90’s comic book legend Todd McFarlane is set to do what most creators can only dream of – bring their own characters to the screen exactly how they imagine them to be.
Since first coming up with the hellish antihero Spawn in 1992, McFarlane’s kept a relatively tight grip on the character, to the point that the upcoming reboot only got the greenlight because he was allowed to write and direct it himself. Blumhouse Productions, currently on a financial winning streak, decided to take a chance on the relatively low budget project and it looks to have paid off so far, as the film now boasts Jamie Foxx in the lead role.
Now that all the pieces have fallen into place, we’re hearing a bit more about what the finished product will look like, courtesy of an interview McFarlane did with ComicBook.com. First up was the question of tone, and while we already know this isn’t going to be a traditional superhero origin story, what exactly is it going to be?
“I hesitate on the word horror,” said McFarlane. “I’m very specific about not using that word too much. Because it has a broad definition to a lot of people. Horror, to my wife or to a lot of people, it means, oh, you’re gonna slaughter some co-eds in some bloodbath or something. I consider dialling it back to say it’s a supernatural thriller. So then it’s not gonna be a gore fest.”
Current rumors are that, contrary to expectations, Spawn won’t feature too much of its titular character, instead focusing on a group of cops struggling to process the arrival of a monstrous avenging presence on the streets alongside them. It’s said that Spawn will be more effective if we see other people’s reactions to him, in a similar manner to how Spielberg treats the shark in Jaws.
And, according to McFarlane, audiences are going to be immediately sold once they see the visuals he’s cooking up:
“What’s gonna matter is, really, the first time they get to watch the trailer. And then, once you watch the trailer, then all the talking’s over. Because, now, they’re gonna see it. And then, at that point, they’re gonna go, ‘Oh, that’s either interesting or curious. I might give it a chance.’ Or, they’re gonna go, ‘Yeah, you know what, I was hoping for something a little more, you know, Marvel-like.’ They’re gonna visually see it. I’m not gonna be tricking anybody by saying, ‘Hey, come to my movie. It’s superhero extravaganza,’ then do a dark movie behind their back. They’re gonna see the trailer. Might even do three or four trailers. They’re gonna see lots and lots of this. So, everybody will be personally educated as to whether they wanna walk into the theater and give it a chance by the time the movie gets there.”
Of course, there’s the distinct possibility that McFarlane could fall flat on his face here. He’s not a first time director – in fact, if you were growing up in the 90s, you probably remember his music videos for Korn and Pearl Jam – but a full length movie is a whole different kettle of fish. After a lifetime spent drawing comics, I can’t deny the man has a striking eye for visuals, but graphic novelists have a habit of coming undone when they’re given too much cinematic leeway (case in point: Frank Miller’s bizarre and dreadful The Spirit). But that doesn’t seem to trouble McFarlane, with the legend saying:
“So, for now, I know there’s a lot of head scratching. That people sorta go, ‘I don’t quite get how your movie’s gonna work.’ I do. Again, I’m not saying it’s good. I may be on a suicide trip right now. Being stubborn to a story that nobody may wanna watch. Who knows? But, like I said, if it does work, and we get some success, and by keeping the budget where we’re at, then we don’t need giant success for it to be in a place where we could then quickly say we’re gonna be making a sequel. This is the thing, if you spend a dollar and you make two, it’s a success, right? If you spend a thousand dollars, then you gotta make two thousand for it to be a success. So, okay. Okay, let’s keep the risk low. And let’s go.”
He goes on to explain that if the same amount of people turn up to see his movie as did the 1997 version (which is somewhat of a guilty pleasure), his film will be a hit:
“Math tells me that if I get the same number of people who came to the opening of Spawn number one in 1997, now that the ticket prices have more than doubled in that time, it can be a 46 million dollar opening,”
Let me run the figures on that… By god he’s right! But will that many people head to theaters to see Spawn in 2019? Does anyone even still care about this fairly obscure 1990s horror superhero? One way or another, we’re going to find out real soon.