So all this talk of a remake of The Crow drove me to dig out the horrific VHS copy that I’ve got to watch it over again. Yeah, that’s right, not only is it VHS, but it was taped off cable. I’m that old school.
I slept under a poster of Brandon Lee from The Crow for a good chunk of middle and high school. I bought the comic because of the movie. I bought the soundtrack, learned to like Joy Division and the Cure because of the soundtrack and the songs quoted in the comic. For a brief period of time I even flirted with drawing, copying bits out of the comic. Yeah, that’s right.
So this isn’t just any comic movie that someone wants to remake. It’s one that shaped my impressionable teenage mind into the twisted thing it is these days. If not for The Crow, I probably wouldn’t have read comics. Certainly would never have loved things like Preacher. Probably wouldn’t like the movies I like, either. Since I watched the movie before I read the comic, it will always be the version that means the most to me, and no remake will ever be quite right.
But does it hold up? The answer is, perhaps not surprisingly, yes. You can see the hints of The Matrix and even Sin City in the muted colors and sweeping black overcoats, and every line of the film is informed by noir classics. And even, for a second, I saw Heath Ledger’s Joker in Brandon Lee’s Eric Draven. Not much but the wide-eyed, single-minded insanity, but it was there.
Maybe I was reminded by the fact that Lee, like Ledger, died tragically while working on the movie, and so will forever be defined by the film–and define the character.
Sarah, the wiseass street punk who serves as anchor for the story, is still a compelling character and a great acting job by a kid who apparently has never acted again. (And she’s my age. I’d love to know what happened to her.)
Brandon Lee is still heartbreaking, still delivers poetry and punishment in that cool voice that breaks at just the right moments, and the flashbacks are still romantic.
Thematically, the movie might even be superior to the comic–it adds motivation to the crimes Eric is revenging, real human relationships to the mix. Where the comic is a sheer outpouring of gutwrenching pain, the film gives Eric something to protect as well as something to avenge, and it’s stronger, I think, for it.
Even the music holds up, doesn’t sound dated, and for the most part the clothes don’t look dated either. There’s no CG or wire work, and aside from a few aerial crow’s eye view shots, everything is street-level, dark, bloody, and mean.
So the new version proposes to be “realistic, hard-edged”–but how? Drop the Crow’s makeup? Change the soundtrack? The movie is less informed by gothic horror (or the 80s goth music) than the comics, and the story is at heart a supernatural thriller. Yet the film was an action flick with noir dialogue and styling, made more “realistic” by Brandon Lee’s doing his own stunts. And how much more gritty do you get than Eric squeezing the heroin out of Darla’s arm after dumping Funboy’s corpse in the bathtub?
How are you going to make a movie about a man returned from the dead to exact vengeance, his face smeared in harlequin-from-hell makeup, “documentary-style”?
Whatever. I think I’ll save the money from the movie ticket and buy the DVD of this one instead. This movie’s still too good to watch on VHS.