Spawn (1997)

Rating: **
Cast: Keith David

An animated rendition of Todd MacFarlane's "Spawn" comic book that is unfortunately bogged down with gratuitous sex and violence. Its execution is as much of a radical departure from the original source material as the live action film is. Al Simmons was a mercenary for the U.S. government who was murdered under mysterious conditions. His undying love for his wife Wanda forces him to make a deal with the devil, and he is sent back to the material plane as a Hellspawn - a creature of vast dark and destructive power who has only shattered memories of his past. The story follows Spawn as he searches for his identity, stalks his former wife, and puts together the pieces of his unfortunate demise. But the devil is always one step ahead of him to make his existence miserable.

Overall, it's a reasonable adaptation, but the animation is only fair and the voice talent is rather weak (apart from Keith David). Where the show really falls apart is in the sex and violence department, which just reeks of cable TV exploitation. The comic book managed to succeed without explicit sex and graphic violence, so why is the cartoon saturated with it? Like so many other "adult" cartoons, the focus is on shock scene mentality instead of story telling and character development, which ultimately spoils the impact of what's going on. A disappointing outing.