Think of all the times you’ve heard a film referred to as “dark,” “ugly” or “joyless.” How many of those times were any of those terms intended as complimentary? Moreover, how many times were those terms coming out of the mouth of the film’s director? This is certainly an odd case, but considering it’s Spawn we’re talking about, maybe we shouldn’t be so surprised.
Speaking with Nerdist in a recent interview, first-time director and Spawn creator Todd McFarlane gave more details on what is promising to be a very, very atypical “superhero” movie. It seems clear that McFarlane’s intent is nothing less than to fly directly in the face of the precedent and formula established by properties such as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“There’s no joy,” McFarlane said to Nerdist’s Dan Casey, describing the film. “There’s gonna be no fun lines in it, and it’s just gonna be this dark, ugly two hours worth of movie, which is essentially what a lot of supernatural-horror movies are anyway. There’s not a lot of funny in them. That seems to be a weird hurdle for a lot of people in this city to get over, because they sort of go into a superhero/Avengers default all the time.”
This is hardly the first unusual thing we’ve heard about the R-rated Spawn reboot in the last few years. The film will star Jamie Foxx as the title character, a commando named Al Simmons who is murdered and then returns from the dead as a hellspawn avenger, but according to McFarlane, the Spawn of this film won’t speak a single line—very different from the character portrayed by Michael Jai White in the film’s first adaptation in 1997. Indeed, this Spawn won’t truly be the lead protagonist in his movie—instead, that will be the character of Twitch Williams, a brilliant detective played by Jeremy Renner. Spawn, meanwhile, will be operating in the background as a sort of boogeyman. In terms of how this would work, McFarlane has repeatedly used Steven Spielberg’s Jaws as his go-to example.
“I always come back to Jaws—not that I have a shark in Spawn!,” he said. “But that shark was enormous. And at anytime in the movie, did they tell me why the shark was so damn big? No! Did it matter to me? No! All that mattered was that it was big and in the same vicinity as humans. Or John Carpenter’s The Thing: where do the aliens come from? I don’t know! What was its reason for taking over bodies? I don’t know! It just was. I’m OK without an origin. Just give me a compelling story, scare the s*** out of me from time to time, and I’m along for the ride.”
In McFarlane’s eyes, then, Spawn is a lot of things—it’s a drama, a horror movie, a thriller, but it’s not really an action movie, and it’s certainly not a comedy. That honestly sounds pretty exciting to us, but given that McFarlane is also making his directorial debut, it’s fair to ask how much of his vision he’ll really be able to translate onto the screen. Here’s hoping that he’s able to do Spawn justice.