The Crow: Feel free to explain the appeal

The Crow has long been on my “Find out what the fuss is about” list. So the other night, when I was flipping through Netflix, it seemed like it was finally time.

Netflix description:

Exactly one year after young rock guitarist Eric Draven (Brandon Lee, son of martial arts icon Bruce Lee) and his fiancée are brutally killed by a ruthless gang of criminals, Draven — watched over by a hypnotic crow — returns from the grave to exact revenge. Based on a graphic novel of the same name, this Gothic action thriller features Lee’s last performance before his untimely death. Ernie Hudson and Ling Bai co-star.

Yep, that seems to be all there was to it. I mean, like, literally. Was this movie better in ’94? A guy and his fiancee are killed horribly by a group of horrible people in the style of Mad Max and any other movie with senseless people perpetrating senseless violence. After the guy, Eric, comes back from the grave, he starts killing the people who took part. Eric’s already dead, so he can’t be killed again. He gets shot or stabbed, he just heals right back up. And he either doesn’t feel pain or doesn’t care about it. So…there doesn’t seem to be any risk for the protagonist.

And he doesn’t have any problem tracking down the people he’s after. It’s just scene after scene of him killing people without obstacle. I don’t object to that, they had it coming. But what was the point of me sitting through it?

If there was character arc for any of the characters in the movie, I totally missed it. There seemed to be some kind of thread in which a slightly deeper motivation for the original attack was revealed, but…it didn’t actually matter in anything.

There’s a cop who has a big role, but I’m not sure what it is. He doesn’t seem necessary except to be someone who could anchor the story as a narrator. He does have a part to play in storing something that helps Eric defeat the ultimate bad dude, but he doesn’t really learn anything meaningful either and his storyline is mostly one you could cut and not change what happens much–because nothing happens but killing.

And I still can’t figure out how that took 100 minutes.

There were ideas that I liked in it; I liked the settings and costuming. The soundtrack. But it wasn’t enough to support a movie that really didn’t have much of a story.

So…did the awesome of The Crow just fly right over my head?


Filed under Superheroes, Heroism, and Romance

10 responses to “The Crow: Feel free to explain the appeal

  1. I’m not sure that the movie would have achieved what it did if not for the fact that Brandon Lee died during an accident while filming the movie. Or if he hadn’t been Bruce Lee’s son. There were a lot of strange accidents that seemed to befall the set during filming and there are rumors and speculation that the Lee family was cursed (something I believe was handed down from his Chinese grandfather who angered a businessman somewhere). There’s more info here. It’s interesting from a cult classic following standpoint.

  2. I liked it…mostly because it was creepy. LOL

  3. Amy

    Though it was a long time ago, I loved The Crow when I saw it. While I agree with your points, I think the draw was that I was a teen and that his constant “moodiness” – the darkness, the revenge – it all works very well for teen angst. I’m pretty sure few fans were adults the first time they saw it.

    I agree with Kait that the Lee curse helped quite a bit.

  4. Whitney

    In 1994 it was so amazing. I was also 16 in 1994. The costumes were gorgeous, there was a pretty lead who filled all of my goth fantasies. Then he died in the making, which made the whole thing so much more macabre. It was eye candy. Also the soundtrack was spectacular. I still have it on my iPhone. Golgotha Tenement Blues was so fantastic. The Crow was eye candy in a similar way to 300, which I own like 5 copies of, because OMG it’s so pretty.

    The original graphic novel made a bit more sense- and that article goes into some level of explanation about how the author of the graphic novel used it as a vessel to work through losing his girlfriend. The graphic novel was pretty big in those circles before the movie came out, from what I recall.

  5. I’m guessing it was partly the Lee family, partly the comic and partly the time it came out. Goth was pretty big subculture at the time. I was dating a goth guy, so it went with him.

  6. “People once believed, that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens, that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can’t rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes the crow could bring that soul back to put the wrong things right.”- Sarah

    And Eric did right the wrongs, helped Sarah by saving her mom, and helped the cop believe that things…all things, even the trivial ones…do matter, then he was reunited with his beloved.

    For me, that was always the point of the story. It’s clearer in the graphic novel…tho that’s even more violent.

  7. I was 14 and I remember it being huge in school. Maybe not in the box office, but it was one of those things people talked about and loved. I thought it was all right. I wasn’t blown away then again, I wasn’t into the goth scene. I much preferred Rapid Fire.

  8. Yeah, I saw it for the first time only a year or two ago and was pretty disappointed. It was an ok movie, but didn’t even begin to live up to the hype.

  9. I wrote out a full reply, and I’ll be damned if the browser didn’t eat it. D^X But okay, I will be long-winded, again. Apologies in advance.

    I first read The Crow comic after moving to Las Vegas at 15. It was one of the first indie comics I’d ever read, and until then, I’d only read Marvel, DC, Archie, and Comico. This was something not approved by “Teh Man,” and at the time, that need to avoid the mainstream was really strong in me. I’d also read the introduction and understood that this was O’barr’s way of dealing with his grief for his girlfriend’s death. The comic worked for me because I was still working through a lot of mainstream material with black and white values, and here was a story all in greys. Eric is a revenant, and angry spirit made flash for the sole purpose of revenge. And the story is violent, but it’s because O’barr is saying, “I wish I could have some form or revenge to take the pain away.” So no one is good, but this isn’t an attempt to tell a good story. It’s working through some bitter emotions in a dark and dreary medium. It’s a hell of a lot more honest than Spider-Man or Superman were, in my opinion.

    O’barr’s work in The Crow inspired me to start working on my own comics. This was before my wrist injury made drawing comics hopelessly impossible, and I make no claims of ever even approaching O’barr’s basic level of talent in the first books. But obviously a number of my first character designs were really just knockoffs of Eric Draven. Eh, I was 15, and my creative talents would need another 12 or so years to develop properly. (>_>)

    I came to the movie already a fan, of O’barr, of the books and of Brandon Lee. We all already knew Brandon was dead when we went to the theater. My best friend Ken and I both dressed as Eric with full makeup and we rode the bus to a theater, where we thought there’d be mile long lines, just like for Batman. Instead, there was just five of us. Five, standing front of an empty theater for Brandon’s last movie. And only two of us were in costume. (while riding the bus to the theater, a little boy pointed at Ken and me and said, “Look mommy! Batman and Catwoman.” This is really funny, because back then I was still trying in vain to look male. Obviously, not even small children bought my act.)

    I think the movie dilutes the idea in the book too much by adding the boss character Top Money. Hollywood needed a reason for the violence, and they wanted a climatic boss battle, neither of which were in the book. But I set those aside for Ernie Hudson’s character, for Eric’s interactions with him, with Sarah, and with her mother Dharla. I think without those human moments of connection, the film would be nothing but mindless violence. Which is what you get in Crow 2: Teh Suck Will Not D13!

    So if I take the first film as a diluted spin on the same Crow legend, it’s still not bad. But almost everything after the first movie is atrocious corpse humping in an attempt to milk more profits out of a dead horse. So while I love the first The Crow comic, and the first movie, I think everything else is a disappointment. The TV show is a sick joke that should have been euthanized at birth.

    There’s one more connection I have to share. When The Crow movie came out, I was 19 and had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I was told I wouldn’t live past my fifties, that it was a chronic disease that would start attacking my nervous system in my thirties, and that the temporary blindness I’d suffered might one day become permanent. I was told I might need a wheelchair. (So far, I only need a cane for bad days.)

    My friend Ken knew I was depressed, so he told me, “This is one more thing you have in common with O’barr. You both have MS.” Which gave me a whole new level of appreciation for the work O’barr did to distribute his own book in the days before the internet and e-commerce. I can’t acchieve success as an indie writer even on this supposedly level playing field, but O’barr overcame his illness and became a true indie success. I idolized that, and I still do.

    And then there’s the fact that before we saw the movie, I’d seen Brandon’s last interview. He said, “When we’re young, life seems so endless. How many full moons are we going to see in our lifetime? A dozen? Maybe less? But it all seems so limitless to us.” And keep in mind, I’d just been told my EXACT limits by a medical doctor. I could do simple math and knew how many full moons I had left, give or take a few. And yet, long before MS took me down, Brandon had seen his last full moon. So, because of my MS diagnosis, because of O’barr having it too, and because of Brandon’s death, there’s a lot of sentimental connection to this film for me. Even if everything after the first vehicle sucks so bad that I’ve blocked it out of memory.

    So, there you go, my reasons for loving The Crow. Sorry again for being long-winded.

  10. Susan, I hear you and see your point. I saw the movie as an adult and liked it okay, but it definitely lacked much of an arc. I think there’s a visceral appeal to how simplistic the story is; bad guys are really bad, they kill a nice guy in a really bad way, he gets to rise from the dead and fulfill violent revenge fantasy. And I think the stylized quality appeals to people’s visual side.
    And Brandon Lee was hot.

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