One wouldn't be blamed for thinking at first that Todd McFarlane's reboot of his beloved Spawn would be an origin story, what with the 1997 film from New Line existing long enough in the past that we could use a refresher. Though depending on who you ask, it's probably a good thing that the film stay in the shadowier parts of our memories, as Spawn was received with a mixed reception that trended towards terrible.Which is probably why it's a good thing that McFarlane isn't interested at invoking or replacing that original film at all, as he summed up his reasoning for avoiding showing how the demonic protagonist came to be with the following:
I always come back to Jaws --- not that I have a shark in Spawn! But that shark was enormous. And at anytime in the movie, did they tell me why the shark was so damn big? No! Did it matter to me? No! All that mattered was that it was big and in the same vicinity as humans. Or John Carpenter's The Thing: where do the aliens come from? I don't know! What was its reason for taking over bodies? I don't know! It just was. I'm OK without an origin. Just give me a compelling story, scare the shit out of me from time to time, and I'm along for the ride.
For someone who got into the movie game right about the time the comic book movie market crashed due to Batman & Robin's egregious failure to impress, Todd McFarlane seems to have learned as many lessons about the film industry as he has about the comic industry. In particular, he understands that while audiences new and old have a hunger to learn the origins of whatever character they're about to see, they don't always need it to tell a good story. To be honest, Spawn does seem like the perfect type of film to pull just that sort of introduction off, as the canonical origin story is pretty simple.
All you really need to know about Spawn is that his human form, Al Simmons, was a Special Ops soldier who was murdered in the line of duty -- simply because he was growing a conscience. In exchange for seeing his wife again on Earth, he was turned into the disfigured Hellspawn he is today and sent back to the surface. Now as far as a comic book, or even a standard type of comic book movie is concerned, this is rich material to mine for a solid first act in a 2-2.5 hour movie. Which again, there's nothing wrong with that. But considering McFarlane's budgetary concerns, as well as his personal tastes, that sort of dog won't hunt.
Knowing that Todd McFarlane is putting some of his own money into the film, as well as trying to sell investors on a pre-distribution deal to make Spawn happen, that's enough of a reason for him to tighten his belt. But as he told Yahoo at New York Comic Con, there's another reason that he needs to keep his newer film leaner and meaner: it almost ensures he gets to direct it. So if stripping down Spawn into a John Carpenter/Steven Spielberg exercise in measured tension and acts of bad-assery is what it takes to keep the creator of the franchise at the wheel, he'll do it. And it could be just what the industry needs.
With films like Logan, Deadpool and New Mutants reimagining what the comic book movie can be, Todd McFarlane's Spawn feels ready to make its own mark on the world of R-rated comic filmmaking. Exchanging a standard opening with the usual backstory, in order to deliver the world of Spawn to audiences like a boot to the face, is something that just further changes the game for the better.