Saturday, October 10, 2015
JEFF OF THE CINEFILES & UNFINISHED BUSINESS : HALL OF FAME: FILE #0042: THE CROW (1994)
Directed By: Alex Proyas
Written By: David J Schow & John Shirley
Based On The Graphic Novel and Comic Strip By: James O’Barr
Cinematography By: Dariusz Wolski
Editor: Dov Hoenig & Scott Smith
Music By: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brandon Lee, Michael Wincott, Anna Thompson, Ernie Hudson, Bai Ling, Jon Polito, Rochelle Davis, Tony Todd, David Patrick Kelly, Michael Massee, Laurence Mason
The limitations put on the production after the tragic on set accidental death of Brandon Lee. I believe it shaped the film from being an elaborate action filled dark fantasy. To a smaller scaled supernatural revenge story that a the center of it all at it's heart is a gothic story of undying love. That makes the film poetic for the most part.
The film is low budget, but doesn't feel that way.
It's a gothicallly designed revenge tale based on the independent comic by James O'Barr while the comic felt more punk. The film feels slick and cynical without a soul but seeking one and trying to convince you it has one in the meantime.
Internet being devastated by the tragedy and wondering if I would ever get to see the film that I was looking forward too. I read all the articles i could get my hands on at the time of the tragedy and the one's leading up to it's final release.
When I initially saw the advertising and posters when the release was coming I was In high school it's appearance I. Train stations it amazed me I had to own the poster and I still do to this very day. It's one of the few posters I owned as a teen.
I only went to see the film in the theater only once with my father. to not only preserve my memory of it at the time, but show a certain respect by forcing myself to remember as if things happen a bunch of times they can run Into one another as a memory bit watching it once you can remember all the details and build up sort of like a first kiss. Especially if it's the only one you ever got from that person.
I bought the soundtrack for the film which introduced me to the more darker bands like Nine Inch Nails and Stone Temple Pilots. So it was kind of a gateway drug for me of sorts.
It was a superhero but not really. As Eric Draven was after vengeance not looking to be a hero, but finds himself always at the center of the evil. A loner by nature, He is always haunted by the memory of his love the one good thing In his life taken away. Being a romantic I always identified with that, even my younger cousin still has a (different) poster though he might view it more as a fan and student of kung-fu. A superhero for the disenfranchised, who skewer towards being a outsider ad interests in subjects that are considered dark.
We never really know the dimensions of his powers though learn his weakness rather quickly for arguments sake it is pretty obvious.
The film wasn't the typical graphic novel adaptation as at the time it was released, of your graphic novel wasn't hugely popular and mainstream you couldn't get a lot of money. So though this film was released by a major studio. It was more of a independent production. Just looking at the film you can tell it's mostly sets. Low budget done rather simply and gritty, grungy and dirty which more fits into the tale.
The film had to excise the character of Skull Cowboy who was supposed to be a part of the third act.
The film is very violent more in a hand to hand way then guns and explosions. I also believe daredevil stole an idea from the film of setting a fire with it's symbol.
This was a star making role, though at times he plays the scenes more over the top then Sorrowful. I can imagine the pressure was high on his shoulders. This really the first major starring role in a film that could be a franchise that has a fan base. even if at the time it was a small one, but also making it good to bring in an audience. Due to his death Brandon lee and the film became immortal it's only sad the way it happened
Based on the graphic novel by James O'Barr it was written for the love of his life who died. This was his way of working through it. He Originally Wanted Johnny Depp to star in the film. River Phoenix and Christian Slater both turned down the lead role. According to O’Barr he didn't like casting Brandon Lee as the main lead for his comic-book adaptation. At that time he had only seen him in SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO and fearing that it would end up like a Kung Fu movie and go straight to video. But he was thrilled when he first met Brandon on the set with the makeups and Crow outfit. He was amazed by Brandon's take on the character when he spoke the exact lines from the comics.
James O'Barr modeled the comic book "Eric's Face" on an amalgam of Ian Curtis and Daniel Ash. Iggy Pop served as the model for comic Eric's torso and more importantly, the comic Funboy's overall look and attitude. Iggy was slated to star as Funboy in the film, however he was forced to decline the role due to touring/recording conflicts. To make up for his cancellation he agreed to be in the sequel.
James O'Barr constantly listened to the songs of Joy Division and The Cure while shaping and creating the graphic novel this film is based on. He was delighted when Robert Smith of "The Cure" agreed to write an original song for the movie. Although a hugely popular song, introducing legions of new fans to "The Cure", they've only performed "Burn" live once, nineteen years after the film's release (even though it was often requested). When a fan asked if they'd play the song at a concert, bassist Simon Gallup replied, "Did we do that one for a soundtrack? I don't remember it."
James O'Barr stated on the Crow DVD that when he met the movie's executives, they originally wanted to make this a musical starring Michael Jackson. He immediately laughed uncontrollably thinking it was a joke, only to find that they were quite serious. It was only until Brandon Lee and Alex Proyas came on board that the movie took a more serious role.
In these modern times of CGI over run superhero tales this film feels dated by it's practical effects and minor digital effects.
The film will always have a mystique surrounding it due to an on set accident that killed it's star Brandon Lee. Which despite that was also managed to be completed. Which had to massively change the ending which included more of the crow mythology that wasn't fully explores until the crow syndicated series. Which would have included more special effects. I kind of like the simplicity of the film making it more of a supernatural revenge tale more than a dark superhero tale. Although he was not at fault for the death of Brandon Lee, Michael Massee stopped acting for a year because he was so traumatized by the incident. He has never seen the film.
The following scenes were completed after Brandon Lee 's death:
• Draven first enters the apartment after digging himself out of his grave: footage of Lee walking through an alley in the rain was digitally composited into the scene where he walks through the doorway. Computer technology added drops of water to the door frame to make the water on his back not seem out of place.
• The shot of Draven falling from the window was made by digitally compositing Lee's face (complete with simulated blood) onto a body double.
• The scene where Draven puts on his make-up was filmed using a double. The face in the smashed mirror was Lee's, computer-altered to fit the shards. The image of Draven walking towards the window with the crow on his shoulder was a double with Lee's face added during lightning flashes.
• When Sarah visits the apartment, we never see Draven's face as it is a double.
Would this film had been as big had Brandon Lee lived? In other words was most of it's box office success more supported by grim thrill seekers or honoring his memory? Who knows? I loved the film and still admire it. I have watched it more one's over the years.
While being an action film yet still focusing on Character. This would be the type of stylish action film. I would love to make, great visuals with breakneck hand to hand action. It's more manageable and not on such a grand scale as most action films are today that depend on saving the world or even the city.
It's darkness and gothic beauty also helps attract me to the film.
Though the film has it's limitations that is what actually works for the film. It stays true to it's independent graphic novel roots instead of being big budget. Which would most likely have caused It to lose not only it's edge but dilute it's poetic soul and heart dressed around a action revenge film. It's a dark tale, but at heart a revenge tale. Brandon Lee plays the lead like romantic poet which at the time they made the modern equivalent was a rock star. Though it's dark the film has dirty amazing visuals.
This is the only satisfactory product of The Crow franchise. The sequels wet from bad to terrible to one passable sequel. The television show was barely ok, yes I watched it when it aired. With Mark Dacoscas at least he could do hand to hand combat and make it look believable.
Over the years another sequel was proposed with Rob zombie writing and directing a futuristic version and also a proposed remake starring either Mark Wahlberg or Bradley Cooper. I can't tell the quality of those films or what they might be, but I doubt they will be able to have the same meaning and beauty of this film. This film stands apart with it's own identity there is no other film like it. Though many try not will there ever be which is harder being a more mainstream film in the studio market.
Though the storyline is simple when compared to today's superhero movies. But that was part of it's charm. One of the first of it's kind before it became a trend. It never felt like a superhero film more of a supernatural revenge tale that was more dark and cynical then anything.
It was the first time other then the Muppet films and Jurassic park that the effects left me spellbound on a technical level. Though by now even some of the effects seen ancient compared to the technical advances that have been made.
The film gives a claustrophobic feel. This isn't a worldwide or global story more of a community one. An urban legend come to life.
Luckily it also managed I express the eventual mythology of the tale, that might have overloaded the film and made it more confusing then it needed to be
This is still the best film Alex Proyas has ever made. Though he was on a roll with his film and then the magnificent DARK CITY. Which was more original but didn't touch the heart like this one. After both these films he seemed to lose his way a little. Though both side by side are great companion pieces
The film cuts a romantic figure as it is a love story. A young man's story of lost love to tragedy. Him seeking revenge and becoming a hero in the process.
Some people have avoided this film because of the tragedy that befell it and it's star Brandon Lee.
Though some audience members went to the film in a macabre wonder. Wondering if they would get a glimpse of his actual death on screen. Also to see how much of the film was finished and how the film handled him not being there for certain scenes. Basically how they would work around his actual death.
The film was released as a testament to him and all of his hard work. Also as it was mostly finished filming except for a few scenes as so much money had already been spent.
The marketing of the film of macabre with the words BELIEVE IN ANGELS? With star Brandon Lee's picture as the title character The Crow. I remember the first time I saw the poster I was shocked and overjoyed. I knew immediately I must have it. And that I must see the film. Which I did twice and began quoting it. This was right around the time I was becoming a for hard film fanatic not quite yet. Though i know it is one of the first films in my teenage years a new release that I became orally obsessed with for a time.
While this movie isn't an action extravaganza it has enough to keep the audience satisfied as it seems like a less mystical revenge take then originally intended.
It has style to spare and feel more gritty and gives the audience sense of reality as they watch it even if we all know it is part fantasy.
It is hard to watch knowing the tragedy of Brandon Lee's death by accidental gunshot in the film. While there are plenty of scenes in which his character is shot many times. So that we wince each time with a morbid fascination. Which I think some audience members came to the film with when it was first released. As some also did it as a dedicated memory to Brandon. As well as some audiences just wanted to see the film as it looked good and a gothic comic book film.
This is one of the few film posters I had on my wall as a teen. In fact once i first saw the poster I knew I wanted it and after seeing the film twice in theaters her cemented the decision.
After this film i immediately went out and watched Brandon lee's two previous films the straight to video SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO with Dolph Lungdren and RAPID FIRE his first starring role that made it to theaters, but played like a typical low budget action film. A nice start to a career, but nothing as spectacular as this film. Which of not for the talent of director Alex Proyas could have easily gone the same way as his previous films