Film: Tired of burning in hell? The devil may care

Spawn Mark Dippe (12)

Based on the comic book by Todd McFarlane, this is an industrial light and magic show of special effects. Burnt alive by his double-crossing CIA boss (Martin Sheen), government agent Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) goes to hell. Making a pact with the devil to return to Earth and see his wife, he resurfaces five years later as dark superhero Spawn. Looking like an action man pulled from the mould too early, Spawn tries to stop his old boss from taking over the world, little guessing that the devil has double-crossed him too (surely not) and plans to have him lead Hell's army in the destruction of mankind.

You get the picture - cartoon rhetoric booming off the monolithic walls of a standard-issue dystopia. A population threatened by bio-chemical warfare, a corrupt, power-mongering CIA, computer-generated images of mammoth Bosch-like bestiality, all the usual stuff... but Spawn does have one or two entertaining tricks up its computerised sleeve. John Leguizamo's satanic henchman Clown, for example, livens things up whenever he's on screen with his sleazy humour and facility for body morphing. A repulsive lard-ball of malevolence and flatulence, he's certainly more compelling than earthly evil incarnate Martin Sheen, whose funny, croaky voice must have been brought on by all those bad-guy cigars he smokes.

There is also a rare sighting of Nichol Williamson in the role of Cogliostro, which basically translates as "good". At one point, tricked out in chain mail like something out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the legendary stage actor appears genuinely spooked to find himself in such a big-budget video game before sprouting a sword from his sleeve and getting on with battling the armies of Beelzebub. But before you get too excited by ideas of plot and characterisation, just remember that the man at the helm of all this mythical, futuristic nonsense is Mark Dippe. Never heard of him? Well, he's the man behind the special effects for Jurassic Park and Terminator 2, which gives you an idea of where the money and imagination went.

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