1997, Movie, PG-13, 96 mins


A vision of Hell as a high-end video game, trying to force viewers to take seriously a convoluted backstory whose apocalyptic gobbledygook is nothing more than an excuse for antihero Spawn to blast various adversaries out of their shoes. Professional assassin Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) is murdered by his boss, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen), a madman with a covert plan for world domination who, on top of all that, is in league with the Devil. Fool that he is, Wynn doesn't realize the Prince of Lies has his own plans for Simmons, whom he resurrects in hopes that Simmons/Spawn will lead his diabolical minions in an all-out assault on Heaven. But Spawn is torn between two mentors: Satan's Snidely Lardass emissary Clown (John Leguizamo) and centuries-old sorcerer Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson), who represents the path of righteousness. For all its state-of-the-art effects, the film feels deeply derivative, from the thrash score to the faux goth decor: Imagine THE CROW without the darkly soulful presence of Brandon Lee, or MORTAL KOMBAT steeped in Western, rather than Eastern, pop mysticism. The film's most seasoned performers, Sheen and Williamson, deliver ludicrously overwrought performances -- Williamson's opening voice-over narration is unintentionally hilarious -- while most of the rest of the cast suffocates beneath mountains of special-effects makeup. Todd McFarlane's Spawn plays better on the page, but the adolescents of all ages who buy Spawn comics will probably enjoy the movie. Others should consider themselves forewarned. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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Savage Spawn: Reflections on Violent Children (Library of Contemporary Thought)
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