Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spawn (1997) Cinemax movie channel

Spawn?  More like...flan.  Am I right?
Rating:  2 out of 5 Crappy CG Demons

Plot Synopsis:  Al Simmons gets himself killed and then makes a deal with a PS1 demon.  He is then annoyed by a fat John Leguizamo in a clown suit.  There’s a lot of angst and an English accented, magic homeless man.  It ultimately doesn’t matter, none of it ultimately matters.

The Good:

-I love me some Michael Jai White, so the movie gets a star right there.  I’m a fan of his acting, no matter what he’s in be it Black Dynamite or sporting a weird accent in Kill Bill.  I also think he’s the perfect Luke Cage so I love all his fighting movies because I can pretend they are Luke Cage movies.

-John Leguizamo as Clown/Violator is pretty good.  He’s definitely a highlight.  The costume is pretty intense and must have taken quite a while to put on.  He is genuinely disgusting and annoying.

-Melinda Clarke as Priest, she is so so hot.  She’s probably the most capable bad guy in the film.  She’s rough, tough, hardcore and handles herself like a pro.  She’s the other star in the rating. she’s a badass, and her badass-ness is part of what makes her so hot.  There’s nothing more attractive than an assertive, capable woman.

-Martin Sheen, as usual, puts in a solid performance like the professional he is.  Doesn’t matter how low budget your thing is if you hire Martin Sheen he’ll show up like he’s filming Apocalypse Now.

-The practical and make-up effects are great.

-Theresa Randle as Wanda, also super hot but her performance is only alright and I would like to say more about that but her character is mostly built around how attractive she is.  She does the best she can with what she has though, I’ll give her credit for that.

-“Get away from me you fudge packing midget!” John Leguizamo looks like he is legitimately annoying Michael Jai White, it looks like it goes beyond acting and the screen and that Leguizamo is legit trying, and succeeding, in legit annoying a legit Michael Jai White.  He just won’t shut up and he keeps hitting him and White just looks pissed.

-I think the Spawn costume looks great, it looks awesome in fact.  It has texture and it’s dark, it’s more grounded in reality than the comic costume.  The make-up must have taken forever to put on.

-D.B. Sweeny is great as Terry Fitzgerald, it’s a small part but he plays it really solidly, it kind of gets overshadowed by the other performances but he’s still good.

-The performances are really solid all around, even the damn hobo puts in a good performance.  So the movie is definitely not lacking in acting ability, it is just substandard or fails on every other level.

-Priest is cooler than Spawn, she’s a total badass and nothing gets in her way.  She’s confronted with a supernatural force in the guise of a burnt human, whom she killed, and her reaction is “Nice outfit asshole.” Before shooting the shit out of him.  I’d watch a movie about Priest.  I kind of wish I was watching a movie about Priest right now.

-Spawn’s crotch guard, his skull belt buckle extends and grabs Priests leg as she tries to kick him in the balls.  But, as we know from the Hell scene, where he’s naked before Malebogia, that he has no junk to kick.

-The chains are pretty cool.  They are the one good CG effect in this clunker, they look real and living and scary as hell.

-Priest goes out like a boss, the fight is very quick but she gets shot off a balcony and goes through a table.  If she wasn’t shot in the head I would have thought she would have gotten up.

-I’m pretty sure when Violator goes through all the names that aren’t his, he names all his brothers from the comics.

-I think Violator is a combination of practical effects and CGI because he looks so much better than Malebogia, his demon form is actually pretty impressive.

-Hey, it’s Todd McFarlane.

-Violator vs. Spawn is a pretty decent fight.

-I just realized the magical, glowing, exposition hobo is played by fucking Merlin from Excalibur (Nicol Williamson) I still hate the character but he’s a great actor.

The Bad:

-The opening is bad, they give too much away in the first minute.  The narration lays out everything leaving nothing for the story to tell you.  I don’t need to watch anymore of the movie now, thanks.

-Stop narrating!  Save something for the fucking story and the actors.  There are two bouts of narration back to back the first one pretty much tells us the whole plot of the movie we are about to watch the second pretty much eliminates any subtext the movie may have had.  There’s nothing to get from the story at all, there’s no reason to pay any attention to what’s going on now.  The whole movie is about the effects and the action set pieces because that’s the only reason to keep watching.  That and Priest.

-The opening credits are all flickering and shakey, it makes it hard to watch.  It actually made me nauseous and gave me a bit of a headache.  I had to look away and wait for it to stop.

-Awesome, it’s a glowing, magical fucking hobo.  Great.  Perfect.

-What’s with all the fucking pet bugs?  Scorpions and tarantulas, is that supposed to make them badasses?

-The magic glowing hobo is also the magic, glowing exposition hobo.  And he doesn’t shut the fuck up.  Make sure you leave nothing to the audience, spell everything out and remove any mystery.

-Who gets all sexy at a kids birthday party in front of the kids?  Terry and Wanda basically go to third base while hanging out at the present table.

-Does Clown tell a bunch of kids that he has “More tricks than your local hooker.”?

-They make Clown too gross.  Granted it’s been a decade since I read a Spawn comic but I don’t remember Clown being that crass.  He was more sinister and threatening than stupid and gross.  I may not like it but there’s no denying the performance and the performance is above and beyond what the character might have gotten from a lesser actor.

-Why did they obscure Clown in the first scene if 10 minutes later he’s out in full glory?  Either give the slow reveal or just put him out in the light, don’t half ass it.

-The Clown’s fake teeth must cause Leguizamo to drool because after the first couple of lines his chin is just slick with spit and you can see the spit flying out of his mouth.

-I hate the magic, glowing, exposition hobo!

-Again, Clown is too annoying and not sinister in the least.  He’s a joke and it’s clear we aren’t supposed to take him seriously so why should we even register him as a threat?  Maybe register him as a sex pest but not as a threat.  Even when he turns into Violator, even though it’s impressive, even though he beats the shit out of Spawn, he’s been established as a joke.  There’s no way he’s going to overcome Spawn in the long run, he’s just too stupid.  Which, again, I don’t remember Clown being that way.  I remember the animated series much more clearly and in that he’s a fucking menace.  He’s creepy and scary and intimidating.  I just don’t get that from this Clown.

-There is an overabundance of “telling” and very little “showing”.  It’s a god damned (Batman) movie, show, don’t tell.

-“I’m going to load up on guns and bring them with me just to leave them behind at the last minute because I realize I don’t need them anymore.  Also I’m too badass for a bike helmet.”

-I want more Priest.

-I keep zoning out, it’s just hard to stay interested and invested in what’s going on.

-It took less than a minute to master his costume.  I guess he just had to realize that it was alive and connected to him and all its complex and intricate capabilities opened up.

-Instead of making the fight between good and evil the crux of the conflict they make Wanda the focal point.  I understand going after her because Spawn loves her but they make her the object of sexual desire for every male antagonist.  Every male antagonist expresses lust for Wanda and they threaten to rape her.  Why did they have to do that?  I get using her as leverage against Spawn, it’s lazy writing but it at least makes sense, but why make her the focus of the conflict and why use sexual violence to express the evil side of that conflict?

-What’s the point of having blades behind your wrist?  To be effective shouldn’t they extend past your fist?  You’d have to punch through someone to make them effective or use primarily back hand punches.  There’s just no good way to use blades that start at your wrist and stop before they reach your knuckles.  Plus wouldn’t they just poke you in the hand?  Wouldn’t the back of your hand especially get all cut up just from moving it around?

-Nicol Williamson, you are too good for this.

-“You will never escape me. Except for right now, after I said that, you’ll escape at that point, with no consequences.”

The Ugly:

-The computer special effects are very dated and terrible looking, Malebogia looks like a PSOne boss.

-The Marilyn Manson soundtrack doesn’t date this thing at all.  It was a good call, he’s still incredible popular and relevant to this day…if that day were 1998.

-Spawn’s cape looks like total shit, but it’s completely CGI and all the CGI is shit.  Of course it’s not really the movies fault, it’s really the fault of 1997.

-Stop, just stop showing off that stupid cape.

-There are random cuts to Malebogia, stop cutting to your shitty CGI demon.  It’s made worse by them having zero context and establishing nothing.  They are music video cuts used instead of a traditional transition or wipe.

-The final battle is shit, mostly due to the crap special effects.  The camera cuts around too fast, there no sense of space or impact in the CGI world, it’s hard to tell what’s happening, who it’s happening too and who’s doing it.  Then it’s just over.

-I swear every time they show Malebogia it’s the same animation looped over and over again, like a cheap CGI hentai or something.  Even when he dominates the screen in the finale, just the same animation with crappy voice over.

Final Thoughts:  It’s really hard to stick with a story, any story in any medium really, when it tells you everything up front.  At that point the rest of the story just becomes redundant, everything the viewer sees being played out has already been explicitly stated which leaves no feeling of participation or connection with the events happening in the story.  When you open with everything, all the nuance the story is trying to convey, spelled out in plain language, you remove any reason to keep watching.  I know the story now, I know the questions, I know the answers, I know the dilemmas and I know the payoff so what is left for me?  In the case of a movie at that point what they have for you is visual effects and action set pieces (also characterization but that doesn’t really apply here).  So if you are going to give everything away you better make damn sure you have those things as follow up to keep someone interested. 

This movie doesn’t have any follow up after it blows its story wad all over your face in the first 2 minutes of the film.  The visual effects are shit and the action scenes, for the most part, aren’t compelling enough to keep someone interested past the total exposure of the plot.  What maintains interest is the feeding of questions and answers at a decent pace, gradual exposition and characterization.  You give the audience something to look forward to, you keep them guessing, you let them guess.  You let them participate by trying to figure out the plot as it’s happening and it’s not like the movie loses cohesion without the narrative.  That’s probably the most frustrating part.  Everything in the narrative is there in the plot and the acting.  It’s not all spelled out, it’s not all right on the surface, most of it is, not all, but it’s there.  Maybe they thought the audience for the movie was too stupid to pick up on the nuance.  If the movie were totally incomprehensible without the exposition then the plot dump right at the beginning might be more forgivable but everything you need is right in the text and then it’s repeated at the midway point by Magical Exposition Hobo.  This movie totally fails on the story front despite some really solid acting by the cast.  You could probably find every scene worth watching on YouTube and if you can watch it for free then that’s what I’d recommend.  I wouldn’t go out of your way for it. 

Michael Jai White gives this move a star for me, if you don’t like him then this thing already drops to a 1 star feature.  Melinda Clarke is the other star so if you aren’t into her then this drops to a 0 star feature.  After that it really depends on how invested you are into the Spawn character.  For me, not that invested, it is a non-factor in my rating of this film, however, it might add a star for you.  But seriously, don’t waste money on this thing, get the animated series instead, I remember that being much better.

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