“Brandon had put his heart into his character-he really cared about this film and wanted it to be something special. I think that shows. There will always be a lot of justifiable anger over Brandon’s death, but there is one glimmer of optimism here-the film itself-Brandon’s film. In years to come people will still be be as dazzled by his brilliance as we were.” – Alex Proys, Director Of The Crow
In 1993 we didn’t have the internet at our finger tips to find out everything that was going on, we had to read things or hear it from word of mouth, or on the news. We learned about new comics from Wizard Magazine. Music news actually came from MTV and word of mouth by passing tapes around of bands. One such piece of news came in March of 1993,when Brandon Lee was killed while filming The Crow. I was aware of The Crow but had not read the graphic novel yet and simply knew a film was in production based on it. After hearing of Lee’s passing I seeked out the graphic novel and read it through. It changed the way I had looked at comics. To me, comics had been super heroes. I had no idea comics could be so mature and adult. I had read The Dark Knight Returns, but even that to me was just a super hero story. The Crow was different. It spoke to it’s reader in a different way, probably because it was so damn personal. I took The Crow in, I embraced it, and it became one of my favorite comic book stories of all time. It was a haunting tale especially even more so after the death of Lee. The book brought as much sorrow reading it as it did satisfaction. The Crow would make for an incredible film I thought, but with the death of Lee, the film was initially shelved. Thankfully not for long however, as his family and friends felt that the studio should finish the film because it’s what Brandon would have wanted. In the end it was the right decision, and The Crow was on track for release in 1994.
May 13, 1994. The Crow hit theaters. The film opened to almost $12 million dollars, Miramax’s biggest opening ever at the time! It would go on to make over $42 million domestically, and over $100 million in worldwide receipts. The
movie was a hit amongst fans of the comics, general audiences, and most critics even accepted it. Brandon Lee was praised for his performance and with it came sadness from fans across the nation. The movie quite simply, would have made him a star. But the completed version of The Crow wasn’t about how much money it made or if a critic liked it or not. It was to complete Brandon Lee’s final work and let audiences see what a gifted actor he was. In that regard it more than succeeds. Now 20 years since the film’s release, the movie is widely considered a cult classic. Instead of sadness Lee’s work on the film is celebrated as the center piece of his all to brief career. Brandon’s work in The Crow flies on in our hearts and in home theaters everywhere across the world.
As I reflect on being a fan of The Crow for these 20 years, I realize that as all of these comic book film’s continue to hit theaters, The Crow continues to be in my top 5 favorites of the genre. Perhaps it’s because it came out in a time of my life when I really connected to the graphic novel and the film. Or perhaps it really is just that good. From the performances of Brandon Lee, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Tony Todd and the others, to the cinematography, the direction of Alex Proyas, and the amazing soundtrack.Man the soundtrack! Stone Temple Pilots, Pantera, Rage Agains The Machine, nine Inch Nails….arguably one of the best soundtracks of the 1990’s.
For any film to still be celebrated and watched twenty years later, it has to have done something to engage audiences. The story of The Crow is something that almost anyone who watches it can relate to in some way. We have all loved and would do anything to protect those we love. No, not everyone is faced with unspeakable tragedy, but if we were how would we react, or in the mythological fantasy of The Crow, how would we wish we could react? The Crow touches on these things and therefore I believe, that is how it engages it’s audience. It’s a fascinating tale that on the surface seems to be about revenge, but is really so much more than that. I have always seen The Crow as a love story. A deeply personal one that creator James O’Barr brought to us in the graphic novel, and director Alex Proyas brought to us with the film version.
Brandon Lee is smiling from above I am sure as we celebrate 20 years of The Crow and continue to celebrate his life and the legacy he left behind. The Crow is now getting the reboot treatment, a film that I was at first against, but now I will wait and see before judging it. If helps new film goers discover the original film, or read O’Barr’s fantastic graphic novel, then it may have a purpose after all. Either way The Crow lives on 20 years later and that is the greatest legacy that can be given for the film, and for Brandon Lee.
“Because we do not know when we are going to die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well and yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood? An afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you cannot conceive of your life without it? Perhaps 4 …. 5 times more. Perhaps not even that.
How many times will you watch the full moon rise …… Perhaps twenty and yet it all seems limitless.
This is the point of view this character is coming from in the whole film, because it has brought sharply into focus how precious each moment of his life was.
This is the best role I have had the opportunity to get my hands on”.
– From Brandon Lee’s Final Interview, 1993
P.S. My favorite scene in the film is between Brandon and Ernie Hudson in Officer Albrecht’s apartment. Touching. Gratifying. Perfect.