When I was a teen, I loved the comic book Spawn. So, in 1997, I was excited as fuck to see the film. As I watched it, every ounce of enthusiasm and joy started falling away, and I was shocked at the horrendous piece of shit I just witnessed. The special effects were pretty neat at the time, but I was mainly angry at the obnoxious, unfunny performance of John Leguizamo as the Violator. But I was a teenager then. Maybe now I’ll be less-harsh on it, with lower expectations and coming to it without loving the comic as much as I did. After all, I read Roger Ebert’s review of it, and he gave it his famous “thumbs up.” He called it “an experimental art film.” He praised Leguizamo’s “brilliant comic timing.” He called Spawn “an extraordinary superhero.” So high is his praise, in fact, that this is how he ends his review:
“So the way to view the movie, I think, is to consider the story as the frame--necessary, but upstaged by what it contains, which in this case is some of the most impressive effects I've seen. The disciplines blend into one another: Animation, makeup, costuming, process shots, morphing. They create a place and a look as specific as the places evoked in such films as ``Metropolis'' and ``Blade Runner.'' As a visual experience, ``Spawn'' is unforgettable.”
Wow. That’s some pretty high praise right there. Could I have been wrong? I typically respect Ebert’s reviews, so I checked it out from my library and watched it again.
Nope. It still sucks, and not even in a “I can understand how someone could really like this” way. No, it sucks in a “this is a horrible fucking movie that is impossible to like” way. And the special effects look really fucking bad, though I guess in 97 they might have looked amazing. But seriously...comparing it to Metropolis and Blade Runner? What the fuck? I don’t understand at all why Ebert loved this movie so much, since the plot and acting are fucking terrible. And Leguizamo’s “comic timing” is being overbearing, obnoxious, in-your-face, and making fart jokes. Ebert typically WOULD NOT let this degree of plot and acting slide for any other film. I just don’t fucking get it.
Ebert gave Spawn *** 1/2. That’s half a star shy of PERFECT. To compare, the following films in similar genres are not as good as Spawn, going by Ebert’s rating system:
The Matrix ***
LOTR Fellowship of the Ring ***
LOTR The Two Towers ***
(Only LOTR Return of the King is as good as Spawn, with *** 1/2.)
District 9 ***
Captain America ***
Iron Man ***
Batman Returns **
Batman Forever ** 1/2 (no fucking way is the worst Batman film the best one in the original series)
Batman & Robin **
Thor * 1/2
Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan ***
Star Trek (2009) ** 1/2
X-Men ** 1/2
X2: X-Men United ***
X-Men First Class **1/2
Brazil ** (I had to include this because WHAT THE FUCK, EBERT??????)
Superman Returns **
All of these films, by any sane viewer, are better than Spawn. Yes, even the shitty Batman movies. In fact, The Matrix, the LOTR trilogy, Iron Man, Batman, Star Trek II, X2, Brazil, and Spider-Man are undeniable classics in this fantasy/adventure genre.
Ebert also gave Cars 2 a ***1/2 rating. I just don’t get it.