Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Trick or Trailers: The Crow (1994)

Every so often movie studios are tasked with the difficult job of marketing a film after its star has passed. One of the most famous examples of which being the release of the dark comic book adaptation The Crow after Brandon Lee's tragic on-set death in 1993.

How do you promote a movie like this, given the circumstances, and not seem like a ghoul? Well, maybe you don't. All things considered, I think they did a fine job.

I know some people believe that The Crow should never have been released but I don't get that. Had Lee's family felt that way, sure, no argument. But if the family believed that the movie should be released and stand as a lasting tribute to Lee, I don't see the issue.

Certainly it's undeniable to anyone who watches The Crow how completely invested in the role of Eric Draven Lee was and, had he lived, there's no doubt that this is the movie that would have vaulted him to another level of stardom.

For it to just sit in a vault would have been a terrible waste.

Especially when the movie is as good as this.

As a fan of James O'Barr's comic, I was thrilled when I heard it was being made into a movie and I was stunned at how well director Alex Proyas brought it to life. Right from the opening shot going over a cool miniature of a decaying Detroit neighborhood, gliding up to the shattered window of Eric and Shelly's apartment, I knew that this was going to be something special. Few comic book adaptations honor their source material as well as Proyas and co. did with The Crow.

I'm surprised that The Crow doesn't get a lot more mention around Halloween time. After all, it does take place on the night before Halloween. Even though it's not a horror film, per se, it does overlap the genre and has plenty of Goth vibes to spare. It also won the Fangoria Chainsaw Award in 1995 for Best Wide Release Film - beating out Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Interview with the Vampire, Wolf, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (Ok, it didn't have much competition. But still, it won!) and Lee for Best Actor - beating out the likes of Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson (yes, cynics will say it was a sympathy win and, yes, these cynics would be absolutely right but I think Lee's performance is still worthy of sincere admiration).

The Crow spawned a number of sequels, all of 'em lousy, and a TV series, which I've actually heard good things about but have never watched myself. Every now and then, talks of a big screen reboot come up but eventually fade away. Who knows what shape a Crow franchise would have taken had Lee lived? The first movie seems so self-contained and brings Eric's story to a satisfying close, I don't see where the point would be of having Lee come back to the part.

And surely, after The Crow's success (and I do think it would have succeeded every bit as well without the morbid attraction of it being the film Lee died on) he would have been moving on to bigger things, right?

It's nice to think so. Why believe anything less?

Lee died twenty six years ago. He'd be fifty four now, had he lived. In other words, he'd still be relatively young. I mean, we don't think of Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt as old and they're both older than fifty four.

Crazy as it is to think, if Lee were alive today and passed, we'd say that it was far too soon. And yet a whole lifetime has gone by since.

I don't know what to say to that other than I think that's why The Crow endures. Beyond being a stylish, moody action/horror film, it's also a reminder that life is fragile and the tomorrow we dream about is not always the tomorrow that we live to enjoy.

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