Spawn (1997)

It’s spellbinding how quickly the comic book scene changed in the mid-90s, with Image comics arrival. Bringing a moody yet credible competition to DC and Marvel, This change not only altered the public’s perception of the comic book creators, but of the comic book characters themselves. One of Image comics flagship franchises finally received the Hollywood treatment five years after its inception, a troubling tale of revenge, good vs evil, and other profound topics, in 1997’s Spawn.

For a man whose face got burned off, Simmons doesn’t look too bad.

When crack black ops commando Al Simmons is betrayed and incinerated by his superior, he returns to earth as the disfigured crisp of a man, now pawn in Satan’s army in order to secure this second chance to see his fiancé again. The world he knew has changed, his loving widower has moved on and now he’s trapped in a deal that doesn’t benefit him, with only burning objective… Vengeance.

Why would an covert assassin even wear an outfit like that?

Capturing the titular Spawn is a huge challenge, and Michael Jai White embodies him well, retaining the tortured yet threatening characteristics from Keith David’s future performance as well as the White’s physical presence. John Leguizamo is a shining force here, taking that same comic energy he utilised in The Pest, and providing a jaunty countermelody to the morose Faustian intrigue. He’s almost unrecognisable in his clown getup. Martin Sheen is remarkable as the cigar-chomping corporate commando, and Melinda Clarke feels she stepped straight out of the comic books as, new to the franchise, Jessica Priest.

The Violator is the perfect role to utilise John Leguizamo’s comic energy.

Spawn might be from hell, yet the film’s soundtrack is the proverbial heaven of electronic and alternative rock artists of the era. British hardstyle and techno legends The Prodigy and Orbital, team up with the likes of Tom Morello and Marilyn Manson to deliver a music compilation that’s as aggressive and enjoyable as the studio albums that made them household names.

Martin Sheen, in early auditions for Mass Effect 2’s The Illusive Man.

But the centre of this film is the special effects. It is clear to see that this is where the majority of the attention went to, as the film will find any excuse to bring its C.G.I. prowess to the screen whenever possible. It’s not seamless enough to dominate the movie but is used to complement the more practical effects and overall paint a dark setting for our ‘hero’ to operate in.

those individual hairs must have been tough to animate.

The Spawn story makes for compelling drama, and other acclaimed adaptations have excelled at bringing the tale to life. Yet for a concise origin and a blockbuster that can be enjoyed at any level, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a live-action incarnation that serves as a testament to the character and a testament to the era that spawned him.

It’s hard dating a widower when her dead husband returns and causes a ruckus in your quiet suburban home.

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