If we take nothing but the facts and data into account, then 1997’s Spawn isn’t a very well-liked or particularly successful movie. The 1997 comic book adaptation earned less than $88 million at the box office on a budget of around $50 million, while it was resoundingly panned by critics and shunned by audiences looking at its respective Rotten Tomatoes scores of 17 and 36 percent.
These days, the mere mention of Spawn is more than enough to generate either a sigh of resignation or an eye-roll, if only for the fact Todd MacFarlane has been talking up his planned reboot with Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner for what feels like forever, without actually having a single tangible thing to show for the decades spent lodged in development hell.
And yet, the original has found itself in the midst of an unexpected second wind of appreciation, with Redditors admitting that while Spawn isn’t a classic by any stretch of the imagination, it endures as both an unashamed guilty pleasure, and one of the most quietly influential and ahead of its time superhero stories of the modern era.
Let’s not forget that the genesis of the comic book boom as we know it began with Blade, which hit theaters only a year after Spawn had served as a soft launch of sorts for hard R-rated fantasy stories rooted in well-known source material. Even though the CGI is horrendous when viewed through a modern lens, it also offered one of the first third act finales where the hero faced off against a digitally-created villain amongst a sea of pixels and green screens.
Look, we didn’t say Spawn should be reappraised as an underrated gem, because that would be pushing things a touch too far, but it left a much larger mark on the genre than it tends to be credited for.