If comic book heroes only get one chance at movie fame, then Spawn definitely blew his chance. But in this age of superhero blockbusters and reboots, Todd McFarlane is looking to make Spawn’s second shot the one that counts - and believe it or not, sees the first movie as proof that the character can work as a movie franchise.
It isn't a case of the character's creator letting pride cloud his vision, either (even the star of Spawn didn't like the movie) but someone close enough to his audience to know that the disappointing box office of the movie can be viewed another way. As McFarlane sees it, the real takeaway is that the first Spawn movie wasn't good… but the amount of people who actually lined up to see it may have done his negotiating work for him.
After all, superheroes now dominate movies, TV, and pop culture in a way they never did in the 1990s. So there was also nowhere near enough superhero fatigue to make a demonic vigilante seem like a breath of fresh air, as he had in his comic debut years earlier.
And yet, the first movie still grabbed attention and put butts in seats - $19.7 Million worth of them in the opening weekend, to be exact. As McFarlane explained to us during our recent interview, if the goal for a comic book movie is to find its audience… then Spawn already has:
If we keep the budget reasonable, and with the talent I've attached, this is low hanging fruit. The last movie came out twenty years ago and opened up to twenty million dollars. That's when tickets were five bucks, they're over ten dollars now. So I keep telling Hollywood, if I get the same number of people, not one more, not one less, the same number of people I got twenty years ago, and that was pre Marvel movies, right? It opens up to over forty million dollars.
Let's say I'm crazy. Let's say, 'Todd, c'mon, you're being egotistical.' Cut the number in half. A twenty million dollar opening movie in the right slot is still a number one movie. I don't know how I don't get the same number of people. I gotta tell you, I don't know how I don't get the same number of people... This one's going to work.
It's here where the stars seem to have most favorably aligned for the project, after McFarlane spent years weighing the realities and advantages of a low-budget Spawn movie around $10 million. The creator playfully credits his ego as the culprit, insisting a movie deal would only happen if he himself handled writing, directing, and producing. Which adds another reason for the price pitched: any higher a budget, and no studio would give him the green light. But add Jason Blum of Blumhouse (a production house now synonymous with low-budget, high-return films) and it seems like less and less of a gamble the more McFarlane explains his plan.
These days the claim that a critically-derided comic book movie was “made for the fans” tends to be mocked, but in the case of Spawn, the most devoted fans who sought out the original may be a major part of why the reboot is even happening. Even if those are the people lining up to see Jamie Foxx's take on Spawn opening weekend, McFarlane hopes that critics will get behind the more original aspects of the film to help it break out to a broader audience.
My perfect world is... a couple of movie critics will come out of the movie and say, 'Huh, you know what? There are different ways to do superhero, comic book movies. You can do big giant extravaganza, you can do mid-level, and then you can do these cool, entertaining ones that have a little more drama and are R-Rated.' So the highway of quote-unquote superhero comic books gets wider. That's it, that's all I'm trying to do, is widen the lane.
We'll keep you updated as more Spawn news arrives.