[Screen It]


(1997) (Michael Jai White, Martin Sheen) (PG-13)

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Action/Adventure: A murdered employee returns in the form of a super hero to avenge his death.
Al Simmons (MICHAEL JAI WHITE) and Terry Fitzgerald (D.B. SWEENEY) are mercenary agents who work for A6, a secret agency responsible for making political hits. Al's had enough killing, though, and wants out, but his boss, Jason Wynn (MARTIN SHEEN), isn't willing to let him go. Instead, he and sultry accomplice Jessica Priest (MINDY CLARKE) kill Al in a fiery explosion. This is to fulfill Wynn's deal with The Violator (JOHN LEGUIZAMO), a demonic agent working for the Devil himself who needs one soldier to lead Hell-bound souls to storm the gates of Heaven. Al finds himself the unwilling choice for that and returns five years later, a burned hulk of a man with a special skin that can turn into spiked armor and a fluid, ever-changing cape. Learning that Wynn was responsible for his death and that Terry has married Wanda (THERESA RANDLE), his former wife, the newly named Spawn seeks revenge upon Wynn. Count Cogliostro (NICOL WILLIAMSON), an otherworldly agent for what's good and moral, tries to talk Al out of doing this. That's good because Wynn has rigged his heart with a detonator linked to "Heat 16," a worldwide biological weapon that will be set off, killing everyone on Earth, should Wynn's heart stop beating. This would obviously please the Violator and the Devil as their army of souls would grow larger. Thus Spawn must deal with his rage toward Wynn, the Violator, and toward having lost his wife to his former partner.
If they're fans of the original comic book, the animated series seen on MTV, or are adolescent males, they probably will.
For thematic elements involving the demonic underworld, violence, intense fantasy action and crude humor. This movie was edited for re-rating to lose its original "R" rating.
  • MICHAEL JAI WHITE plays the former mercenary who's killed and then returns seeking revenge on those responsible for his death. While he does show some compassion, he probably isn't a great role model in most parents' eyes.
  • MARTIN SHEEN plays a power hungry, corporate-type agent who kills Al and threatens the entire world's population.
  • JOHN LEGUIZAMO plays the demon agent who has some funny lines and moments, but whose intentions are never good and thus isn't a good role model.


    OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
    Based on the original Todd McFarlane comic (which was then adapted into an animated series on HBO), "Spawn" is a wildly inventive, eye-popping spectacle that's better than most recent big screen comic book adaptions. Literally borrowing from the visual style of Sam Raimi (the director of "Darkman"), first-time director Mark A.Z. Dippé has created a feature that's never boring to watch and has an MTV feel to it — obviously aimed at that core adolescent male audience. While the story occasionally gets sidetracked and has the traditional comic book feel to it, the uniqueness of the film overcomes those problems. Much like the Bruce Wayne character in the "Batman" series, we don't get to see much of the human side of this super hero. Instead we see him as the reincarnated Spawn which in itself isn't such a bad thing. Teaming with rage and equipped with a layer of flesh that can turn into armor, and possessing a cape with outrageous properties, Spawn is always fun to watch, especially when he begins to learn of his special powers and unique thought-controlled "costume." Equally fun to watch is John Leguizamo who more than makes up for his disastrous recent film, "The Pest." Unrecognizable in heavy clown makeup and short stature, he's given the film's best dialogue, much of which is often very funny. Sheen is adequate as the villain, though the best moment with him comes when a line of dialogue refers to an "apocalypse now" (the 1970's Vietnam movie in which he starred). He's fallen a long way since then, but hey, everyone's got to make a living and Hollywood loves to regurgitate former leading men as villains (see the careers of Donald Sutherland and James Caan, etc..). While the plot often seems convoluted, unwieldy and loses momentum at times, that won't be a problem with the fans of the series who will eat this feature up. For the rest of the audience, it's a toss up as to whether this film will be accepted by them better than other recent "second tier" comic book adaptions. Despite its occasional problems, we liked "Spawn" well enough to give it a 6.5 out of 10.
    Violence and a focus on demonic doings are probably the biggest issues of concern for parents with this movie. Many people are killed, but most of that violence is rather comic bookish in style and other than lots of glowing, green blood, isn't too graphic in the traditional sense. Seen more often and with greater visual impact are the scenes involving demonic monsters that Spawn must fight and scenes depicting the flame-broiled underworld. Those and the sight of the scarred and seared Spawn will probably be scary to some younger viewers. Additionally, some viewers will be disturbed the plot line involving soldiers of Hell planning to storm the gates of Heaven and a man being killed on purpose to lead those soldiers. Beyond all of that, the rest of the categories aren't too bad, although you should still read through them to see if this film is appropriate for you and/or your children.

  • Wynn and Terry briefly drink liquor at night.
  • People drink at a reception.
  • A bum in an alley drinks from a bottle.
  • Spawn's flesh has a seared, bloody wet look to it that will probably be disturbing to some viewers.
  • When Spawn, the Violator, or other creatures are wounded, they ooze green, glowing blood.
  • Though not really either, the Violator does emit a green colored fart and then pulls out his underwear to show a wet stain.
  • Likewise, the Violator takes a maggot-covered piece of pizza from a trash can and eats it. Later he eats earthworms.
  • Al's remains are partially and briefly seen in his grave.
  • A small, bloody bullet hole is seen in a woman's forehead.
  • We see pictures of chemical exposure victims and some of them have bloody welts on their bodies.
  • Some may view the plot elements dealing with the devil's quest to storm the gates of heaven with hell-bound souls to have a great deal of both. Likewise, three teenage punks try to perform some Satan worshiping in a cemetery.
  • Obviously, Wynn, Jessica, the Violator, and the devil himself have ample amounts of both.
  • Spawn steals a person's motorcycle.
  • Some may view Spawn's lust for revenge as having some of both.
  • Some scenes listed under "Violence" may be tense to some viewers.
  • From the fiery "hellish" opening credits where we see bodies in flames to the many views of Hell and several menacing looking monsters (one the lord of the underworld himself/itself), the visuals are intense enough to scare the younger viewers in the audience. The teenage crowd, however, won't think any of it's scary.
  • Machine guns/Missiles/Grenade launcher/Explosives/Knife: Used to injure or kill many people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Small handgun: Worn by Jessica on her thigh.
  • Phrases: "Freagin," "Screwed," "Sucks," "Maggot," "You scream like a girl," "Bite me," and "Dirt bag."
  • The fact that Spawn can be shot, knifed, etc... and instantly heal may give the wrong idea about such injuries to younger viewers.
  • We briefly see protestors (on video) burning an American flag.
  • The Violator takes a maggot-covered piece of pizza from a trash can and eats it. Later he eats earthworms. (Kids might do something like this on a bet or dare).
  • Three teenage punks try to perform some Satan worshiping in a cemetery.
  • None.
  • There is a moderate amount of suspenseful music here and there during the movie.
  • None.
  • 1 "s" word, 6 "ass" words (2 used with "hole"), 6 hells, 5 damns, 4 craps, 1 S.O.B., and 1 use each of "Oh God," "Jesus," "Good Lord," "God," and "Christ" as exclamations.
  • Jessica wears cleavage revealing, tight leather outfits and her upper thigh is seen as she exposes a thigh gun holster.
  • The Violator makes several comments containing sexual innuendos. Going to see Al's former wife he says that he's "going to get me some of that sweet stuff." Later he asks Wanda, "How do you like my little head," and at another moment he tells Spawn, "If you don't stop playing with that thing (a picture locket) you'll go blind."
  • Wynn smokes cigarettes and cigars in several scenes.
  • Jessica smokes a cigarette.
  • The Violator smokes a cigar.
  • A guard smokes in the background of a scene.
  • Al (Spawn) must deal with the fact that his partner has married his wife (after having been gone for five years).
  • Some may view the plot elements dealing with the devil's quest to storm the gates of heaven with hell-bound souls as something they don't want their kids to see, or at least something to be discussed with them.
  • More than twenty people are killed with guns and a missile explosion during a mercenary strike that blows up a jet, several cars, and an airport control tower.
  • Jessica shoots Al and then pours a flammable liquid on him. Wynn then throws a lit cigarette onto Al setting him on fire. To top it off, they then set off explosives that blow up a chemical plant around Al.
  • There are several scenes where Spawn throws or hits people.
  • Jessica shoots Spawn with machine guns (he heals) and later he shoots and kills her. He's then blown out a high rise window and the military then opens fire on him.
  • Spawn and the Violator (in the shape of a huge monster) fight, with Spawn shooting the monster many times. It then throws a man across the street, slams Spawn into the side of building and then impales him on a wrought iron fence.
  • The Violator shoots hand grenades at Spawn and later the truck driven by the Violator explodes in a huge fireball.
  • Wynn stabs Wanda with a knife, killing her. She then comes back to life, kicks Spawn through a door, and then slits open his throat with a knife.
  • At the end there's a huge fight between the Violator and Spawn and Cogliostro in Hell and in a house that culminates with a monster's head being cut off and lots of green blood oozing out.

  • Reviewed July 29, 1997

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