I'd argue there's potential for this property to tell a fairly sophisticated, R-rated superhero tale a la "The Crow" or "Darkman"...but it's clear from "Spawn's" opening montage that the film has been incoherently edited to meet a 90 minute runtime, and its violence neutered for a PG-13 rating. Still, the film is not without its pleasures for those who spent the 90's drinking Big Gulps and browsing comic book stores.
So ludicrously badly made it's almost Brechtian. Every angle, every shot, every cut, every line of dialogue is sh*t. It's like some kind of memetic post-internet video art. It boggles the mind, really, to pull off something like this. I hear one third of the budget went into the special effects, which look like something out of Realms of the Haunting, which was a butt-ugly game even in 1997.
It doesn't nearly capture the sharp visual style of Todd McFarlane's drawings. I will say it feels more like an experimental film, certainly this was the first "dark superhero" flick aside from the Batman movies. But it feels so uneven, ranging from terrible one liners to intriguing special effects, it doesn't find a middle-ground. Its script and direction seem hashed together to create a sorta cinematic experience.
I saw a sneak preview of this in 1997 and thought it was shit then. Not sure why I thought watching it 16 years later would help. Anything positive Spawn had going for it was put towards its now badly-executed special effects and nothing else. This movie has quite possibly the words titles I've seen in my entire life. But for as awful as Spawn is, for some reason I always watch it when its on cable.
Uh, these effects aren't very special, Beavis. Man, just re-watched this for the first time since it came out. I'm not sure why I did; it's as awful as I remember. Looks like it was made for $40 on someone's shitty PC; even by 1997 standards, it looks bad. Aside from John Leguizamo and poor Nicol Williamson (I wonder how drunk he was on set), everyone is a cypher. Just plain bad...