ames O'Barr's "The Crow" comic book, which
originally ran in the late '80s/early '90s as a 4-issue mini-series, was a
brilliant and nihilistic story of everlasting love, unrelenting pain, and human
nature gone terribly, terribly wrong. The movie "The Crow", directed
by Alex Proyas ("Dark
City") and written by David Schow and John Shirley, is a violent story
about brain dead punks, cliché villain types, and capitalism in the guise of
Essentially a one-hour movie with 40 superfluous minutes
tacked on to appease the Gods of Movie Commerce, "The Crow" follows
Goth rocker Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) who, exactly one year after his, and his
girlfriend's, brutal murder at the hands of 4 street thugs, returns from the
grave with supernatural powers. His quest for revenge unexpectedly leads him to
Top Dollar (Michael Wincott, "Alien:
Resurrection"), a gang leader with real estate aspirations (!). Being
that Draven is superpowered by an actual crow that flies around and gives
him groovy "crow vision" and stuff, it's a lucky thing Top Dollar has
on hand a sadistic sidekick who, without much preamble, guesses that the source
of Draven's power is the crow.
The "bible" for "The Crow" franchise
came from O'Barr's idea of a man rising from the dead for vengeance coupled with
the notion that the Crow's powers come from a flying black bird. As is the case
with "Crow: Salvation",
it's also a given that sooner or later the bad guys will go voila! and
miraculously figure out that the way to "get" to the Crow is to go
after the bird. This is precisely the template for the franchise in its last 3
appearances, right down to the master bad guy behind all the machinations that
cause the Crow's original death, and the master bad guy figuring out the whole
Crow-bird power scheme. As a result, once you've seen one "Crow"
movie, you've seen them all.
Needless to say, I find the above notion to be rather
painful to endure. Especially in light of my love for O'Barr's original books,
which was really of a series of poems and vibrant free flow thoughts jotted down
to haunting and rough imagery (not to mention very rough art). Leave it
to Hollywood to add a completely lame subplot like Top Dollar's business
dealings when the original story was about a simple, good man who returns to
kill 4 bad men, and at the same time has to deal with the fact that he and the
greatest love of his life are dead, and that he's trapped on this Earth until
he finishes off the killers. Leave it to lazy and unoriginal screenwriters to be
so dense as to be unable to fully grasp the simpleness of "The Crow"
Not surprisingly "The Crow" works best when it
stays true to O'Barr's ideas. Draven's poetry-as-dialogue, his look, and his
saving of Sarah's drug-addicted mother as a way to save Sarah (Rochelle Davis).
(Although the Sarah character was a minor one in the books.) In the movie, the
expanded Sarah role also provides narration, adding that ridiculous line about
the crow bringing back dead people, thereby completely undermining any idea that
Draven's return is special, but rather commonplace. Ernie Hudson also appears as
a demoted cop.
The real reason to sit through all of "The Crow"
is director Alex Proyas' amazing visuals. As he would later do on "Dark
City", Proyas uses tight and complex editing and a city bathed in
darkness for his canvas, bringing to mind phrases like gothic, nihilistic, and
just downright coolness. "The Crow" is visually brilliant, and
cinematographer Dariusz Wolski ("Bad
Company") swoops across the hellish cityscape with the ease and majesty
of an eagle (or is that crow?). As pure spectacle, the film more than makes up
for the lazy screenplay.
If you were to just concentrate on the effective
performance of Brandon Lee (who unfortunately was killed during the shoot) and
the visual eye of Proyas, "The Crow" is a stunning film to behold. But
for fans of O'Barr's original works, the movie begins to falter at about the
hour mark, when Wincott's character starts to come to the forefront. Also, why
does the Crow go around telling everyone who cares to listen who he really is?
You'd think a fellow who just came back from the grave with groovy supernatural
powers would be a little more discreet.