Sunday, October 16, 2016

Trash Bin: SPAWN

Welcome to another installment of the TRASH BIN, where we watch the worst movies Hollywood has to offer, according to the critics, and give you our thoughts, good or bad. Over the course of this month we’ve been talking a lot of horror, and earlier this month we had a Trash Bin on a different horror film. This week, we’re going to superhero horror with the abomination of a film...SPAWN.

Spawn is the 1997 bringing to the big-screen of the 1990s Seth McFarlane comic book anti-hero Spawn. This film is about an assassin/soldier who gets burned to death, sent to hell, and turned into a hell-spawn who chooses to be an antihero using his powers to get revenge and help stop nefarious plans afoot in the film. This film was directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé. It stars Michael Jai White as Spawn and features John Leguizamo, Martin Sheen, Theresa Randle, Nicol Williamson, D.B. Sweeney, and Melinda Clarke in supporting roles. My description of this film as an abomination was not in jest, it is terrible.

There is really not much this film does right. There are a couple shots where we see Spawn in full costume which, as a casual fan, was cool to see. Martin Sheen has a couple well delivered lines. The fact they brought a character as bold as Spawn to screen is impressive? I’m really stretching here.

Now, for negatives… those are aplenty. The biggest negative (because it permeates the entirety of the film) are the horrifyingly bad visual effects. For the time these were probably bold and interesting (as Roger Ebert seemed to think) but they were very much in the early period of computer effects and they look terrible. Dippé is well known in the special effects world (especially in early computer effects) with the outstanding work he did in the visual effects departments on Jurassic Park and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Instead of using the computer visuals that were limited at the time to specific things and doing them expertly, he took his knowledge and power as the director to go whole hog and use tonnes of computer effects throughout this film. The sheer volume coupled with the limitations of the time lead to a film filled to the brim with awful and totally unrealistic shots that take you totally out of it and make the dark disturbing story that Spawn should have into something laughable.

Yes, this is a real shot from the movie. And the movement is as bad as you think it would be.

In addition to the laughably bad visuals, it has laughably bad performances. They are all over the top and lack any of the emotional depth they seek to convey. Many of the supporting performances are very bland and uninteresting and the lead performances are painful in their own ways. White is consistently overacting things through his prosthesis throughout and we lose the emotional layers in the character due to the general over-the-top-ness of it all. Martin Sheen has a good moment or two, but is mostly a moustache twirling villain (even if he isn’t the films main antagonist). And then there is John Leguizamo as the Clown (or SPOILERS the Violator). This is the most ridiculous performance in this film and it was on-screen torture for me every moment he was there until the very end of the film. He’s a clown so he’s creepy to begin with, but then he adds performance layers to it that just don’t fit with that image or the overall demonic aesthetic of the film. His performance elicited several eye-rolls and when he SPOILERS ends up serving as a main villain in the film it became extremely, extremely frustrating to see. This is one of the worst performances in a superhero movie and just put me well off from the film.

Finally, this film just fails at the basic task of being an interesting film or good adaptation of the original material. The basic plotline really centers around this emotional drama that we couldn’t connect with because of the bad acting and the film failed to incorporate the badassery that was Spawn in the comic books. The film has action scenes it certainly thinks are cool, but as a viewer they most definitely weren’t. We didn’t see him wasting fools in an interesting way or doing anything interesting at all. This is the most grievous failure for a film and it is definitely committed in Spawn.

This is definitely an interesting historical artifact and it’s easy to see where people might have thought the comic book movie genre would die in the late 1990s. This film is a black mark on the genre to be sure (and on Spawn for that matter, unfortunately). If you want to watch this for posterity, go for it. Just be ready for terrible visuals, potentially even worse acting, and the total failure to be interesting and/or a good adaptation of any of the source material. I really don’t like this film and it deserves to be in the Trash Bin.


Rotten Tomatoes: 19%
Metacritic: 34
Roger Ebert: 3.5/4
IMDb: 5.2/10


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