In 1997, there were two adaptations of Spawn, one was an excellent animated series that aired on HBO, and the other was the live-action movie, which was rather mediocre.
The film does at least follow the basic premise of the comics, but one of the biggest flaws that cripples the movie is the watered down tone. The movie was created to appeal to the young Spawn fanbase at the time, but seeing that the comics dealt with an assassin returning from Hell, the movie should have been a hard R attempt.
The writing itself is pretty scattershot, and not all that great, despite promising concepts that mostly originate from the comics themselves. The plot is also a simple revenge fantasy film a la The Crow, but not as good.
Michael Jai White is alright as Al Simmons/Spawn. He has given far better performances later on in his career, but he is an ideal casting choice for the character, though he doesn't get much to do beyond grimacing throughout most of the movie.
The actor who steals the show is John Leguizamo as Clown/Violator. He's appropriately vulgar with a grotesque sense of humor, much like his comic book counterpart.
The rest of the cast is pretty forgettable due to the thin characterizations. The worst being Martin Sheen as Jason Wynn, who portrays the character as a rather dumb one-dimensional villain.
On a spectacle level, the movie is also very middle of the road. The visuals vary greatly in quality. You have some excellent makeup and practical FX such as Spawn's costume and Violator (both when he's the clown and when he's the demon), but you also have some very awful use of CGI, such as the scenes with Malebolgia (the comics and film's depiction of The Devil) and his world.
Part of me really enjoys this film, but the other part of me feels like this could have been a much better movie. It didn't help that this movie was also released in the same era as comic book movies like Batman & Robin and Judge Dredd, which were disasters.
It's a morbid curiosity for anyone nostalgic over the character and the 90s in general, but also a film that has aged poorly and doesn't live up to the material it came from.
This should never have been released worldwide with the end result this film is. Carrying the accolade of the first comic book film with an African American lead, it should be ultimately ashamed of how bad this actually is. The intention is clear but with one horrific script and even worse CGI this is best forgotten.