The big screen adaptation of Todd McFarlane’s popular comic series arrives on Blu-ray with a less than impressive video transfer, though the release includes most of the bonus material from the previous DVD edition. Spawn: Director’s Cut Release Date: July 10, 2012 Studio: Warner Home Video Packaging/Materials: Blu-ray “Eco-Box” keepcase Year: 1997 Rating: R Running Time: 1:38:33 MSRP: $19.98 THE FEATURE SPECIAL FEATURES Video AVC: 1080p high definition 1.78:1 Standard definition Audio DTS-HD Master Audio: English 5.1 / Dolby Digital: German 5.1, Italian 2.0, Portuguese 2.0, Polish 2.0 Stereo Subtitles English SDH, German SDH, Italian SDH, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish Various The Feature: 3/5 The world is poised for Armageddon thanks to the megalomaniacal plans of Jason Wynn (Martin Sheen), head of the secret U.S. government agency A-6. His plans to control and distribute one of the deadliest viruses in history will place him at the top of the global power food chain, while also paving the way for demon lord Malebolgia’s army to infiltrate this world. When Wynn’s best military operative Al Simmons (Michael Jai White) starts to question his methods, Wynn has him shot and burned alive, ultimately sending him straight to hell where he will suffer for eternity. But Malebolgia has grander plans for his latest resident, striking a deal with Simmons to return him to Earth if he agrees to command his demon hordes in the invasion. Longing to see his wife Wanda (Theresa Randle) no matter the cost, Simmons accepts the offer, though upon his return he quickly learns life has not stood still in his five-year absence. Wanda has remarried his best friend Terry (D.B. Sweeney) and they’re raising a child together. Adding insult to injury, Al is nothing like who he was, unrecognizable now under layers of scar tissue and carrying the mental and emotional damage from years of torment. Malebolgia has also tasked the demon Clown (John Leguizamo) as a sort of ambassador for Al to make his transition into Spawn, showing him his new powers but also prodding him towards vengeance against Wynn. It’s all part of an agenda that will only serve to benefit Clown’s master, though a mysterious figure named Cogliostro (Nicol Williamson) is also shadowing Spawn, hoping to free him from Malebolgia’s control, but ready to do what’s necessary to stop Armageddon itself. Adapted from Todd McFarlane’s massively popular comic book series, “Spawn” makes no apologies for its origins and – for better or worse – seems to make few compromises in its theatrical incarnation. That goes a long way for fans of the source material, but for most everyone else the film will seem like yet another “comic book movie” with its overwrought dialogue and simplistic plot and characters. The special effects, which might have been cutting edge at the time, have also dulled quite a bit over 15 years, the sequences in hell being particularly painful to watch (though one could argue a Mortal Kombat-type video game look was exactly what they were going for given the subculture). With comic book-based movies now occupying a whole other level of both execution and expectation, something like “Spawn” just doesn’t cut it anymore, though it definitely shows how far things have come. The director’s cut of “Spawn” includes about nine additional minutes of material that were originally removed to meet a PG-13 theatrical rating. The additions restore a bit of crudeness, innuendo and violence to the film, bringing it back up to an “R” rating; however, the additions and alterations don’t seem to fundamentally alter the nature of the story. Video Quality: 3.5/5 Presented in 1080p with the AVC codec, the transfer approximates the 1.85:1 aspect ratio by filling the entire 16:9 frame and features deep blacks and decent color rendition. However, overall sharpness and detail are problematic, especially in the film’s copious low light scenes, making things look just a little better than upconverted standard definition resolution. Contrast can also be a bit over-strong, suggesting there’s a bit of gray scale compression in play, though the picture appears free, for the most part, of digital noise reduction or sharpening artifacts. Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is crisp and detailed for the most part, though some of the lines from some of the more fantastical characters can be hard to discern. Surround channels are fairly active with environmental and atmospheric effects, though (in keeping with the film) the mix itself is not particularly subtle. LFE is largely non-existent, though even bass activity is weak for logical things like explosions. Special Features: 3.5/5 The bonus material includes all the items from the DVD edition, though unfortunately all are presented in standard definition. This is mostly an issue with the artwork and sketch galleries, whose pieces don’t fill the entirety of the 16:9 frame and are of low resolution. The other pieces are informative, with the commentary track ultimately carrying the most in-depth information. Commentary by creator Todd McFarlane, director Mark A.Z. Dippé, producer Clint Goldman, and visual effects supervisor Steve “Spaz” Williams: McFarlane, who was recorded in a separate session, spends most of his time discussing the narrative arc and character development, while the rest of the group talks about adapting the film, the rationale behind the visual effects, and the production itself. They also point out the parts that were edited to meet the PG-13 rating. Overall it’s an informative, engaging track. The Making of Spawn (21:57, SD): The TV special, which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel, covers the requisite aspects of the film, from development to production, with Michael Jai White serving as host. Todd McFarlane: Chapter and Verse (19:36, SD): McFarlane discusses various aspects of the character he created, from the initial inspiration to the title’s success in the comic book industry. Scene to Storyboard Comparison: Video clips show storyboard sketches followed by the finished product from the movie. Clown to Violator (1:23, SD) Violator to Clown (:30, SD) Cape (:55, SD) Mask (:45, SD) Violator from Bookcase (:31, SD) Original Todd McFarlane Sketches (:24, SD): Includes several Spawn character sketches from McFarlane’s portfolio. Spawn Concept/Sketch Gallery: Show’s the various iterations and initial concepts for various characters and elements of the production design. Character Development – Spawn (5:28, SD) Character Development – Clown and Violator (2:24, SD) Character Development – Melabogia (:15, SD) Character Development – Jessica Priest (2:00, SD) Costume Design (4:16, SD) Set Decoration (:40, SD) Special Effects (9:04, SD) Spawn Animated Movie Preview (1:43, SD): Teaser for the animated feature that originally aired on HBO. Filter and the Crystal Method Trip Like I Do Music Video (4:28, SD) Marilyn Manson and Sneaker Pimps Long Hard Road Out of Hell Music Video (4:26, SD) Theatrical Trailer (1:46, SD) Recap The Film: 3/5 Video Quality: 3.5/5 Audio Quality: 3.5/5 Special Features: 3.5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 2.5/5 Warner Home Video delivers a merely average presentation for “Spawn,” the big screen adaptation of Todd McFarlane’s popular comic book series. Though it carries over the bonus material from the 2001 DVD release, the unremarkable video transfer makes it difficult to recommend for an upgrade. Still, given the $10 street price, it’s hard to pass up for fans who don’t already have the film in their collection. Anyone else is advised to seek out a rental first.