Spawn

on August 01, 1997 by Karen Achenbach
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   "Spawn" opens with a spectacular sequence that creates a living comic book like no other, and issues a warning: All roads lead to heaven or hell, depending on ones' choice; life is the test. Twisted between his own slowly remembered nature and the fantastic powers of the Devil Malebolgia is black superhero Spawn, played by Michael Jai White ("City of Industry"). Once human, now a creature born from hell to do its bidding, Spawn can't be what he was (human) yet can't be what he was created to be (evil).
   "Spawn" is the feature version of a mega-successful comic book series (also called "Spawn") created by writer/artist Todd McFarlane. The screen "Spawn" terrorizes its namesake/hero less than the comic series (a rough cut was edited after getting an R rating for pervasive violent content and menace), slows down some character revelations and is less literal a translation than an HBO series. Yet it delivers a satisfying rendition of the comic's essence, as supernaturals battle to destroy or protect mortals.
   The movie belongs to Jai White, whose eyes, voice and movements lock the audience into his heart and struggle. Playing Clown, an agent of the Devil, John Leguizamo ("Romeo and Juliet") delights by delivering wickedly funny lines throughout and moving nimbly despite a heavy costume. A Dippe Goldman Williams production, "Spawn" uses 375 visual effects shots to create a dark and complex world. Those effects are well integrated and cleverly active; the best, if too sparingly used, is Spawn in the kinetic red cape of his full costume. Also good are church and city sets. What's missing are pieces of story logic and a clear climax, but perhaps the latter holds promise of more to come. Starring Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, Theresa Randle, D.B. Sweeney and Martin Sheen. Directed by Mark A.Z. Dippe. Written by Alan McElroy. Produced by Clint Goldman. A New Line release. SF/action. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements involving the demonic underworld, violence, intense fantasy action and crude humor. Running time: 95 min
Tags: Starring Michael Jai White, John Leguizamo, Theresa Randle, D.B. Sweeney and Martin Sheen. Directed by Mark A.Z. Dippe, Written by Alan McElroy, Produced by Clint Goldman, New Line, SF action
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