(br) wrote: "Spawn" works well on paper and an animated movie might have even worked too, but this live-action action attempt is a total catastrophe. The film stars Michael Jai White as Al Simmons, a military soldier/assassin who is betrayed by his boss (Martin Sheen as Jason Wynn). Shot, badly burned and finally murdered, Al descends to Hell. There he is confronted by the lord of Hell, Malebolgia (voice by Frank Welker). Al makes a deal: in exchange for another chance to see his wife and revenge from the man who betrayed him, he will lead the armies of Hell to the gates of Heaven. He wakes up confused, disoriented and alive, but 5 years have passed since his death. His wife Wanda is now married to his best friend and the two of them are happy as can be with their young daughter. Al encounters a strange clown-like demon named The Violator (John Leguizamo) who acts as his guide, helping "Spawn" master his new abilities, which include enhanced strength, agility, healing and a living costume that allows him to fly, generate weapons and defend himself against his adversaries. What Spawn doesn't realize is that his quest for revenge will also spell doom for mankind. Wynn has connected himself to a doomsday device that will unleash a devastating plague onto the world if he is killed. Can Spawn let go of his rage and rebel against the forces of Hell to become the hero mankind needs?There is very little that actually works in the film. The performances are fine, but the characters that the actors are given aren't compelling to watch. Spawn feels like a watered-down anti-hero, killing people without remorse at the beginning of the story but turning into a real wimp as the film progresses. One scene he's snapping necks and blowing up airplanes without a second thought but later he's all worried about a little homeless boy that's clinging onto his cape and brooding about his lost dog. Spawn never feels like the awesome superhero he could be because his character is so wishy-washy that anything original about his personality is inconsistent. When it comes to the villains, they're not much better. You have to be pretty far off the deep end to make a deal with the devil to take over the world, but Wynn never really shows enthusiasm or any kind of feelings towards what's going on. The whole "evil Satanist" thing might have been done to death but some kind of back story besides "he's evil" would have brought some logic into this whole apocalyptic scenario. A big loser too is John Leguizamo as The Violator. His dialogue is entirely composed of old jokes, sexual innuendos or movie quotes. He's never funny and never disturbing either. His character is a creepy clown, which should be unsettling but he's going around farting loudly, dressing up like a cheerleader and making the audience groan so much you'll just wish he was axed out of the movie immediately as soon as he shows up. I almost forgot to mention Spawn's ally, and old man named Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson) who basically just goes around dispensing exposition and helps move the plot from scene to scene. He doesn't really have a character and is pretty much unnecessary. There are three other factors that cripple the film, the first is the rating. This movie was originally made to be PG-13. If you've read the comics this film is based on, you know this is a colossal mistake. Why is a movie about an assassin who comes back as a demon from hell be rated PG-13? Not only does it Nerf the violence and the potential for disturbing imagery, it results in really bad dialogue that does not feel natural at all. The best example is The Violator himself, who is going around making crass jokes but ends up talking about his "buttocks" instead of "ass" and that sort of thing. Even watching the R-Rated cut of the film it felt like his character's dialogue was censored and the writer tried to find clever ways to work around swears and genuinely lewd dialogue but couldn't. I can't imagine what the PG-13 cut would have been like. The rating turns what is actually a pretty cool character into one that feels incredibly generic because every single element that is original is watered down. It feels like they had a character that was meant solely for adults and they made him into one that would appeal to the kiddies. For proof, look no further than a horribly out-of-character moment where Spawn morphs his hands into suction cups and yells "ah yeah!" Did I mention, that this is a movie where people get violently gunned down... and there is no blood, ever?Another aspect that really hurts the film is the special effects. They are incredibly dated. They look like cut scenes from a video game, like Playstation 1 era graphics. I'm not even joking either. Malebolgia looks awful and the scenes where the characters are going through hell are pathetic. If you're not crying over how badly butchered this property is, you'll be laughing out loud. I can't stress enough how bad the scenes in Hell look. It's traumatic! The backgrounds are muddy, the hell-dwellers are stiff and unconvincing, and moving with no weight whatsoever. The live-action characters are so obviously green-screened in that it is embarrassing. It all points to a character that had no business being made into a live-action movie. Spawn's cape really doesn't fit in a world that isn't animated. His cape is supposed to be alive, constantly moving and incredibly huge. On a real set there's no way they could do that with practical effects so they have to resort to CGI, which doesn't look good and worse, almost never appears. If you've seen Todd McFarlane's artwork, you can see why the film looks so clunky. His characters were never meant to live outside of a world that wasn't stylized and drawn by hand. Compare this film to the HBO animated series and it's night and day. It all points to a film that was doomed from the start. Popular enough to get a studio's attention, but without enough lasting power to stay relevant enough for the studio to give it a really big budget required, or to last until the technology became cheap and easy to do. "Spawn" suffers more, above all else, from being there at the wrong place, at the wrong time. I want to say that the film suffers because of a low budget, or technological limitations, but I don't think that's the case. This was released in 1997, four years after "Jurassic Park" and with a $40 million budget, $20 million less than that film. What's the excuse?Those elements are technical, but if you're a fan of film you know that a good story can more than make up for the limitations presented to the cast and crew. Unfortunately, the screenplay here is weak. You've basically got yourself a watered-down version of the origin from the comics, rushed through with clunky exposition courtesy of Cogliostro and the Violator and blended with a generic superhero story origin. Other than the visually distinct characters and the obvious flaws, there's just nothing that stands out. We get your standard evil bad guy, the hero that doesn't want to be a hero but eventually accepts his role and the woman being taken hostage, the adorable kid sidekick that brings out the best in an otherwise dark character... you get the drill. Within this, things just happen without any decent explanation. Take a scene where Spawn grabs guns and other weapons to confront the villain. I get that he's an ex-military type, but why risk getting caught stealing and exposing yourself when you have the ability to regenerate pretty much any wound, your costume grants you the ability to fly and you can turn your limbs into weapons? There's no reason for Spawn to be scared of anyone, so why does he still act like he's vulnerable? A pet peeve I have to bring up as well is that Spawn constantly takes off his mask. His burnt-up face looks like Freddy Krueger, so you would think he'd like to cover that up with his cool mask, but maybe those effects were too expensive for the film or actor Michael Jai White insisted on having his face on-screen for the majority of the movie. I will grant "Spawn" that there is one scene that looks pretty good. It's towards the end when spawn is fighting the demonic form of the violator. It's a series of relatively short scenes but practical effects are used instead of the CGI and it gives you a glimpse of what the film could have been. It's faint praise, yes, but I've been giving you the bad so you deserve to hear the good as well.If you're a fan of the character, you'll find this is a watered down version that has none of the visual style of the comics. Spawn is supposed to be a dark character but you wouldn't get that from this movie. The film is a chore to sit through because there are so many bad things with it. You'll breathe a sigh of relief as the action begins because that's way more interesting than seeing the ridiculous villain explain what his plot is. As soon as the action begins, however, you're reminded of how much better this movie would be if it was rated R and had some genuinely exciting action. It keeps on rotating between these flaws like a crappy carousel: bad special effects, boring plot, bland characters, unfunny jokes, dull action and then back again to the bad special effects. It kind of becomes heartbreaking because you know this was just a blatant cash grab. Someone saw that the rights to make a spawn movie weren't taken and figured it was the new hot thing, they could throw a small budget at it, make it rated PG-13 so the kids could run in, spend all their money, sell some merchandise and didn't care that after a couple of months, the movie would be completely forgotten. If you see "Spawn" you'll wish you could forget it too. It's a dated, unmemorable cash-grab that is embarrassing to watch. (R-Rated Cut On Dvd, November 8, 2013)
(jp) wrote: a solid british gangster movie, 'inspired' by true events, the rettendon range rover murders, as is 'rise of the footsoldier' and 'bonded by blood' 2 much better movies, but this movie while staying quite close to how the actual murder came to be, does it's own thing, and is quite a bit of fiction, but it remains an enjoyabe gritty, voilent, and thrilling movie, and is definatly recommended, jus dont expect to see the definative version of events, but as a stand alone british thriller, essex boys delivers.