The Crow @ 30 Review: A Melancholy Masterpiece!

30 Years later and 1994's The Crow is still one of the best comic book movies as well as influential films of all time.

What began as an indie comic born out of unfortunate circumstances, led to even more tragedy when rising actor Brandon Lee was fatally struck by what was supposed to be dummy rounds, became an instant cult classic thus cementing Lee's unbridled performance as his swan song.

Now stop me if you haven't heard this one before, a rock star (Eric Draven) and his finance are brutally murdered by a group of thugs.  One year later, a supernatural black bird flies to his tombstone and awakens Draven from his eternal slumber for a opportunity to avenge his fiancĂ©e thus making him a "killer of Killers!" Draven is gifted with superhuman abilities i.e. able to leap over not so tall tenement buildings in a single bound, a psychic link with the supernatural raven when tracking down his Killers, as well as  the power to heal, without the need of some "shitheel charlatan pastor."

While the concept may sound slightly familiar due to vigilante and resurrection tropes, in both comics and films, the Crow has more than enough original material to have its own identity. Draven often makes light of killing his prey while being nonchalant i.e. waving goodbye to one of his assailants as he drives off with a makeshift bomb strapped between his legs.

As with Robocop, Draven goes after all his Killers one by one. Is it a coincidence that both films take place in Detroit?  Not necessarily since Detroit native James o'Barr, based the comic's setting from and not to mention how the city serves as this industrial backdrop for a cyberpunk dystopian fever dream. Also, like the 1987 Sci fi classic, there are some underlying themes of Gentrification, but for the most part, the Crow is a gothic love story shrouded in retribution. There's really no other way in which I can explain it.

Graeme Revell's score is both sobering and absorbing with haunting melodies that match the Proyas' cinematography also the recording artists' songs were a major supplement.  The bands range from Grunge to Industrial Rock.  My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult's "After the Flesh" is my favorite as it's synonymous with Draven going beast mode on Top Dollar's cronies in a symphony of violence borrowing John Woo's two-handed pistol moves, a Captain America flip across the room, followed by a bit of swordplay. 

This was a much better penultimate fight scene than 1989's Batman in my opinion. And as with Jack Nicholson's Joker, Michael Winnicott's Top Dollar is menacing yet charismatic. He kept it 100 when referring to the shameless commercialization of events and rituals, like "Devil's Night greeting cards!"

Rounding out the supporting cast was Rochelle Davis as Sarah, who provided most of the film’s narration and served as the heart and soul connective tissue throughout while Ernie Hudson as Sergeant Daryl Albrecht becomes a sympathetic ally who arrived at the crime scene where both Eric and Shelly was murdered.

I'm surprised that this movie was made despite Lee's unfortunate accident. While the actor filmed most of his scenes, there were a few gaps that needed filling, yet the studio managed to use CGI Lee's facial features for a fill in actor as in Chad Stahelski.

As with the urban cinematography of Blade Runner, Batman, and Escape from New York, the Crow shows no sign of aging, thanks to the Gothicized cityscape fused with a much darker palette to somewhat match the comic. Lee wanted the film to be shot in black and white apart from the flashback scenes. However, he was not shy of blasting the "shitty film world" implementing contemporary cinema aspects i.e. color.
The Crow at times comes off a bit stylized like a big, budgeted MTV music video production but is easily overshadowed by Brandon Lee's phenomenal performance which is a sad reminder of how another potential never got to rise beyond prominence.

The Crow's influence left its impact on succeeding films such as Blade, Matrix, Punisher and Daredevil, Sin City, Underworld, and even anime characters like 2004's Gungrave where Mafia assassin Brandon Heat is resurrected to seek revenge against the organization that betrayed him reminiscent to the film. Even the soundtrack jazz cues from the game and anime, matches the film in various ways.

4K Bluray

Paramount Pictures originally had the filming rights to The Crow until the horrific accident involving Lee's death, them came Miramax who acquired the rights. Fast forward 30 years where Paramount acquired the studio, we are now presented with the 4K anniversary release of the cult classic.

Some of the film grain is still noticeable but necessary when giving off that gritty noir aesthetic from the movie itself.
While the color and gamut aspects add more quality, and the picture gives a sharper detail compared to the original Blu Ray release back in 2011.

The bonus features are the same however,aside from a somewhat recent interview with Producer Edward Pressman prior to his passing, there's a new feature titled:

Shadows and Pain: Designing the Crow with Production designer Alex McDowell. So, if you're a fan of the first film, I would highly recommend purchasing the 4K blu ray. A much better, and wiser option than investing $20 on a ticket for the silly upcoming reboot.