Shying away from the more mainstream superhero films in the news, there’s been a few advancements in a potential reboot of Todd McFarlane’s dark anti-hero, Spawn. Almost two decades ago, director Mark A.Z. Dippe’s film adaptation of the beloved comic received very underwhelming reception, and a cry for a reboot since then has been mostly unheard until the recent breakout success of the R-rated Deadpool and Logan. With Todd McFarlane seemingly pushing for the directors chair with his own script, his unique, ambitious vision for the reboot does raise a few red flags.
Spawn is without a doubt one of my favorite comic books. It may not have reached the mainstream success of Marvel and DC counterparts, but its fearless, disturbing ability to tackle issues surrounding social discrimination, abuse, rape, and a handful of other risqué subjects while shadowing the caped, chained anti-hero certainly set it apart from its more family-focused fellow comics. 1997’s film adaptation did little to really build upon what made the comic great in the first place, turning it into a more conventional, safe superhero origins tale despite having an R-rating to utilize. It would only be a matter of time before a reboot was in order that would truly capture the essence of the comics, and what better way than from the hands of its own creator.
If the creators of comic books getting hands-on with their own film adaptation seems like a dream come true, I’m often reminded of Frank Miller’s atrocious The Spirit that had Miller himself in the writer and director seat, but ultimately failed due to Miller half-assedly attempting to recapture Robert Rodriguez’s bold directorial slight of hand for Sin City. As much of a creative mind McFarlane is, I’m cautious as to how he plans to tackle his pride and joy. Thankfully he did reveal a bit about what he plans to do with the reboot, considering his script has already been completed.
“It’s gonna be dark, R-rated, scary, bad-ass sort of script that’s tight and it’s not a nice, polite PG-13 film with ray-guns.” – McFarlane
In an interview last year on AMC’s “Geeking Out”, McFarlane revealed that the film will definitely be R-rated and more contained than the 1997 adaptation. He also envisioned it as more of a psychological horror than an action, citing The Exorcist and Jaws as inspirations.
“The world is gonna be real, except for one thing that’s gonna move. So, when I watch The Exorcist, that movie was real except for the one girl whose head sorta twirled. You’re never gonna see a dude in a rubber suit… this is gonna be my shark, my Jaws shark… If you’ve got evil in your heart, you better watch out, because he will mess you up.” – McFarlane
According to McFarlane, Spawn will not conventionally appear like he did in the comics. Instead, the caped anti-hero will remain a supernatural entity for most of the film, restrained in the shadows. This sounds like it could either be amazing if done right or horribly underdeveloped if done wrong.
I imagine McFarlane may be going for the type of Spawn portrayed in Paul Jenkins’ annual, Blood & Shadows, which focuses on a group of tenants in a building all harboring dark secrets of their own, with Spawn appearing as a kind of vindictive spectre or beast that only shows up to exact revenge against them for their misdeeds. While the story severely lacked Spawn, his lingering presence didn’t go unnoticed and he took on the role of a lurking angel of judgment.
However, my concerns begin with the way McFarlane seemingly wants to envision Spawn. The script, described as a cross between The Departed and Paranormal Activity, will place focus on a story and plot completely detached from Spawn’s personal plight and origins. Without any confirmation of Spawn’s infamous arch-nemesis, the sadistic Violator, making an appearance, it’s starting to seem more like the film will be a self-contained story with Spawn rather than a self-contained story revolving around Spawn. I may be wrong as its too early to tell, but everything else sounds fantastic.
I love the idea of McFarlane toning back the big-budget in favour of a smaller, tighter budget to maintain more creative control over a clear vision – something that unfortunately wasn’t included in the memo for Frank Miller. I have my fingers crossed that the reboot, if done right, could be spectacular and a radical departure from the expectations of comic book films. A small-budget, restrained Spawn psychological horror/thriller sounds like something 13-year old me would’ve been all on board for, but if this is the big jump into the mainstream, I do hope it captures the true essence of the comics in all its Hard-R glory.
As for whom I’d personally like to see direct the film if McFarlane doesn’t land the gig, my money is on James Wan, seeing as how the reboot is shaping up to be exactly the type of film that’s up Wan’s avenue. The dreamer in me would’ve also loved to see a big-budget Spawn film in the hands of Guillermo Del Toro. That would’ve been something…