It has been many, many, MANY a year since I have sat down to watch something from my own gothic and grunge past. I haven’t even really had the urge to, really. Nor the time.
Last night I decided that a repeat viewing of a forgotten film. 1994’s The Crow, directed by Alex Proyas. Sure, many of you from my era will obviously remember the Crow and demand that it’s not a forgotten film, but, it’s been many years since the film has made an appearance on cable, and given today’s youth and where the goth kids have come and gone, it is something you would think that would from time to time still be in focus.
1994 was a strange year. Grunge music was at it’s high point. The likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden were powering through every radio as far as the ear could see. 1994 brought the death of Kurt Cobain and signaled a changing tide. Music was changing. Nine Inch Nails was pushing into the forefront. A darker time was approaching. With it, within Weeks of Cobain’s suicide, came the theatrical release of The Crow. A hotly debated release, since the film’s primary protagonist was killed on set many months earlier.
Yes, Brandon Lee died during the final week of shooting on the film. A mishandled prop weapon with mishandled dummy bullets caused a bullet to be fired from the dummy gun and into the abdomen and into the spine of Lee. It was quite a major tragedy on all counts and changed the way weapons are currently used in film today… and if you ask me, it brought upon the advent of digital gunfire in future productions.
You see, if you watch The Crow now, you can see that it’s effects are all done on film. There are miniatures. There are mattes. There are layers upon layers of film to bring such effects to the screen. There are gunshots. Real muzzle blasts. Real guns. Arguably, it could be said that this was the last of it’s kind. Movies aren’t made like this any more. And, for this one, it certainly adds a certain depth, and grit to the comic based world. It’s dark. It’s gritty. It’s grainy. Early on in the film, when Eric Draven returns from the dead, and after donning his makeup, makes a sky top run across the city of Detroit his spirit bird, The Crow, eyes a knife wielding Tin Tin on the streets below. It’s followed by an actual stunt… something that is pretty much unheard of anymore. A free fall from atop a building to the streets below. An actual human being does a swan dive off from a roof and falls to an off camera air bag. A stunt man.
After The Crow, the role of the stuntman changed forever. The role of the computer image quickly began to take over the screen in a few short years to come.
In terms of imagery, The Crow is stylistic and simple in it’s gothic and set based shooting style… yet, even now, almost twenty years later, it holds up and isn’t cheesy. You would think the simplicity of the sets in terms of modern digital worlds would be a detriment, but it is not. It adds depth and a storybook fashion to a film that is a storybook, comic book, superhero movie.
With that being said… The Crow was a super hero film. One of the earliest of the modern era. Tim Burton abandoned Batman two years earlier and Joel Schumacher had his sights set on ruining the franchise. Tim Burton may have turned the tables on the view of comic books in the face of the big screen world, but even now, those two films are a bit kitchsy. After last night’s viewing of The Crow, I am coming around to the conclusion that Alex Proyas and The Crow designed the modern template for a superhero movie. The film never receives such credit, but watch it again. You will see what I am talking about. The modern superhero films have roots set deep within The Crow. The basic plot structure. The imagery. The music.
Without The Crow, there would be no Matrix. It paved the way for a deeper thinking action film. Without The Crow, there would be no Dark Knight. There would be no Heath Ledger’s Joker. Even Tony Stark and Iron man can show roots in the Crow. The template is the same. Sure, it’s the same template as a million other hero movies. Superman II in particular bares a striking resemblance, but the Crow does it with grace, style, and grit. Blood. Violence. Lots of it. Swearing. And Nudity in a few places. Few other comic book places have gone where this one goes, yet it holds it’s action and humor in place.
The Crow stands strong today. As strong as it did in 1994. It may be a forgotten film, but it deserves another look by any and all. I remember seeing this at the cheap seats theater probably six times when I was 18 or so. Yeah, I was trying to capture some darker side of my youth and trying to find my rebellious side. But, the Crow, brought redemption. It brought fun. While watching last night, I forgot how much of it I didn’t remember. yet… I did remember Skank. and nearly every line he spoke. As far as films of the 90s go… this one probably should get more respect than it does. 1994 also brought us Pulp Fiction. Clerks. Forrest Gump. Dumb and Dumber. And Police Academy: Mission to Moscow. Some deserve to be forgotten. Some are classics in their own right. I move to give the Crow it’s proper credit. It changed the way movies are made… for better or for worse.