Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Retro Video Review # 1: "Spawn"

One of the great things about my bedroom "entertainment centre" (TM.1997), is that for the first time in many years, I have a VCR! I actually gave about 100 videos to charity shops about a year ago, but I did keep hold of a few essential titles. Videos are so cheap these days, that I will also be picking up a few more classics as I travel along life's highway over the next few weeks and months...

So I thought, "hey, why not give each of my newly watched videos a very short review? So here goes... Spawn was one of the first comic cross-over films I can remember (after Christopher Reeve's 'Superman' and Tim Burton's 'Batman'. Pre-dating the celluloid reinvention of X Men, Spiderman, Hulk, Daredevil et al, Spawn represents a darker side of the comic-film crossover. Whilst Hellboy might flirt a little with the 'anti-hero' persona, Spawn did it first and IMHO, did it better.

To do an ultra-quick synopsis, Spawn is the story of a war between the forces of heaven and hell, with our hero recruited for the dark side. Of course the hero wasn't always a servant of Beelzebub, but was once 'special ops.' agent Al Simmons (Michael Jai White). Simmons is unfortunately betrayed by his squad's colonel and fried to a crisp. Once suitably dead charred and hideous, (plus losing his wife to trusted colleague Terry Fitzgerald (J.B. Sweeney) he is drawn into Hell's army by the Clown/Violator (John Leguizamo). For the rest of the movie our protagonist has to wrestle back the humanity of Simmons from the clutches of the ethereal Spawn, by making suitable moral choices, not letting off a deadly virus (and then wasting people in a variety of ways!)

There is also a fine performance by Martin Sheen, as duplicitous squad leader Jason Wynn, the ultimate incarnation of "the man". 100% bastard, Wynn has made a hellish pact with the Clown, who is playing him against Spawn in the hopes that he himself will get to lead Satans army. Confused? So you should be, LOL!

"Wanna see some puppies?"

As a character Spawn is way cool! He is a dark superhero with an 'ectoplasmic skeleton' which can shapeshift in a handy a variety of ways, and he has a propensity for manifesting chains, barbs and hooks from various parts of his body, which then stick into various parts of other people's bodies...

But Clown's character is where the movie is really at... Obnoxiously humorous and very disgusting, Clown stops Spawn form degenerating into a shmaltzy 'good vs. evil' morality tale (although there is a depressing amount of 'cute puppy/saving orphans' sub-plots in the movie.
Watching the film again with fresh eyes, I did wonder whether Mike Myers had used some of Clown's character traits for Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers films...

Overall a total winner. Pick yourself a VCR and some old tapes for peanuts... Video cassettes are the new vinyl!
FK Verdict 8/10

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