You might know director Alex Proyas from his Oscar-nominated science fiction/action feature “I, Robot” (2004) starring Will Smith. But did you know that he also directed the dark 90s cult classic “The Crow” (1994)?
Most of us know “The Crow” as the movie that Brandon Lee, son of martial arts star Bruce Lee, tragically died while filming. Based on James O’Barr’s comic book series of the same name, “The Crow” recounts the tale of Detroit musician Eric Draven (Lee) who has come back from the dead to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, Shelly (Sofia Shinas), by gang members on the same date a year before.
Eric, who was also killed at the same time as Shelly, has been brought back to life by a supernatural crow that has resurrected him and, in the process, made him immortal; any wound he receives now heals immediately. Haunted by Shelly’s painful death and emotionally tormented by his inability to save her, Eric begins his hunt for her murderers with this newfound power.
“The Crow” is your typical revenge story: guy can’t protect his girlfriend, she dies, he tracks down those responsible and restores her (and his) honor through defeating them. Simple. However, though we’ve seen this story before, this film is a delight to watch because of its striking visuals.
The gothic aesthetic of “The Crow” is realized from the opening images of the film. With its dark cinematography, chart-topping alternative soundtrack, and dramatic makeup and special effects, it definitely delivers on the premise promised in its trailer. We can’t help but feel for Eric, whose moody demeanor is only enhanced through these elements; we truly feel his pain and longing for Shelly, and his anger at her being taken from him too soon. Because we as an audience are able to empathize with him–a testament to Lee’s phenomenal acting–his vulnerability becomes his strength.
Due to the tragic death of Brandon Lee, some edits had to be made to the script of “The Crow.” Despite this, the story remains strong, with parallel characters Shelly and Sarah (Rochelle Davis), whom Eric is able to save in the end, and motifs of the eye and the crow, which converge when villain Myca (Bai Ling) dies. Fortunately, with only eight days left of filming, there were not many scenes left to be shot, and the film was able to be finished in spite of Lee’s sudden passing. “The Crow” was dedicated to Lee and his fiancée, Eliza.
Ultimately, this film stands out as a strong piece of 90s culture that can be enjoyed again and again, not just because of the factors I’ve listed above, but because it is a personal story. We’ve all experienced loss. We’ve all experienced a desire to put things right that have been wronged. We can all see ourselves in Eric. So, if you can relate, consider giving “The Crow” a watch this Halloween season as a tribute to Brandon Lee.
Filmnetic Grade: A-
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