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Spawn: Todd McFarlane Says Reboot Is Dark, Ugly, And Joyless

Well, that's one way to describe your latest project.

Chatting with Nerdist in a recent in-studio interview, comic book legend and Spawn series creator Todd McFarlane opened up — and in a big, bold way — about the in-development Spawn reboot, which will mark his directorial debut. McFarlane described the film, which he also wrote the script for, as an incredibly dark and ugly piece of work that's completely without joy. 

"There's no joy," McFarlane shared with Nerdist's Dan Casey. "There's gonna be no fun lines in it, and it's just gonna be this dark, ugly two hours worth of movie, which is essentially what a lot of supernatural-horror movies are anyway. There's not a lot of funny in them."

The writer-director then took what sounds like a stab at the Marvel Cinematic Universe and at Hollywood film executives in general, noting that the Spawn reboot won't dip into what's become the norm for comic book movies: taking a character's story or a particular storyline's plot and ensuring that there are humorous moments to balance out the heaviness, painting certain sequences with a somewhat silly brush to make for a more balanced watch. 

As McFarlane explained, Spawn won't be like that; it will be all dark, all the time. 

"That seems to be a weird hurdle for a lot of people in this city to get over," he said of the fact that horror movies normally don't feature many jokes, "because they sort of go into a superhero/Avengers default all the time."

Those who have been tracking the film's path to the silver screen have been privy to the basics: the new Spawn stars Jamie Foxx as the title character, the black ops soldier Al Simmons who is murdered by his thought-to-be-loyal friend and partner Bruce Stinson and who later rises from the dead as a demon-worshipping Hellspawn; Jeremy Renner is attached to play the real star, Twitch Williams; Spawn won't speak a single word throughout the entire movie; the film will be R-rated but not in a Deadpool kind of way, earning the rating through means more shocking than "a couple F-bombs and a couple bare a***es"; the budget comes in around $10 million; and shooting is scheduled to begin sometime in January 2019 — this very month. 

Hearing that the Spawn reboot is going to be darker than any comic book movie (even drearier than those DC Extended Universe movies, it seems) may inspire some head-scratches, noggin-tilts, and dropped jaws, especially since concrete story details haven't yet been revealed. But when tracking back to what McFarlane has said about the pic in the past, these comments here aren't all that disquieting. 

McFarlane has previously likened his take on Spawn to "a shark in black water" that will sneak up on audiences when they're at their most vulnerable. "It's going to be dark," the writer-director said during New York Comic-Con in 2017. "[Spawn] will come and you'll be gone and he will f*** you up."

He kept up the shark comparisons in discussing Spawn with Yahoo roughly a year and a half ago. McFarlane told the outlet that the film won't be an origin story but rather will begin when Al Simmons is already in his Spawn form — much like how Jaws presented its titular aquatic beast. 

"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," he shared. "I'm OK without an origin. Just give me a compelling story, scare the s*** out of me from time to time, and I'm along for the ride."

Now that we're digging through McFarlane's past remarks about the Spawn reboot, we've found that the guy has been emphasizing the film's dark tone for a while, basically ever since he first announced that the project was in the works. 

Back in September 2016, McFarlane told ComicBook.com that he crafted "dark, R-rated, scary, badass sort of script" and that Spawn is his "Jaws shark" in the movie, which may only show glimpses of the character. Prior to that, he dished to the outlet that Spawn isn't an action movie or a superhero film, but instead feels like The Grudge or The Ring in that it drips with dread and maintains a sense of terror throughout. This is, as McFarlane explained, due in large part to the fact that Spawn is a much more ominous, mysterious presence than he was in the original Spawn film from 1997.

"In the background, there's this thing moving around, this boogeyman. That boogeyman just happens to be something that you and I, intellectually, know is Spawn. Will he look like he did in the first movie? No. Will he have a super-villain he fights? No. He's going to be the spectre, the ghost," he stated. "I think [films like The Grudge and The Ring] all work because there's only one thing in the movie that's not normal. There's not five things, there's one thing that's the boogeyman. So that'll be Spawn. He's this thing that just whooshes in, this ghost that moves and will f*** you up if you're in the wrong place in the wrong time, and the rest of the movie will look real, and be this real drama. He's just this ghost, this thing behind it."

He also told AZCentral that Spawn will deliver "true trauma, as serious as possible," and will be "a supernatural thriller, like a lot of good creep movies" — just in case you were still doubting the reboot's grit. 

It's clear that McFarlane has a singular vision for Spawn and intends to see it through. Whether what McFarlane has planned for the film will align with fans' expectations, satisfy their craving for a solid Spawn reboot, or end up turning a profit at the box office remains to be seen — but the creative doesn't actually care what the outcome might be. 

"I'm spending my own money, so who cares if it doesn't work out?" McFarlane once told Deadline. He also shared with Yahoo, "If I'm going to fail, I hope I fail dismally. Because if you're like an all-time greatest failure, it only lasts for 10 to 15 years! Then it becomes hip and cool and you become a cult favorite. If I live long enough, maybe I'll get it on the back end."

McFarlane may not mind if Spawn turns out to be a complete and utter disaster, but we're sitting in the opposite camp, stacking up evidence as to why the reboot just might blow us all away.