The year is 1994 and your faithful vampire mistress is in her senior year of high school nearing graduation. The world is still mourning the loss of a young action actor who was following in his legendary fathers footsteps and it has them curious about one of the first non mainstream comic/graphic novel adaptations. The director is an unknown, the accident on set is infamous, and the music is from the bleeding edge of the day.
The movie is The crow.
Based on the James O’Barr comic book series from 1989 it is the tragic tale of lost love and vengeance from beyond the grave. I should say loosely based on the comic series, which I read again last night after watching the film. As with any film adaptation of a written work there are changes; many of which are significant. The difference here is that the changes take away little from the overall narrative of the subject. Some characters are combined, others don’t exist and the overall antagonist arc is dramatically different. Some scenes are nearly lifted panel for panel from the comic others do not exist at all – and couldn’t.
What makes it to screen however is a near perfect gothic film that captures the true heart of the Crow and delivers on the rage that JOBarr felt as he wrote it. Flashbacks sufficiently show the love between Eric Draven (Lee) and his fiancee Shelly (Sofia Shinas). Their lives brutally taken and filmed even at a PG 13 rating still bring the right amount of violence and pain to know that some crimes need to be avenged.
Watching the film it’s clear director Alex Proyas (Dark City, I Robot) had an eye for the sensibilities of shooting a comic film. Many of the images from the movie look as if they were lifted from the comic panels and more than a few seem to be inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s imagery of the Narrows in Batman Begins. The lighting, the musical queues and choices, the atmosphere are nearly perfect in every shot. I wish more films came out that truly “got it” the way Proyas does and understood the subtlety of light and shadow as he executes it.
The acting, well I have said that the film is nearly perfect this is the weakest moment. The run away performance is Michael Wincotts “Top Dollar” and boy he sure put a smile on my face. Brandon Lee’s performance is simply ‘above average’ to me. Don’t get me wrong; it’s solid and hits moments of perfect pain, insanity, quietness and rage but there’s just something a little off or missing that keeps it from being bloody amazing. Everyone else is largely forgettable, even the remarkable Ernie Hudson. Some of the characterizations are just that rather than being characters. Even the presence of Tony Todd comes across slightly hollow.
Action? The movie is filled with it. It’s all shot remarkably well and without the use of a single shaking camera. Please Hollywood, try again, try harder! Mix these well performed action sequences with the energizing and pulse pounding music and you have a movie that moves from quiet moments of introspection and suffering to violence and pain.
If for some reason the past 20 years have gone by and you haven’t see this – do I know you? This is an absolute must see film for the genre.
Tomorrows review believed in nothing so is nothing.