Movies & TV / Columns

Can Todd McFarlane’s Spawn Movie Find It’s Audience?

June 25, 2018 | Posted by Steve Gustafson

As comic book movies rule the box office, we’ve been treated to the best and worst superheroes can offer to the big screen. While Marvel has seemingly found the golden blueprint to both box office dollars and critical love, that doesn’t mean some other characters can’t get a piece of the pie.

Back in 1997, comic book creator Todd McFarlane’s Spawn hit the theaters. It grossed $87 million worldwide against its production budget of $40 million, but received more than a few negative reviews from critics. The potential was there and it has found a small cult following among fans.

Much better received was the Spawn animated TV series which aired on HBO from 1997 through 1999.

Now Spawn is headed back to theaters and it’s hoping to do better business than the original.

For years McFarlane has said he was going to do right by his creation and do a movie loyal to the source material. The time is right and Todd isn’t going to waste the opportunity doing the same old thing.

“Well, you know, I’m gonna do some simple stuff that isn’t with the norm,” McFarlane said to’s Charlie Ridgely. “Even just going R-rated takes it out of the PG-13 category. Now, with it being R, we’ve now seen a couple of examples of that. Deadpool and Logan seem to be. Venom, I think Venom is gonna be R-rated. So, I’m hoping that our category succeeds. So that it will broaden the thought process of the studio executives to go, “Oh, it doesn’t have to be something onscreen that sells a bunch of toys and T-shirts. It can just be a something that’s a little more gritty.”

With the R-rating giving McFarlane the artistic freedom to tell his story and the announcement of Jamie Foxx as Spawn, fans of the comic book are anticipating a knockout of a movie but McFarlane has made it clear production news will be kept close to the vest. “If because of an actor’s schedule, we got to move [the release date] or if for whatever reason, the shot takes a little longer, we got to move it. Then if you say too specifically what the day you give them, be a week or two weeks, then all of a sudden you’ll read an article somewhere, and people say, ‘It’s a troubled production! Troubled, troubled production!’”

Some fans have noted the smaller budget for Spawn and wondered how that will impact the look. Especially when compared to the product Marvel and DC are putting out. “Part of it is just, I don’t have the budget to write that kind of movie,” McFarlane said. “So, I go, “Okay, if I’m gonna do my own movie, then what does it have to be, to be able to convince Hollywood that I should be directing it?” Because if I wrote a big-budget movie, then not only would they not let me direct it, I wouldn’t even ask to direct it, because I don’t think that would be a deal that I’d personally take myself. ‘Hey, Todd, as a CEO in running your own corporations, we want you to spend $100 million budget, and we want to put a first time director.’ I wouldn’t take that deal.”

He went on to say, “But, look at one that just happened a couple weeks ago, which is A Quiet Place. That’s a $17 million budget that opened it up to 50 million dollars. That’s a giant success, right? So, did it open up to $200 million like Star Wars, and Black Panther, Avengers? Of course not. But, if you’re only spending 17, you basically open up to triple your budget. That’s a giant success. Because that would be the equivalent to the Avengers open to 600 million, right? So, you go on percentage-wise, it’s a giant success. So, you can do it. You can do it if you just are willing to basically say we’re not gonna compete with the big movies. I think it’s a fool’s game, Charlie. I think it’s a fool’s game for anybody who doesn’t have the money to even try to do Marvel-like. Because, the audience will know. The audience will know.”

Deadpool relied on its humor and brilliant marketing campaign while Logan had a familiar face playing a character he made famous on the screen. Will Spawn be able to stay true to its dark roots and still pull audiences in? A smaller budget it a smart way to hedge that bet while still opening the character to a wider audience. Having Foxx signed up doesn’t hurt either.

What are your thoughts on Spawn?