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RETRO MOVIE REVIEW: Spawn (1997)

RETRO MOVIE REVIEW: Spawn (1997)

SPAWN (1997)

As the beginning of a new line of articles from Beyond Cosplay, we will be delving into the realm of classic films. The films that molded us as writers and lovers of pop culture. Turned us from mere children of pure imagination into minds of making the impossible, possible. Allowing us to step into a new universe and experience something new. Before gaming became lifelike, all we had were films.

Each month we will review a movie that was released in that month of a year long past. So, for our first review we will take a look back at Todd McFarlane’s SPAWN (release date: August 1997)

Directed by Mark A.Z Dippé, produced by Clint Goldman and staring some great names that we now take for granted as entrenched actors of the A/B list. John Leguizamo (from so many films I wouldn’t know where to start – William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is the first that comes to mind) takes the role of The Violator, an out of control clown sent by the ruler of Hell to assist Spawn in leading Hell’s army against the Angels of Heaven.

John Leguizamo as The Violator

Michael Jai White (Never Back Down 2, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, Blood and Bone) takes on the epic role of Spawn – the movie’s namesake – the General of Hell’s army. Without knowing his background, you would think he is just another actor with muscles, but he’s not. White holds eight black belts in various martial arts: Shotokan, Taekwondo, Kobudo, Tang soo do – just name a few. So, when it comes to choosing someone with the skill to pull off Spawn, he has the credentials in truck loads.

We also have the oldest of all the Sheens, Martin Sheen as Jason Wynn, full of evil intentions and Director of a government agency, bent on world domination.

Anyone who knows Spawn, knows this is not your typical superhero film. This runs into the genre of “anti-hero” films with the likes of the Punisher, Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) Deadpool and Riddick.

An antihero for those who are still watching Disney films and trying to keep their viewing PG, is someone who doesn’t follow the traditional norms of fighting for the side of good. They tend to do the right things for the wrong reasons or the right things in a non-traditional way. Funnily enough, over the last few decades we have seen a huge rise in anti-heroes dominating the box office.

I think we tend to associate more with an anti-heroes like Batman and Deadpool than the likes of Superman and Captain America for instance. Like normal humans, anti-heroes have flaws have flaws too. I for one find it difficult to associate myself at all with superman: He’s too good and unduly righteous. Spawn on the other hand, it’s all about him.

Michael Jai White as the anti-hero, Spawn

He made a deal with the devil all so he could see his wife Wanda again. I won’t go too much more into it, if you haven’t seen it yet (seriously, you need to watch it) but he’s a killer. I wouldn’t even say he’s as subtle as a spy. Just a hit-man for the government. But after he was betrayed, killed and becomes Spawn, he goes about doing his best to fight the forces of darkness with darkness. Let’s not forget the motivator of it all: revenge.

The Violator (the clown) fills this movie with terrible jokes and poor attempts at lightening the film but I feel it comes across as forced. I understand that he is supposed to be rude and crude but there is a limit to how much a normal person can put up with. It’s not until his true form is revealed that there is any real interest in him and you finally get to see why he should be the General of Hell and not Spawn.

Like any of the comic to film renditions, there is always an element of the origin’s story and this is essentially the first hour of the movie. As Spawn thrusts into new scenarios, his armor with seemingly a life of it’s own, evolves further and further in new ways to protect him. The first time I saw this movie and his red cape billowed out got me very excited. It was always a grand thing in the comics. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to red capes, Superman’s got nothing on Spawn.

Let’s be honest though. Compared to the films of today, in terms of CGI, this would rate “C” grade at best. After all, it was 1997 – we’re talking Playstation One era here. Computers were still running slower than a wet week and storage space was more expensive than real space. But to be able to pull off some of the CGI stuff they had with the budget they had, impressed me and has honestly made Spawn (1997) one of my go-to nostalgia films of all times.

As I always try and do, I’ll make mention of the costume and “cosplay” elements of the film. Essentially there wasn’t a lot besides Spawn himself and John Leguizamo wearing a fat man suit and face paint. And for those with a weak stomach, all I can say, is watch for the pizza.

If I was in 1997, I would probably give this a 7/10, falling short due to a limited plot and try-hard jokes in what should have been a semi-serious movie.

Today in 2017, if I was watching this for the first time, I would probably still aim for a 7/10. It still had all the great elements that makes Spawn fun. Some great action and fighting choreography scenes. Bottom line, everyone loves Michael Jai White.

I will certainly be waiting with great anticipation for the new Spawn movie (release date to be confirmed) to come out and show us what can be done, thanks to today’s CGI.

 

~Revan

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