The Crow (1994 film)
|Directed by||Alex Proyas|
|Based on||The Crow|
by James O'Barr
|Music by||Graeme Revell|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$94 million|
The Crow is a 1994 American gothic superhero film directed by Alex Proyas and written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It stars Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as Eric Draven, a murdered musician who is resurrected to avenge the deaths of himself and his fiancée. The film is based on James O'Barr's comic of the same name.
Production on The Crow was struck by tragedy when Lee was fatally wounded during filming. As Lee had finished most of his scenes before his death, the film was completed through script rewrites, a stunt double, and digital effects. The Crow is dedicated to Lee and his fiancée, Eliza Hutton.
After Lee's death, Paramount Pictures opted out of distributing the film, and the rights were picked up by Miramax, who oversaw The Crow's completion. The Crow was released to positive reviews, with the Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus praising its tone, visuals, Dariusz Wolski's cinematography, the production design, and Lee's performance. It also grossed $94 million on a $23 million budget and attained a strong cult following. The film's success led to a media franchise that includes three sequels and a television series. The sequels, which featured different protagonists and none of the original cast members, were unable to match the success of the first film.
On October 30, Devil's Night in Detroit, Sergeant Albrecht is at the scene of a crime where Shelly Webster has been beaten and raped. Her fiancé, musician Eric Draven, lies dead on the street after having been stabbed, shot, and thrown out the window. The couple had planned on getting married the following day, Halloween. As he leaves for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl, Sarah, who says that she is their friend, and that they take care of her. Albrecht reluctantly tells her that Shelly is dying.
One year later, a crow taps on Eric's gravestone; Eric awakens and climbs out of his grave. Meanwhile, the street gang who perpetrated the deaths of Eric and Shelly, headed by T-Bird, is setting fires in the city. Upon returning to his old, now-derelict apartment, Eric experiences flashbacks of T-Bird and his gang (Tin Tin, Funboy and Skank) committing the murder. Eric soon discovers that any wounds he receives heal immediately; guided by the crow, he sets out to avenge his and Shelly's murders by killing the perpetrators.
The crow helps Eric locate Tin Tin; Eric kills him and takes his coat before going to the pawn shop where Tin Tin pawned Shelly's engagement ring, forcing the owner, Gideon, to return it. He then blows up the shop with gasoline, sparing Gideon so that he can warn the others. After finding Funboy with Sarah's drug addict mother, Darla, and killing him, Eric confronts Darla, squeezing the morphine from her veins, making her realize that Sarah needs her to be a good mother. He visits Albrecht, explaining who he is and why he is here. Albrecht tells him what he knows about Shelly's death and that he watched her suffer for thirty hours before dying. Eric touches Albrecht and feels the pain Shelly felt during those hours. After she and her mother begin repairing their strained relationship, Sarah goes to Eric's apartment and tells him that she misses him and Shelly. Eric assures her that although they cannot be friends anymore, he still cares about her.
As T-Bird and Skank stop at a convenience store to pick up supplies, Eric arrives and kidnaps T-Bird. Skank follows the pair and witnesses Eric kill T-Bird; he escapes and goes to Top Dollar, the crime boss who controls all the street gangs in the city. Top Dollar and his lover/half-sister Myca, have become aware of Eric's actions through various reports from witnesses. Top Dollar holds a meeting with his associates where they discuss new plans for their Devil's Night criminal activities. After Eric arrives, looking for Skank, a gun fight ensues, with nearly everyone present, including Skank, being killed. However, Top Dollar, Myca and Grange, Top Dollar's right-hand man, escape.
Eric, having finished his quest, returns to his grave. Sarah bids him farewell, and he gives her Shelly's engagement ring. Grange then abducts her and takes her into the church where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting. Through the crow, Eric realizes what has happened and goes to rescue her. Unfortunately, Grange, after Myca divines that any injury suffered by the crow will harm him, shoots the crow after it flies into the church, sapping Eric of his immortality. Myca grabs the wounded crow, intending to take its mystical power. Albrecht arrives, wanting to pay his respects to Eric, just after Eric is shot and wounded. Top Dollar grabs Sarah and climbs the bell tower as a fight ensues, and Albrecht kills Grange. The crow escapes Myca's grip, claws her eyes, and sends her down the bell tower to her death. When Albrecht is wounded, Eric climbs to the roof of the church on his own. There, Top Dollar admits ultimate responsibility for Eric and Shelly's deaths. In their fight, Eric gives Top Dollar the thirty hours of pain he absorbed from Albrecht; the sensation sends Top Dollar over the roof of the church to his death. Sarah accompanies Albrecht to the hospital, and Eric is reunited with Shelly at their graves. The crow, carrying Shelly's engagement ring in its beak, later lands on Eric's grave and drops the ring into Sarah's hand before flying off over the city and into the night, while Sarah's monologue affirms that while people die, love lasts forever.
- Brandon Lee as Eric Draven / The Crow
- Chad Stahelski in the same role after Lee's death
- Rochelle Davis as Sarah Mohr
- Ernie Hudson as Sergeant Daryl Albrecht
- Michael Wincott as 'Top Dollar'
- Bai Ling as Myca
- Sofia Shinas as Shelly Webster
- Anna Levine as Darla Mohr
- David Patrick Kelly as 'T-Bird'
- Angel David as 'Skank'
- Laurence Mason as 'Tin Tin'
- Michael Massee as 'Funboy'
- Tony Todd as 'Grange'
- Jon Polito as Gideon
- Bill Raymond as Mickey
- Marco Rodríguez as Detective Torres
Brandon Lee's death
On March 31, 1993, at EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina, Lee was filming a scene where his character, Eric, is shot after witnessing the beating and rape of his fiancée. Actor Michael Massee's character Funboy fires a .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 629 revolver at Lee as he walks into the room. A previous scene using the same gun had called for inert dummy cartridges fitted with bullets, but no powder or primer, to be loaded in the revolver. For close-up scenes that use a revolver, where the bullets are clearly visible from the front, and do not require the gun to actually be fired, dummy cartridges provide a more realistic appearance than blank rounds, which have no bullet. Instead of purchasing commercial dummy cartridges, the film's prop crew, hampered by time constraints, created their own by pulling the bullets from live rounds, dumping the powder charge, then reinserting the bullets. However, they unknowingly left the live primer in place at the rear of the cartridge. At some point during filming, the revolver was apparently discharged with one of these improperly-deactivated cartridges in the chamber, setting off the primer with enough force to drive the bullet partway into the barrel, where it became stuck (a condition known as a squib load). The prop crew either failed to notice or failed to recognize the significance of this issue.
In the fatal scene, which called for the revolver to be actually fired at Lee from a distance of 12–15 feet, the dummy cartridges were exchanged for blank rounds, which feature a live powder charge and primer, but no bullet, thus allowing the gun to be fired without the risk of an actual projectile. As the production company had sent the firearms specialist home early, responsibility for the guns was given to a prop assistant who was unaware of the rule for inspecting all firearms before and after any handling. Therefore, the barrel was not checked for obstructions when the time came to load it with the blank rounds. Since the bullet from the dummy round was already trapped in the barrel, this caused the .44 Magnum bullet to be fired out of the barrel with virtually the same force as if the gun had been loaded with a live round, and it struck Lee in the abdomen, mortally wounding him. He was rushed to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, where he underwent six hours of surgery. However, attempts to save him were unsuccessful, and Lee was pronounced dead at 1:03 pm EST on March 31, 1993, at the age of 28. The shooting was ruled an accident.
After Lee's death, the producers were faced with the decision of whether or not to continue with the film. Lee had completed most of his scenes for the film and was scheduled to shoot for only three more days. The rest of the cast and crew, except for Ernie Hudson, whose brother-in-law had just died, stayed in Wilmington. Paramount Pictures, which was initially interested in distributing The Crow theatrically (originally a direct-to-video feature), opted out of involvement due to delays in filming and some controversy over the violent content being inappropriate given Lee's death. However, Miramax picked it up with the intention of releasing it in theatres and injected a further $8 million to complete the production, taking its budget to approximately $23 million. The cast and crew then took a break for script rewrites of the flashback scenes that had yet to be completed. The script was rewritten by Walon Green, René Balcer and Michael S. Chernuchin, adding narration and new scenes. Lee's stunt double Chad Stahelski was used as a stand-in and CGI was used to digitally superimpose Lee's face onto the head of the double. The beginning of the movie, which had not been finished, was rewritten, and the apartment scene remade using computer graphics from an earlier scene of Lee.
A character from the original comic book called Skull Cowboy was originally planned to be part of the adaptation and even had scenes filmed. He acted as a guide for Eric Draven between the worlds of the dead and the living. He was set to be played by Michael Berryman, but the role was cut from the film due to Lee's death.
The Crow was a sleeper hit at the box office. The film opened at number one in the United States in 1,573 theaters with $11,774,332 and averaging $7,485 per theater. Some industry sources believed that Miramax overstated the weekend gross by as much as $1 million. The film ultimately grossed $50,693,129 in the United States and Canada, and $43 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $93.7 million against its budget of $23 million. It ranked at number 24 for all films released in the US in 1994, the 24th highest-grossing film worldwide for 1994 and number 10 for R-rated films released that year.
Overseas in Europe, the film grossed £1,245,403 in the United Kingdom (where it was 18-rated), and sold 4,604,115 tickets in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. In Seoul, South Korea, it sold 83,126 tickets.
The Crow has an approval rating of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 59 reviews and an average rating of 7.10/10. The critical consensus states: "Filled with style and dark, lurid energy, The Crow is an action-packed visual feast that also has a soul in the performance of the late Brandon Lee." The film also has a score of 71 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 14 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".
Reviewers praised the action and visual style. Rolling Stone called it a "dazzling fever dream of a movie"; Caryn James, writing for The New York Times, called it "a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth"; and Roger Ebert called it "a stunning work of visual style". The Los Angeles Times praised the film also.
Lee's death was alleged to have a melancholic effect on viewers; Desson Howe of The Washington Post wrote that Lee "haunts every frame" and James Berardinelli called the film "a case of 'art imitating death', and that specter will always hang over The Crow". Both Berardinelli and Howe called it an appropriate epitaph to Lee, and Ebert stated that not only was this Lee's best film, but it was better than any of his father's. Critics generally thought that this would have been a breakthrough film for Lee, although Berardinelli disagreed. The changes made to the film after Lee's death were noted by reviewers, most of whom saw them as an improvement. Howe said that it had been transformed into something compelling. Berardinelli, although terming it a genre film, said that it had become more mainstream because of the changes.
The film was widely compared to other films, particularly Tim Burton's Batman movies and Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Critics described The Crow as a darker film than the others; Ebert called it a grungier and more forbidding story than those of Batman and Blade Runner, and Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote that the generic inner city of Detroit portrayed in The Crow "makes Gotham City look like the Emerald City".
While the plot and characterization were found to be lacking, these faults were considered to be overcome by the action and visual style. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and the production design by Alex McDowell were also praised. The cityscape designed by McDowell and the production team was described by McCarthy as rendered imaginatively. The film's comic book origins were noted, and Ebert called it the best version of a comic book universe he had seen. McCarthy agreed, calling it "one of the most effective live-actioners ever derived from a comic strip". Critics felt that the soundtrack complemented this visual style, calling it blistering, edgy and boisterous. Graeme Revell was praised for his "moody" score; Howe said that it "drapes the story in a postmodern pall."
Negative reviews of the film were generally similar in theme to the positive ones but said that the interesting and "OK" special effects did not make up for the "superficial" plot, "badly-written" screenplay and "one-dimensional" characters.
In popular culture
In the South Park episode "Hell on Earth 2006", Satan throws a birthday party for himself in Los Angeles but requests that none of the partygoers dress up as the Crow due to the fact that he considers it annoying that multiple people always dress up as the character for Halloween parties.
- 7th – Sandi Davis, The Oklahoman
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – Matt Zoller Seitz, Dallas Observer
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – Mike Mayo, The Roanoke Times
- Top 10 (not ranked) – Betsy Pickle, Knoxville News-Sentinel
- Top 12 worst (Alphabetically ordered, not ranked) – David Elliott, The San Diego Union-Tribune
- Top 3 "Best in-your-face exploitation" (not ranked) – Glenn Lovell, San Jose Mercury News
|MTV Movie Award||Best Movie of the Year||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Award||Best Actor||Brandon Lee (posthumous)||Nominated|
|MTV Movie Award||Best Song||Stone Temple Pilots
For the song "Big Empty"
The original soundtrack album for The Crow features songs from the film, and was a chart-topping album. It included work by The Cure (their song, "Burn", became the film's main theme), The Jesus and Mary Chain, Rage Against the Machine and Helmet, among many others. In Peter Hook's memoir Substance: Inside New Order, Hook relates that New Order were approached to provide the soundtrack for the film, with a cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart", their hit as Joy Division as, like Eric, they too had "risen from the dead". However, the band's frontman Bernard Sumner vetoed the idea, citing they were too busy with their album Republic to commit to another project. James O'Barr, creator of the original comic book series, was a big fan of Joy Division and had named the characters Sergeant Albrecht and Captain Hook after bandmates Sumner (who was also known as Bernard Albrecht early in his career) and Hook.
Several groups contributed covers. Nine Inch Nails rendered Joy Division's "Dead Souls", Rollins Band covered Suicide's "Ghost Rider" and Pantera performed Poison Idea's "The Badge". The song "Big Empty" was not the Stone Temple Pilots' original choice for the soundtrack; they first recorded a version of "Only Dying", which they had recorded earlier as Mighty Joe Young in demo form, but it was replaced following Lee's death.
The score consists of original, mostly orchestral music, with some electronic and guitar elements, written for the film by Graeme Revell.
In 1996, a sequel was released, called The Crow: City of Angels. In this film, Vincent Pérez plays Ashe Corven, who, along with his son Danny, is killed by criminals. Ashe is resurrected as a new Crow. The character of Sarah Mohr (Mia Kirshner) reappears in this film and assists Ashe. The film also features Iggy Pop, who, according to the booklet insert for the film's soundtrack, was the producer's first choice for Funboy in the first Crow movie, but he was unable to commit due to his recording schedule. The band Deftones can be seen playing live in a festival scene and they contributed the song "Teething" to the soundtrack. The film was followed by a television series and two direct-to-video sequels, each with a different person as The Crow.
The third film, The Crow: Salvation, was released in 2000. Directed by Bharat Nalluri, it stars Eric Mabius, Kirsten Dunst, Fred Ward, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe and William Atherton. It is loosely based on Poppy Z. Brite's novel The Lazarus Heart. After its distributor cancelled the intended theatrical release due to The Crow: City of Angels' negative critical reception, The Crow: Salvation was released directly to video with mixed reviews.
The fourth film, The Crow: Wicked Prayer, was released in 2005. Directed by Lance Mungia, it stars Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, Tito Ortiz, Dennis Hopper, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Danny Trejo. It was inspired by Norman Partridge's novel of the same title. It had a one-week theatrical première on June 3, 2005, at AMC Pacific Place Theatre in Seattle, Washington, before being released to video on July 19, 2005. Like the other sequels, it had a poor critical reception, and it was considered the worst of the four films.
On December 14, 2008, Stephen Norrington announced in Variety that he planned to write and direct a "reinvention" of The Crow. Norrington distinguished between the original and his remake: "Whereas Proyas' original was gloriously gothic and stylized, the new movie will be realistic, hard-edged and mysterious, almost documentary-style." Ryan Kavanaugh then announced on November 23, 2009, that his company, Relativity Media, was in negotiations with Edward R. Pressman for both the film's rights and financing.
Norrington later stepped out of the project and, on April 7, 2011, it was announced that 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo had been chosen to direct the film, which has since been regarded as a remake. Tucker Tooley of Relativity Media was chosen serve as executive producer, while Jose Ibanez, Jon Katz and Jesus de la Vega were to serve as co-producers. Meanwhile, Bradley Cooper was in talks to play the lead. It was reported on April 20, 2011, that the project was undergoing some legal battles. In late June 2011, Relativity Media announced their plans to continue in mid-lawsuit and had tapped Alex Tse, who co-wrote the movie Watchmen. In mid-August 2011, it was announced that Cooper had dropped out due to scheduling difficulties and Mark Wahlberg, who was originally in talks for the lead in 2010, was again up for the part, with additional rumors of Channing Tatum or Ryan Gosling possibly taking the role, as well as James McAvoy. In October 2011, it was reported that Fresnadillo had departed the project as well. It was confirmed in January 2012 that Francisco Javier Gutiérrez had signed on to direct the remake, with Edward R. Pressman and Jeff Most on producing duties.
In June 2012, producer Edward R. Pressman assured fans that "the original 1994 Crow film holds a special place in my heart. The current film is a 'reinvention' of James O'Barr's graphic novel for the 21st century. We're thrilled to have teamed with director Javier Gutiérrez and screenwriter Jesse Wigutow on this story, which remains true to the core of Eric Draven's plight for revenge. On the news of future remakes, however, O'Barr stated: "[...] I don't have great expectations. I think the reality is, no matter who you get to star in it, or if you get Ridley Scott to direct it and spend 200 million dollars, you're still not gonna top what Brandon Lee and Alex Proyas did in that first ten million dollar movie." On April 19, 2013, it was announced that Tom Hiddleston was in talks to play Eric. That same month, there were reports that Hiddleston would not be doing the film, but that Alexander Skarsgård was being eyed for the part. A week later, however, Skarsgård stated that he was not attached to the film.
On May 4, 2013, Deadline reported that Luke Evans had been cast as Eric Draven. Evans reaffirmed to Superhero Hype that the film would be as faithful as possible to the original. On July 3, 2013, The Crow's creator James O'Barr was named as the creative consultant of the film. In an October 2015 interview, O'Barr would discuss what had changed his mind about the reboot, and efforts to make the reboot a more faithful adaptation of the comic book, while remaining respectful to the original film. On November 21, 2013, Schmoes Know had reports that Norman Reedus was up for the role of a character named "James", and that Kristen Stewart had at one time been considered for the part of Shelly. In December 2014, the studio hired Corin Hardy to direct the film. Evans told Den of Geek in an interview that he might not do the film, and it was later revealed that Evans has dropped out of the film due to other projects. On February 9, 2015, O'Barr told Blastr in an interview that he was interested in Sam Witwer for the role.
As of October 24, 2014, the film was set to start production in the spring of 2015. On February 25, 2015, it was reported that Jack Huston would be starring in the film. On March 14, 2015, O'Barr confirmed to Dread Central at the Lexington Comic and Toy Convention that Huston had been cast as Draven in the reboot, and at a Q&A during the convention he further confirmed that Jessica Brown Findlay had been cast as Shelly Webster. On May 20, 2015, Deadline reports that Andrea Riseborough is in talks to co-star as the female version of Top Dollar. On June 15, 2015, Variety reported two stories: Forest Whitaker was in negotiations for a role and Huston had dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, but Relativity Studios were looking at Nicholas Hoult and Jack O'Connell for the role of Draven. On July 31, 2015, The Hollywood Reporter reported that production on the reboot stalled because of Relativity Media's bankruptcy. O'Barr told comicbook.com in an interview that the film will still happen. TheWrap reported that filming on the reboot was going to start in March 2016 with Corin Hardy on board as director. On June 15, 2016, Deadline reports that Hardy may return to the reboot. On August 10, 2016, Jason Momoa posted a photo of himself with Hardy on his Instagram account. On September 6, 2016, TheWrap reports that Momoa is cast and filming will begin in January 2017. On November 17, 2016, The Hollywood Reporter has reported that Highland Film Group and Electric Shadow have acquired the rights to finance, produce, and distribute the film (now titled The Crow Reborn) from Relativity but may lose both Momoa and Hardy. In September 2017, it was announced that Sony will distribute the film.
On May 31, 2018, it was announced that both director Hardy and star Momoa had exited the project, leaving its future highly uncertain.
In November 2019, Proyas said in an interview on a podcast of a reboot:
I personally tried to squash it every time I hear of one, not that I believe I've been able to. I think extenuating circumstances have stopped it being made because if Hollywood wants to make something that they don't listen to schmucks like me who bring noble and moralistic issues. My point is that Brandon Lee made that movie what it is. He made that movie, he made that character. That character was not taken from a comic book, that was Brandon. And Brandon Lee died making that movie, he paid the worst price anyone could ever pay making a movie and it's his legacy. The guy would have been a huge star after that movie. He wasn't able to ever do that. That's his final testimony to his talent and that's why I finished the movie. I finished it for Brandon. After being devastated about what happened we shut down the production and I went back to Australia. Months later I went back and watched the movie and his family all the other actors, everyone involved, said 'You've got to finish this movie because Brandon is so great in it' and he was. I was able to watch it and see how great he was and I thought then the movie deserves to be completed because it's his legacy. So that's what the movie is, it's not just a movie that can be remade. It's one man's legacy. And it should be treated with that level of respect.
The Crow was first released on VHS and Laserdisc multiple times between 1994 and 1998 in addition to the widescreen DVD on February 3, 1998. The two-disc DVD was released on March 20, 2001 as part of the Miramax/Dimension Collector's Series. On October 18, 2011, The Crow was released on Blu-ray through Lionsgate Pictures who also re-released the DVD format on August 17, 2012. In Japan, the movie was remastered in 4K for a special edition in 2016, although the film's final resolution was capped at 1080p; as of January 2021, a 4K release (digital or physical) has yet to be announced.
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