was younger. Also, The Matrix was the last great rock soundtrack in my opinion.
I loved it when I was younger. Also, The Matrix was the last great rock soundtrack in my opinion.
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11:19PM on 06/20/2013

was too

An awesome movie!. Don't care what the critics say on this one. Leguizamo was fantastic and White was great too. The movie was just fun and well awesome! you don't like it, don't watch it nerds!
An awesome movie!. Don't care what the critics say on this one. Leguizamo was fantastic and White was great too. The movie was just fun and well awesome! you don't like it, don't watch it nerds!
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11:19PM on 06/20/2013

was too

An awesome movie!. Don't care what the critics say on this one. Leguizamo was fantastic and White was great too. The movie was just fun and well awesome! you don't like it, don't watch it nerds!
An awesome movie!. Don't care what the critics say on this one. Leguizamo was fantastic and White was great too. The movie was just fun and well awesome! you don't like it, don't watch it nerds!
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-2
9:27PM on 06/20/2013

Was Spawn really that bad.

Yes it was.
Yes it was.
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7:37PM on 06/20/2013
Marvel and DC and the rest of those superheros are what i grew up reading and watching on TV and loving....but Spawn to me hits me right in the heart. It was so dark, so adult, so unforgiving...the HBO series and comics were some of the best ever created (in the beginning, at least) and it really is a shame that this movie wasnt an accurate representation of those. but, i still get a kick from seeing Span rendered in real life on the big screen. its cool. one day, spawn will get a worthy
Marvel and DC and the rest of those superheros are what i grew up reading and watching on TV and loving....but Spawn to me hits me right in the heart. It was so dark, so adult, so unforgiving...the HBO series and comics were some of the best ever created (in the beginning, at least) and it really is a shame that this movie wasnt an accurate representation of those. but, i still get a kick from seeing Span rendered in real life on the big screen. its cool. one day, spawn will get a worthy feature.
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3:54PM on 06/20/2013
This came out when I was a teenager, during that age where you'll watch anything and think that it's awesome. Even then, I knew this movie sucked.
This came out when I was a teenager, during that age where you'll watch anything and think that it's awesome. Even then, I knew this movie sucked.
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+5
1:52PM on 06/20/2013
I always enjoyed this movie as a fan of the comics, but thought it was a shame that such an opportunity to create something truly fantastic was lost. The HBO cartoon series was a great adaptation of the comics and I always thought that if they did a movie adaptation today, they could create something great. Sadly, that will probably never happen. But Spawn is still one of my favorite series ever, especially in the action figure department, which I was once a rabid collector of.
I always enjoyed this movie as a fan of the comics, but thought it was a shame that such an opportunity to create something truly fantastic was lost. The HBO cartoon series was a great adaptation of the comics and I always thought that if they did a movie adaptation today, they could create something great. Sadly, that will probably never happen. But Spawn is still one of my favorite series ever, especially in the action figure department, which I was once a rabid collector of.
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1:39PM on 06/20/2013

One of the worst movies I have ever seen

Spawn to date, is still the only movie I've walked out of and demanded my money back from. I've seen the whole movie twice after and its a nightmare. From crap effects, to bad story, to casting nightmares its so bad its not even funny bad.
Spawn to date, is still the only movie I've walked out of and demanded my money back from. I've seen the whole movie twice after and its a nightmare. From crap effects, to bad story, to casting nightmares its so bad its not even funny bad.
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1:13PM on 06/20/2013
I read that Malebolgia was actually a modded "Werewolf in Paris" werewolf and that they had only 1 week to do the hell scenes which is why the effects suck so hard. I mean, Violator is still pretty good even today.
Personally, I really enjoyed this movie. Perfect? Far from it. Still, I really enjoyed it.
I read that Malebolgia was actually a modded "Werewolf in Paris" werewolf and that they had only 1 week to do the hell scenes which is why the effects suck so hard. I mean, Violator is still pretty good even today.
Personally, I really enjoyed this movie. Perfect? Far from it. Still, I really enjoyed it.
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11:56AM on 06/20/2013
A lot of people hate the bomb plot, but I don't mind it. Obviously the 3-season show and the 60 issues I read were better and more fleshed out, but I thought the bomb plot was an okay way of cramming Spawn's story into 90 minutes. I understand that the special effects budget needs to be focused on the most important aspects. It's obvious that they put the focus on Spawn and the Violator while Hell and Malebolgia got put on the back burner. I'm glad for this, as Spawn and Violator look
A lot of people hate the bomb plot, but I don't mind it. Obviously the 3-season show and the 60 issues I read were better and more fleshed out, but I thought the bomb plot was an okay way of cramming Spawn's story into 90 minutes. I understand that the special effects budget needs to be focused on the most important aspects. It's obvious that they put the focus on Spawn and the Violator while Hell and Malebolgia got put on the back burner. I'm glad for this, as Spawn and Violator look pretty good. (I even sort of liked having Malebolgia's voice omnipotentently boom from him.)

Overall I enjoy this movie for four major perks: nostalgia, Leguizamo's hilarious performance, the awesome soundtrack, and the sight of Spawn and the Violator duking it out in live-action. However, there's some agonizingly cheesy dialogue and the pacing & editing are annoyingly sporadic. So while I don't mind the story and sympathize with the special effects, the only major drag for me is tacky, sloppy filmmaking. I'd have liked more violence too. (That R-rated cut was such a massive joke. Even if the content was worthwhile, the edit is even more sloppy and unprofessional. I actually wish they'd release the PG-13 version on DVD.)
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9:40AM on 06/20/2013
Being a massive fan of the comics since I was a kid, this movie was a tad disappointing in the beginning but it was still a very solid effort. I look forward to the reboot.
Being a massive fan of the comics since I was a kid, this movie was a tad disappointing in the beginning but it was still a very solid effort. I look forward to the reboot.
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9:36AM on 06/20/2013
Even though the special FX looks dated, but when it was first release it was pretty spectacular. I actually like it a lot especially the fight between Spawn and Violator in The Alley right before Cogliostro teaches Spawn how to control his power.
Even though the special FX looks dated, but when it was first release it was pretty spectacular. I actually like it a lot especially the fight between Spawn and Violator in The Alley right before Cogliostro teaches Spawn how to control his power.
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