Re-Reviewed: The Crow took comic books movies in a new direction

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: A Cosplayers in character as The Crow during MCM London Comic Con 2017 held at the ExCel on October 28, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Ollie Millington/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: A Cosplayers in character as The Crow during MCM London Comic Con 2017 held at the ExCel on October 28, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Ollie Millington/Getty Images) /

While the modern era of comic book to film adaptations is bountiful to say the least, the1990s had more than its fair share of similar movies. Was The Crow one of them?

The Crow was about as ’90s as movies got. The cult classic revenge flick showed a darker side of comic books than had ever made its way to theater screens at that point but it resonated with audiences.

An unexpected hit, the legacy of the movie endures today, for better or worse.

A classic story in a new skin

At its core, The Crow is a story of revenge. The night before their wedding, Eric Draven and Shelly Webster were both brutally murdered. One year later, Eric was brought back from the dead by a crow and given a mission.

Gifted with powers and abilities, Draven set out to seek revenge by brutally murdering all of those responsible for his and Shelly’s deaths. The crow even offered him assistance and guidance along the way, helping him find his targets.

The Crow in comics

Created by James O’Barr, the original comics were released in1989 by Caliber Press. They published the first four issues. The fifth issue, which completed the first story arc, was published later by Tundra Publishing.

In 1993, Kitchen Sink Press collected those five issues into one graphic novel, which is the way most fans are familiar with the story. Kitchen Sink would continue to print new Crow stories from 1996 to 1998.

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The original story and character development was fueled by personal tragedy in O’Barr’s life as he developed the concept as a means of dealing with a drunk driver killing his fiancée. The tragedy that typified The Crow came from a very real place.

A sleeper hit

When The Crow hit movies theaters in 1994, it was at a time when only the big, popular characters like Superman and Batman made their way to the silver screen. Not every comic book character made wasn’t guaranteed a film so a dark, grungy comic book like The Crow was an unexpected longshot.

Not everyone was a fan, but it was a sleeper hit at the box office, bringing Miramax a tidy profit on the project. More than that, the movie actually received critical acclaim for its emotional depth and unique visual style which set it apart from previous comic book movies.

An even bigger surprise to many was the fact that The Crow spawned an ongoing franchise. The release of the first film in 1994 was followed by three sequels films and a TV series. Unfortunately, none of them lived up to the legacy of the original and were near universally panned by critics and fans.

The Crow abides

The thing with watching The Crow now is that it’s about as early 1990s a film as one will find. It’s dark. It’s brooding. It’s grunge. In many ways, it represents all the cultural aspects of the early 1990s that set it apart as its own, unique era.

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Yet somehow The Crow doesn’t feel dated when watched in the light of the modern era. The inventively violent action scenes still derive emotional weight from Eric Draven’s mission to avenge the deaths of himself and his fiancé. Real life also played a huge role in that emotion.

The tragic on-set death of Brandon Lee continues to cast a pall over the film. The son of the late icon Bruce Lee starred in the movie as Eric Draven, aka The Crow, and sadly died near the end of filming in an accident related to defective blank ammunition. His performance earned him a great deal of posthumous praise.

Some questioned even releasing the original film given what happened on set but others still see it as a tribute to Lee’s talent. However each watcher sees it, the movie is a cult classic that continues to provide proof that independent comics can be a success in other genres.

That being said, it also proves that maintaining the spirit and soul of those stories can be incredibly difficult. The sequels completely missed what made The Crow great. Talks of a reboot have been in the works for years, though the project always seems to fall apart.

While The Crow does have reboot potential, it would be difficult to recapture the indie 1990s feel that made the first movie a cult classic. The reality is that movie holds up, for the most part, today but it’s not a great candidate for a new adaptation. The sequels have already proved that.

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What did you think of The Crow? Let us know in the comments below!