Jack’s Bad Movies: Spawn (1997)

IMDB’s description:

An elite mercenary is killed, but comes back from Hell as a reluctant soldier of the Devil.

If you ever wanted to see the proceeds of Hollywood Junket promotions, look no further than those quotes.

The opening monologue is terrible.

The battle between Heaven and Hell has waged eternal, their armies fueled by souls harvested on Earth. The devil, Malebolgia, has sent a lieutenant to Earth to recruit men who will turn the world into a place of death in exchange for wealth and power, a place that will provide enough souls to complete his army and allow Armageddon to begin. All the Dark Lord needs now is a great soldier, someone who can lead his hordes to the gates of Heaven and burn them down.

The movie starts with a man busting into an air base in Hong Kong. As he enters the room he kicks a dude in the face, and then uses a suppressed weapon to shoot all the equipment and other people. I feel like a real assassin would have just led with the gun. Anyways, the assassin uses a super complicated method to blow up some people getting off a plane using magic technology and a rocket.

The opening credits are terrible.

People love just watching a vortex tunnel with images no one can identify and difficult to read credits. That’s the magic of Hollywood.

Before he was president, Martin Sheen ran A-6, whatever that is, and killed people for money and sport. And yet he answers to some hideous clown man (John Leguizamo). Sheen is the clown’s puppet man on Earth, and now he must sacrifice his best assassin, Al Simmons, the very man who assaulted the base in the opening scene.

So Al’s wife Wanda (Theresa Randle) wants him back for dinner, which she says twice, but not to Al (Michael Jai White), but his buddy (D.B. Sweeney), and this guarantees it isn’t going to happen. His partner is all on his case about him killing innocent civilians. The guy is an assassin for hire, just how high does his friend think his moral compass goes? They head to the office and it is no surprise they work for Sheen. Al says he wants out, but he has 1 last mission. Al Simmons apparently have never seen an action movie, or he would know this is when his employer says that he has one last mission, that means he is setting him up to be killed. Also, Al must suffer from some crazy jet lag, yesterday he was in Hong Kong, now back in the US, and now flying to North Korea tonight. He must be loving his frequent flyer points though.

In North Koraea, Al is sneaking around a military base, and knocks a gun out of a guard’s hand. Does the guard immediately sound the alarm? Of course not, instead he pulls a knife so he and Al can have a nice quiet fight until he loses. Hey, what a surprise, it’s a setup by his boss. Sheen and his lady friend burn Al and leave him to die in an explosion.

Suddenly Al seems to be dropped out of air into a slum, which I guess we’ll assume is Hell and not just a bad part of town. There is a Trench-coat man (Nicol Williamson) in the alley, and he has some kind of green hue around him. Oh Al isn’t in hell, it really is just a slum, but apparently in America. Voice-over guy says it is five years later, also voice over guy is Trench-coat man, he keeps spying on Al, so he probably knows. Completely scarred and disfigured, Al aimless wanders around harassing people until he finally arrives at his home to see his old friend now with his wife, and that freak clown playing at her party. Al begs Wanda for cash like the hobo that he is (not really, but close enough), but the clown man drags him off. Clownie tries to explain to Al that he’s been dead and everything, but Al can’t remember, so the clown gives him a fart-induced flashback.

The footage in Hell is terrible.

The flashback has some pretty bad graphics for 1997 and his deal with the Devil is literally “if you lead my army you can see Wanda again.” A deal which the Devil’s side has already been satisfied because he saw Wanda at the party. Also the Devil is a giant poorly rendered dog. Clown guy couldn’t be more annoying if they had cast Rob Schneider in the role. The farting really endears this character to the audience though, so that’s a win. The sad part is John Leguizamo as the clown by far delivers the best performance. Clown guy teleports Al around and Al gets to have his “nice night for a walk” moment with three punks in the cemetery after digging up his own grave. Seeing his old locket is apparently what he needs to finally realize he might have really died.

Right after clown guy disappears Trench-coat guy shows up and reveals like 1 more word of information about himself. At this rate it will probably only take 500 more encounters for Al to know what this guy wants from him. Also thus far nothing he has said to Spawn is important.

Al decides the best use for his new found powers is to go kill his old boss. This is good because anger seems to enhance his powers. Like a randomly appearing and disappearing cloak. But all these new powers are nothing compared to conventional weapons, so he loads up on those. Maybe Al doesn’t care about collateral damage as much as we were led to believe, because he waits for his target to go to a huge party before attacking. Then a pointless fight scene plays out, in which we learn that Al’s bio-suit has a number of adaptive powers that he seems to have no control over. At one point his cloak hides him from the cops, pretty useful, until two seconds later when it stops hiding him, and he reveals his position again. Eventually he flies off to lament how bad a fighter he is despite all these advantages. Then he stalks Wanda some more.

The constant Spawn cape screen wipes are terrible.

Clown guy wants to lead the army, but he can’t, possibly because the Devil’s graphics are so poor in quality. Al again proves how evil he is by stealing Wanda’s dog. Back in the slums, Al has a long drawn out fight with the clown and loses. Tench-coat man shows up and tells him you just need to concentrate and the suit can do whatever you what. He gives Spawn like 2 minutes of training, and then once again pitched his idea that Spawn fight on God’s side. Then he leaves.

Then Spawm fights the clown again. I can’t tell if he won this time, because the truck the clown was driving exploded. I guess not though because Sheen is at Wanda’s house and Clownie shows up there. And they trick Spawn into thinking his wife is dead, and he still doesn’t kill Sheen. Spawn then uses magic glowing eyes to remove the pace maker that Sheen had installed that upon his death would cause his bio-weapon to be unleashed. I would think the Devil would take away his super powers at this point, but I guess not.

Clownie fights and defeats Spawn again (like always), then Trench-coat guy saves him, then they both fight the Clown in Hell.

The fight scene in Hell is terrible.

This is the fourth fight with Spawn vs the Clown, and it is the worst one. All the scenes in Hell are so terrible, you wonder how ILM put their name to this. Remember this is post Jurassic Park, there is no excuse for this. Spawn finally wins a fight against Clownie, and then the Devil orders Hell’s army to kill Spawn. Hell’s army seems to be many many spawns, and yet, Spawn Prime (or whatever) is able to kill them all with green energy eyes. The Devil says he will never escape him, why can’t he just take back his powers? We don’t know.

Everyone is all happy and alive back at home, and surprise, the clown comes back for a fifth fight! But Spawn has learned the clown’s weakness, which is a whole bunch of spikes to the face and he defeats the clown once and for all. Except, then the gooey remains slither back to Hell, so he never really can beat it I think. The end.

I remember watching this movie in the theater 20 years ago as a teenager and having a generally positive feeling about the movie. And yet I’ve never had any desire to ever watch the movie again (until now). This from someone who watched Steel at least twice. This movie was painful to watch, as mentioned before the best performance of the movie was from John Leguizamo who played the least likable character. All the rest were played over the top or had painful dialogue. Maybe with only 1989’s Batman to compare it to, this movie wasn’t so bad in the 90s, but a post X-Men / MCU world shows this to be the laughably bad comic adaptation that it is.


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