Awfully Good: Spawn

With this movie recently turning 20 and a reboot officially announced, now seems like a good time to look back at…


Spawn (1997)


Director: Mark A.Z. Dippe
Stars: Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, Martin Sheen

A murdered black ops soldier sells his soul to the devil in order to see his family again, only to be tasked with leading Hell's army as a necroplasmic superhero.

I'll admit to liking SPAWN when it first came out. It was one of those movies you watched as a middle schooler and were impressed at how "dark" it was and how "cool" his cape looked. Then you re-watch it two decades later and realize, "OH GOD, WHAT WAS I THINKING? WHAT OTHER TERRIBLE LIFE CHOICES HAVE I MADE? AM I NOT WORTHY OF LOVE?"

Spawn: Setting popped collar goals for preppy bros since 1997.

It doesn't even take long to come to that conclusion. This movie is bad from the get-go, starting with goofy narration that crams the comic's entire back story in to 30 seconds of voiceover. And the film continues to over-explain everything until the ending, assuming the audience can't easily grasp the concept of a guy coming back from the dead to avenge his loved ones. Here you go: It's like THE CROW, but more metalcore. And for a film filled with "necroflesh" and gothic bondage imagery, that gruesome potential is never fulfilled thanks to a PG-13 rating and a penchant for completely unnecessary "cute" stuff like Spawn's relationship with kid actor Miko Hughes and a dog who adorably pees on bad guys. It's not hard to see why Todd McFarlane was not a fan of this movie.

Even Satan's minions aren't immune to Sarah McLachlan commercials.

Sadly, this is also another case where the title character is the worst part of the movie. Actor Michael Jai White is a great action star, but he's a terrible actor in SPAWN. His performance makes Spawn seem whiny and childlike, and the script doesn't do him any favors, comprised of gruff yelling, the occasional "Daaamn!" and "Hell yeah!," and multiple instances where he has to look up at the camera and yells "Noooooooo!" Even worse, Spawn never really gets to do anything cool with his powers—just fly around in his CGI cape, project random spikes and chains from his orifices, and conjure up a weird motorcycle cocoon. Not to mention his burn makeup as Al Simmons looks like a cross between a testicle pulled too tight and a rejected Goomba from the SUPER MARIO BROS. movie.

Middle Aged Mutant Ninja Turtle is also an acceptable description of Spawn's makeup.

White comes across even worse by comparison since he's continually acting opposite John Leguizamo, whose performance as Clown is truly great and easily the best thing about the movie. Leguizamo gives the role his all, spending the entire movie crouching in a fat suit, adlibbing countless one-liners, and even eating pizza with live maggots on it. If there's any reason that SPAWN still works in any capacity, it's because Leguizamo carries every scene he's in. He's even better than the other villain played by Martin Sheen, who is clearly the bad guy because he has an ash tray full of scorpions.

It was one hell of a sneeze.

However, you can't talk about SPAWN without mentioning the notorious special effects, which were terrible, even by 1997 standards. Some of it—like Spawn's cape/costume or the Violator creature—was just a product of its time. But then you have things like the hard-to-watch scenes in Hell where none of the elements feel like they go together in any convincing way. I've seen cable access shows with more believable special effects. The Devil himself is specifically awful and up there with The Rock's Scorpion King as one of the worst CG creations of all time, coming off like a hairless chihuahua rendered in Atari graphics. Hell, his mouth doesn't even move when he talks, as if the VFX team ran out of time and just gave up. All of this make for some truly lousy action, where they never figured out how to make Spawn interact with any of these CG elements. This leads to an ending that's pure pixelated nonsense, where the Devil says he'll never let Spawn escape and then Spawn immediately kills his entire army from a distance and flies out of Hell without incident.

This dog is legitimately more terrifying than the Devil in this movie.

As bad as it all is, something about SPAWN is still oddly watchable. I found myself mesmerized by every cheesy, fiery scene transition, the terrible generic metal soundtrack that makes every action sequence automatically laughable, and watching Michael Jai White unconvicingly deliver lines in a proto-Christian Bale Batman voice. Or it could just be John Leguizamo as an obese, farting, sexually active clown demon. Yeah, it's probably John Leguizamo as an obese, farting, sexually active clown demon.

On second thought, maybe it's a good thing this movie is PG-13.

John Leguizamo's Clown gets most of the memorable dialogue, but Michael Jai White's terrible line delivery gives him a run for his money.

The best action moments with the worst special effects.

Michael Jai White's burned ass cheeks.

Unleash Hell on Earth! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • A fiery scene transition happens
  • There's especially bad CGI onscreen
  • A bad metal song plays
  • Cogliostro glows green
  • Someone says "necroplasm" or "necroflesh"
  • Spawn says he's going to "nail" someone

Double shot if:

  • John Leguizamo eats something gross


Thanks to Benjamin and Keith for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: John Leguizamo admits he accidentally went to the bathroom in his clown suit once because it took so long to take off.
Source: JoBlo.com



Latest Entertainment News Headlines