If critics wind up calling the upcoming Spawn movie “joyless,” it will be intentional. Creator Todd MacFarlane is aiming for a “Hard R” superhero movie, with as bleak an atmosphere as possible.
“There’s no joy,” McFarlane said to Nerdist, confirming the movie’s lack of joy. “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.”
This would, of course, be faithful to the source material — but that material hasn’t aged well, and it may not be what moviegoers are looking for in this day and age. Venom was an edgy, ultraviolent, 90s-extreme version of Spider-Man, but the “Venom” movie wound up being half-comedy because people can’t take grimdark all that seriously anymore. Batman Vs Superman was lacerated by the Internet for this reason.
MacFarlane sort of half-acknowledges this. “That seems to be a weird hurdle for a lot of people in this city [Hollywood] to get over because they sort of go into a superhero/Avengers default all the time.” 1990s comics have a bad reputation for being more obsessed with image than story, and when story had to be in there, creators like MacFarlane would often go for “kewl” dark-for-dark’s-sake material. Things have changed since the 90s, but it doesn’t sound like he has.
MacFarlane will premiere his dark, ugly, two hours worth of movie at an undisclosed time in the future; Spawn is still in pre-production.