Movie Mondays: The Crow: Franchise Overview
In 1989, James O’Barr created The Crow. This single comic proved so original, popular, and successful that it spawned a slew of spin-offs. There was a feature film adaptation, which was successful enough to (apparently) warrant three sequels. There have been other literary sequels to the original comic, such as novels. The Crow even spawned a live-action TV series. Hell, there was even a video game based on this franchise.
Unfortunately, not a lot of this was a good thing. In fact, most of these spin-offs range from mediocre to downright terrible.
The comic was originally written by O’Barr as a way of coping with the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver.
The series tells the story of Eric, a man who was murdered, along with his fiancée, by a passing gang when their car breaks down on the highway.
A year later, Eric is brought back from the dead to exact vengeance upon those murderous gang members. When not hunting them down, he spends his time in the house he and Shelly used to live in. He is in constant emotional pain, and her absence is torture for him. As he slips further into emotional anguish, he spends a fair bit of time mutilating himself.
The comic is done in stark black and white, and the lighting and shadows are a wonderful example of chiaroscuro. The flashbacks of Shelly are in color, which exemplify the contrast between the bright hopeful life he had and his current bleak dreary existence.
A fantastic read, by any standard, The Crow has been translated into almost a dozen languages and has sold over a quarter-million copies worldwide. Check it out.
The best part of the Crow franchise is that the “sequels” aren’t direct sequels really, but rather installments in an anthology. Each story focuses on a different quest for revenge, in a different setting with different characters and motivations. The list of spin-offs are Flesh and Blood, Dead Time, Wild Justice, and Waking Nightmares.
Just like the comic spin-offs, the book sequels follow the same anthology approach. No related stories, no repeating characters. Just the same theme. The story is always some form of gritty revenge quest, and they feature all sorts of varying settings. Some stories start during the Civil War and move to the modern era, while others are set in sparse desert locales, while still others feature sprawling cityscapes.
Unlike the movie sequels, however, the comic and novel spin-offs were rather good. The Crow novels include Shattered Lives and Broken Dreams, The Lazarus Heart, Clash by Night, Quoth the Crow, Temple of Night, Wicked Prayer, and Hellbound.
Check out the novel Wicked Prayer, and see how it differs from the lackluster film. A very similar plot was used, but different characterizations and the lack of bad acting do wonders for this story. Also, if you can, go to the website for the film’s composer. The music was simply amazing. In fact, I think that if you listen to the music from the movie while reading the book, it makes it even better.
The 1994 film adaptation of The Crow rocked! Pure and simple. One simply cannot give it high enough praise. It’s one of the best comic book movies ever released.
The movie was well received by critics, and currently holds 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. It made Empire Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Films of All Time. And on a 15 million dollar budget, it made a return of over 144 million dollars worldwide.
I’d call that one successful film.
Unfortunately, the same can NOT be said for its sequels. The first sequel, The Crow: City of Angels, is a perfect example of tampering. The producers basically changed half of this movie and threw out the other half to make it a boring rip-off of the first film, rather than the original new story it was meant to be, all in the hopes of making more money.
Check out this article about subsequent releases and alternate cuts to see what I mean.
The other sequels don’t have such a good excuse to explain their mediocrity. But that’s enough about the films, let us continue on to other subjects, shall we?
So, there was that PlayStation game based on The Crow: City of Angels. Wow! This game was horrible.
It was a blocky, ugly, bland, simple beat-em-up based on the SECOND movie. That’s right! Not even based on the good movie. Where at least the film had atmosphere, and the dreary locales brought a cool feeling to the production, here the dreary locales just muck up the game and make it even harder to play. You control Ashe, but it’s barely control. The player character moves like a gorilla driving a tank. And the game is really dark. In the game, it’s really hard to see what you’re doing, because of the muddy backgrounds, the shoddy camera, and the poorly designed character models. I honestly can’t think of a single good thing to say about this game.
Seriously, go check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzfxQe-9wE4
Let’s move on to the television series. Ah, yes, the TV series. What can I say about the show, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven? Well, it isn’t that bad, actually. It’s a retelling of the original comic and first film, as an episodic show. And Mark Dacoscos does a fine job playing Eric Draven. The problem here is that it’s a long running concept developed for a concept originally designed for essentially a short story, that fit well into a two-hour film.
So, the concept gets spread way too thin, way too quickly. It does do this weird thing, with Eric’s “Crow” make-up being magical instead of him physically putting it on, and him being able to essentially “transform” into his “Crow” persona.
It’s not a bad show, really. It’s much better than the three sequels to the first film. It’s just an under-developed concept stretched too thin.
And NOW! And now, The Powers that Be, in Hollywood, have decided to reboot the series. That’s right. They’re gonna start all over with a remake of the original film. ‘Cause I guess that dead horse just hasn’t been beaten enough yet.
And rumor has it that Bradley Cooper is the top choice for the role of Eric Draven. Look, there’s nothing wrong with Mr. Cooper. He was great in The A-Team. He’s charming, charismatic, handsome, a good actor, and can handle action films, but he’s just not right for this role.
[EN: This review was written by guest journalist, Aaron Nicewonger]