Spawn creator and screenwriter Todd McFarlane says that the script for the upcoming reboot is a "dark, ugly two hours worth of movie" with "no fun lines" and "no joy" - in stark contrast to most superhero movies currently releasing in theaters. Spawn debuted in Image Comics in 1992 and in 1997 the first movie adaptation was released, directed by Mark A.Z. Dippé and starring Michael Jai White in the title role.
The 1997 Spawn movie failed to perform at the box office, and McFarlane has been talking about making a new version for more than 10 years. Even in the current golden age of superhero cinema, studios are reluctant to green light the kind of comic book movie that McFarlane has scripted: unapologetically dark, and targeting a hard-R rating. However, in summer 2017 it was announced Blumhouse Productions - best known for horror movie franchises like Paranormal Activity and Insidious - would produce a low-budget Spawn reboot, with McFarlane writing and directing. A year later, Jamie Foxx was cast as Spawn after spending six years campaigning for the role.
Over the years McFarlane has talked at length about his vision for a new movie version of Spawn, emphasizing that it will be "dark and heavy, serious," and that it "won't be a superhero movie." Speaking in a recent interview with Nerdist, McFarlane doubled down on this characterization of his script, describing it as the antithesis of the kind of comic book movie that modern audiences are used to:
“There’s no joy... 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. And 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.”
The origin story for spawn is a classic revenge tale, filled with tragedy. U.S. Marine Al Simmons is betrayed and murdered by his partner. He goes to Hell, where he is offered a deal to sell his soul in order to return to Earth and be reunited with his wife, Wanda. However, making deals with demons rarely ends well, and Al is restored to corporeality in a hideous form comprised of rotting flesh, robbed of his memories of his former life. To make matters worse, five years have passed since his death, and his wife has moved on and married his best friend.
One of the biggest changes from both the comics and the first movie in McFarlane's planned reboot is that Spawn won't actually speak out loud. He has also said that the film won't retell Al Simmons' origin story, and will instead focus on evolving the character.
For a long time Hollywood was extremely wary of making R-rated comic book movies, but the success of Deadpool and Logan proved that there is an audience for more mature and violent superheroes (and antiheroes). Spawn is currently expected to begin filming in summer 2019, so hopefully we won't have to wait to much longer to see McFarlane's ultra-dark take on the genre.