Spawn (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

Spawn (1997)



Critic Consensus: Spawn is an overbearing, over-violent film that adds little to the comic book adaptation genre.

Movie Info

Based on the best-selling comic book series -- one of the first to feature an African American hero -- of Canadian artist Todd McFarlane, this dark action-fantasy follows the exploits of the Devil's newest minion, Hell Spawn, or Spawn for short. Before his untimely departure from life, Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) had been a super secret government agent. Deeply in love with his wife Wanda (Theresa Randle), he decides to leave his deadly profession, but first he must complete one last mission. While in North Korea to destroy a biological weapons plant, he is betrayed by his treacherous superior Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen), who blows him up with the plant, after stealing some deadly germ material capable of wiping out humanity. All that remains of Simmons is a horribly burned carcass, his soul and a burning desire to see Wanda and his family one more time. Hearing opportunity's knock, the Devil makes Al an offer: if he will lead Satan's army in a war against heaven for control of the earth, his wish to see his family will be granted. Listening to the promptings of the Horned One's portly minion Clown (John Leguizamo beneath piles of elaborate make-up to make him look fat) Al accepts and becomes the invincible, super powerful Spawn. By the time he returns to the mortal plane five years have passed and his wife is living with her new husband. Spawn burns for revenge against Wynn and is egged on by Clown, but he is also beleaguered by Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson) who tries to persuade Spawn to renege upon his Devil's bargain and join the battle for good. Thus the superhero finds himself torn between revenge and the salvation of his endangered soul. Fans of McFarlane's stories, and the animated HBO series based upon them, are most likely to be pleased by Spawn, as will those who love flashy special effects and stylish production design.more
Rating: PG-13 (For violence and crude humor.)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Horror, Animation, Mystery & Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: ,
Written By: Alan McElroy, Alan B. McElroy, Mark A.Z. Dippé
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 22, 1998
New Line Home Entertainment


Michael Jai White
as Al Simmons/Spawn
Martin Sheen
as Jason Wynn
Melinda Clarke
as Jessica Priest
Nicol Williamson
as Cogliostro
D.B. Sweeney
as Terry Fitzgerald
Frank Welker
as Malebolgia
Robia La Morte
as XNN Reporter
John Cothran Jr.
as African Liaison
Caroline Gibson
as News Anchor
Tony Haney
as African Liaison
Darryl Warren
as Security Guard
Mike Akrawi
as Foreign Dignitary
Romeo Akrawi
as Foreign Dignitary
Garrison Singer
as Anesthesiologist
Todd McFarlane
as Alley Bum
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Spawn

Critic Reviews for Spawn

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (10)

The film gives you the pleasurably junky sensation of living inside an apocalyptic videogame.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

A moodily malevolent, anything-goes revenge fantasy that relies more upon special visual and digitally animated effects for its intended appeal than any comics-derived sci-fier to date.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

This hopelessly redundant action gross-out aspires to a form of hip vacuousness -- and may achieve it.

Full Review… | April 26, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Dippé, an old SFX hand, needs to think about how to tell a story.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The nonsensical screenplay can barely stand-up to the hellzapoppin,' Beelzebubbin' effects mustered by first-time director Mark Dippe.

Full Review… | January 22, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic

... a nonstop bombardment that recalls Judge Dredd, but with better diction.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Spawn


Ah Spawn, we all know and love this McFarlane creation don't we. The ex-assassin back from the dead as a demonic hellspawn (from hell) armed to the teeth with weapons and with a living suit that is able to metamorphosis into virtually anything that is required at any given moment...handy. His world is dangerous, dark, grimy, violent, savage, chaotic, vicious and bloodthirsty. He has battled thugs, drug dealers, pedophiles, murderers, the KKK and various creatures from the bowels of hell.

If there is any comicbook character that is definitely not for young kids then this is it. Could this comicbook character be anymore badass? the material screams out for a solid ultra violent adult movie adaptation. How could anyone even consider the notion of making a PG-13 out of this graphic splatter fest! ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!..bahaha!..haha...hehe...ahem...oh.

I quite liked this despite many problems with the movie. Unfortunately this characters outing has aged badly showing some horrendous early CGI effects which will shock you. The visuals are generally decent at times, like the comic its very dark, gothic and grim, but its also very obviously filmed on sets and looks a bit fake. Sure the cold night rain comes down in sheets whilst the mist swirls as Spawn leaps around in his fantastic looking living suit...but you need more than that. The other fantasy based creatures are also well created, Clown especially...very dark, humorous and quite chilling. Leguizamo played him brilliantly swinging from reasonably placid too nasty, vicious and perverted in the bat of an eyelid. Best thing about the film easily, kudos.

The Violator is also pretty cool looking in a life size model form yet like a lot of the film the CGI version is pretty lame and ruins it. CGI is a problem with this film as its drenched in it, almost everything is CGI and frankly not much is any good. Jesus Christ even the opening credits are rendered in hokey-ass looking CGI! you can tell back in 97 CGI was the new toy.

On the whole the CGI ranges from excellent on Spawns cape, to poor videogame type visuals on most other things. Hell being the worst with a terrible looking Malebolgia and very plain unexciting looking backdrops, it looks like a student created it at home. The whole thing is very amateurish looking these days it really is, heck even back in the day it didn't come across that well. What's laughable if you look closely is all the legions of Hellspawns are clearly on some kind of animated loop as they all do the same action in the background! Its so obviously the same actor replicated a gazillion times, seriously poor.

The best CGI is probably the work done on Spawn's mask, apart from his cape that is. The small sequences where we see his living suit/mask slide and form over his burnt face is still pretty slick even to this day. Sure his eyes look a bit too big and green but on the whole his mask does look the business. The fact its wet really gives it a living vibe, as though its pulsating, its one of things that does work in this movie.

The acting is hammy with a slight serious edge, but in general its very cheesy. Sheen chews up the scenery and seems to enjoy himself whilst Jai White seems to be going for broke possibly after more comicbook roles. Clearly not expecting much here but this is suppose to be a dark violent franchise, lets try and be somewhat realistic and less camp huh. This film yearns to be harder and more violent (like the comic, what a waste), it is dark brooding and Crow-like for sure but its so watered down its quite painful.

Despite that there is this uneasy feeling throughout where you're not too sure which way the film wants to go. Is it really for a wider audience? is it maybe more for adults? certain scenes seem quite risky and close to the bone but then at the same time its all so docile with no real visible violence or blood, realistic or otherwise. It gives the film an unbalanced feel because its lost somewhere in the middle which will leave both sides of the equation not enjoying the film. Like other similar comicbook franchises they must decide which way they wanna take it, its gotta be for kids or not, simple as that.

Despite that it does have a certain charm which appeals to me, its dark Batman-esque world with hellish creatures and brooding anti heroes still manages to be enjoyable. Spawn being a very likeable character, Wynn is also suitably creepy and Bishop is changed to a female for some reason but pretty hot with some nice gun/blade action. Add some relatively decent action sequences which are kinda fun in a tame kinda way and you can almost get some enjoyment outta this. At least there's a solid thumping soundtrack to be had.

I still wonder what could of been, what it could of achieved had it been made for adults as it should of been. Visually its pleasing if you like this kind of thing (in general), there is just enough comicbook sleaze here to get your teeth into and it still beats 'Ghost Rider' any day of the week.

Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

three stars!

MisterYoda ?

Super Reviewer

Mark A.Z. Dippe goes down the dark path with Spawn.This 90 film isn't without its share of flaws, as some of the plot details are vague. There are pieces that could do with a little more elaboration; however, there is enough detail to make sense of the story and follow. The film has a dark style to it, which leaves the film more gloomy in nature, but this is how it should be.The usage of effects and green screen is obvious, although it is satisfactory for its time. The action also has its moments thanks to the powers of Spawn.Michael Jai White may be Spawn, but this film belongs to John Leguizamo. He ends up as the perfect fit for the Violator and his consistent use of "black" humor. Martin Sheen steps in with a solid performance. Theresa Randle is too monotone until the very end.Spawn does have room for improvement, but for what it is, it is a solid 90 minute watch.

JY Skacto

Super Reviewer

Spawn Quotes

– Submitted by Max Z (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Nick S (3 years ago)

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