Spawn is a 1997 American superhero action film loosely based on the comic book of the same name, by Todd McFarlane and published by Image Comics. Directed and co-written by Mark A.Z. Dippé (a former Industrial Light & Magic animator), the film stars Michael Jai White in the leading role. Spawn is an origin story of the character, and begins with Al Simmons, a soldier/assassin who is killed and resurrected as Spawn, a reluctant, demonic leader of Hell's army. Spawn eventually refuses to lead Hell's army in the war against Heaven and turns against evil forces all together. The film co-stars John Leguizamo as Clown/The Violator, Al's demonic guide and the film's antagonist; and Nicol Williamson as Al's mentor Cogliostro. Martin Sheen, Theresa Randle, D. B. Sweeney and Melinda Clarke also star.
Al Simmons (Michael Jai White), a military soldier/assassin, is betrayed by the head of a covert government agency, Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen). Wynn assigns Simmons a mission to take out a Bio-Chem plant in North Korea while ordering his top assassin, Jessica Priest (Melinda Clarke), to assassinate him. After Simmons dies from a gas fire caused by Wynn, he arrives in Hell, where Malebolgia (Frank Welker), the Devil, offers him a Faustian deal. If Simmons becomes his eternal servant and leader of his army in Armageddon, he will be able to return to Earth to see his fiancée, Wanda Blake (Theresa Randle). Simmons accepts the offer and is returned to Earth.
When he returns, Simmons learns that five years have passed. Wanda is now married to his best friend, Terry (D. B. Sweeney) and living the life he longed for, including the daughter he never knew, Cyan (Sydni Beaudoin). He encounters a strange clown-like demon called The Violator (John Leguizamo), who acts as a guide, setting "Spawn" onto the path to evil. He also meets a mysterious old man named Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson), a fellow Hellspawn who freed his soul and now fights for Heaven. Jason Wynn has become a high-class weapons dealer and developed the ultimate biological weapon, "Heat 16". During a reception Simmons attacks Wynn, kills Jessica and escapes, instinctively using Spawn's strange armor.
Following Simmons' attack, The Violator convinces Wynn to have a device attached to his heart that will trigger the worldwide release of Heat 16 should his vital signs flatline. The device is supposedly a safeguard against assassination attempts, but Malebolgia actually wants Simmons to kill Wynn and trigger the apocalypse. Spawn confronts The Violator, who turns into his demonic form and beats him down. Cogliostro rescues him and teaches him how to use his necroplasm armor before Spawn learns that Clown and Jason are going to kill Terry.
Meanwhile, Terry has just finished texting a fellow newsman who sent him evidence exposing Jason Wynn. After the transmission, Cyan enters the room, with Jason right behind her. Jason destroys Terry's computer and takes the family hostage. When Spawn arrives, he ends up almost killing Jason Wynn, despite his warning that his death will launch the Heat 16 bombs. Only after realizing that Jason's death would ultimately mean the death of Cyan does he relent. Instead, he extracts the device from Wynn's body before destroying it. His plans foiled, Clown draws Spawn and Cogliostro into Hell, where Spawn tells Malebolgia that he will never lead his army. He escapes with Cogliostro just before they are overwhelmed and returns to the real world. The Violator follows and there is a final battle between him and Spawn, ending with Spawn severing the demon's head with his chains. Jason Wynn is arrested and Spawn, realizing there is no place for him in Wanda's world anymore, dedicates himself to justice rather than succumbing to his lust for vengeance.
- Michael Jai White as Al Simmons/Spawn
- John Leguizamo as Violator
- Martin Sheen as Jason Wynn
- Nicol Williamson as Cogliostro
- Theresa Randle as Wanda Blake-Fitzgerald
- D. B. Sweeney as Terry Fitzgerald
- Melinda Clarke as Jessica Priest
- Frank Welker as Malebolgia (voice)
- Sydni Beaudoin as Cyan Fitzgerald
- Miko Hughes as Zack
- Michael Papajohn as Glen, Zack's dad
Miko Hughes was a Spawn enthusiast, professing that "[I've been] getting all the comics and action figures since they've been coming out."
At the government-hosted gala, a red-headed woman with the typical Spawn symbol on her earrings. This cameo, albeit brief, is generally considered to be a nod to the angelic Spawn-hunter Angela, played by Laura Stepp.
Todd McFarlane himself makes a cameo appearance as one of the bums running away during the alley fight between Spawn and the Violator.
Detectives Sam Burke and Twitch Williams are shown taking Wynn into custody near the end of the film.