Needless to say, the devil does not follow through as you would expect. Al is returned to Earth as Spawn, a burned, costumed super-powered character. Of course, he has a mission; he is meant to kill Jason Wynn, secretly in league with the devil to release a deadly virus all over the world. Now, when Al learns the reason for his presence, he rightfully rebels and tries to do the right thing.
To help urge him down the road are two characters. One is Clown (John Leguizamo), the devil on Al's shoulder. He has a twisted sense of humor, but also a chip on his shoulder as he wants to lead the army, not play right hand man to the interloper. On the other shoulder is Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson). He was another of Hell's chosen who had rebelled and gotten away. He plays the role of mentor, teaching Al and helping him down the right path.
Everything builds up to a big climax as Al goes to Hell to fight for the safety of the entire planet. Of course, he has to go through Wynn and Clown's alter ego, the monstrous Violator, first. There are plenty of big effects shots accompanying these battles, there is nothing subtle here.
Spawn is an interesting movie. Its main character is perpetually morose, regretful of his choices both in life and death, clinging desperately to his love of Wanda. The antagonist and protagonist work side by side much of the time; sure, hey, don't get along, but how often are they together this much of the time?
What I see in the movie now that I did not see in 1997, the movie's energetic visual style. It is simultaneously dark and colorful, in a constant state of motion. It is in this look that the narrative is carried, a style of cinema in which the plot is propelled no just by what people are doing but how they are doing it. It is not always easy to explain, but if you watch the film I am sure it will become clearer.
Is it perfect? No, not by a long shot. The character of Al Simmons is not always well defined. We get glimpses of his heart and innate goodness, but it does not always take a strong hold. The story seems rushed, we kind of fly through his relationships and charge headlong into the fights. On one level it works, but those glimpses of depth make me want more.
Audio/Video. The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and makes for a decent high definition presentation. This is very likely the best the movie has looked since it was on the big screen, but I cannot say that I am overly impressed with the result. At times detail is pretty impressive, there are some close ups of Al's burnt face, or Clown's bad teeth, or grimy nighttime silhouettes that look fantastic. There are other moments where the shadows get muddy and others that that just lack detail. However you slice it, the image is rather inconsistent. I suspect it as a lot to do with the source. here is a lot of CG work here and it was still early in the effects era. The bleeding of effects is likely a reason for the visual inconsistency. Still, it is ultimately pleasing enough and a worthy purchase for fans.